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Even if you’ve never baked a loaf of bread in your life, Italian Focaccia Bread is an easy, forgiving, and extremely delicious way to dabble. The famous flatbread is spongy on the inside, yet delightfully salty-crusty on the outside. This is the recipe I learned in culinary school, and I’ve been making it ever since.
First things first. How to say “Focaccia:”
“Foh-KAHT-tchah.” That’s all there is to it! The emphasis is on the middle syllable.
Originating in the Mediterranean, this ancient yeasted flatbread has been made by everyday people for generations. Traditionally baked over a hearth on a tile, it is a predecessor to what we know and love as pizza. “Focacia” is Latin for hearth or fireside.
What you need to make the best Focaccia bread in the world:
- Warm water. Lukewarm water, no more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Sugar. Just a little, to feed the yeast. (You can use honey, instead.)
- Active dry yeast. Active dry yeast is commonly packaged in small envelopes and found in the baking aisle. It’s less concentrated than instant yeast, so if that’s what you have, use less. 1 tablespoon active dry yeast = ¾ tablespoon instant yeast.
- All-purpose flour. Don’t worry about getting the best, stone-milled flour for this recipe. Basic flour is fabulous.
- Salt. Kosher salt, such as Morton or Diamond Crystal, makes all the difference.
- Olive oil. This recipe is so olive oil forward in taste, that you should use the good stuff, if you have it. A grassy, fruity extra-virgin olive oil is ideal.
- Rosemary. Or any other chopped fresh herb.
- Flaked sea salt. Maldon, Jacobsen, or good, flaky sea salt from a brand you trust. Or more Kosher salt!
How to make Focaccia bread:
You need a standing mixer with a dough (hook-shaped) attachment and something called a “half sheet pan,” a rimmed baking sheet that measures approximately 13″ x 18″ in order to make this bread recipe. And these photos are for the visual learners, which take you through the steps. For exact ingredient quantities, refer to the recipe card below.
- To begin, add the lukewarm (no more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit) water, sugar, and yeast to the bowl of the mixer. Gently stir and let the mixture rest until it turns foamy. It should take 5 to 10 minutes. In this recipe, the small amount of sugar feeds the yeast, which produces the bubbles.
- Next, turn the mixer to a medium speed, then add the flour, ½ cup at a time. After the flour, add the salt and continue kneading in the mixer for another 6 to 10 minutes. Don’t stop until the dough is smooth.
- Meanwhile, oil a large bowl. When the dough is finished mixing, turn it out onto a clean work surface and shape it into a ball. Place the dough in the oiled bowl.
- Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size—about one hour. (If your kitchen runs cool and you need to create a warm place, turn on the oven to 200 degrees, but shut it off as soon as it reaches 110 degrees. Then place the bowl in the oven. The residual heat of the oven is ideal for yeast dough.)
- Next, generously oil a rimmed half sheet pan (measuring 13”x18”x1”). Punch down the dough with your fist, then flatten it onto the oiled pan. If it bounces back into the center, wait a few minutes and try again.
- Brush the top of the focaccia with a tablespoon of olive oil, and return it to the warm place for another 15 minutes. It should appear doubled in size. While the bread is rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Now for the fun part! Wash your hands and gently poke your fingertips into the surface of the bread, to give it a dimpled surface. This will create little nooks and crannies for the olive oil to accumulate as it bakes.
- Finally, brush on one more tablespoon of olive oil. Then you can sprinkle on some coarse salt, chopped rosemary or other herbs, or any other toppings your heart desires. (Great ideas down below.)
- Bake the focaccia at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Let the focaccia cool on a baker’s rack for a few minutes. Then using a spatula, gently lift the focaccia out of the pan and cut into pieces.
Focaccia bread toppings:
Italian flatbread is delicious all on its own. That means you really don’t have to go crazy with extra ingredients.
My advice is to keep it simple and pick one or two ingredients per flatbread. Next time, you have an excuse to make another batch with something else. A focaccia instead of pizza makes a great pre-dinner appetizer, so scout around in the pantry for some fun stuff to throw on.
Inside the focaccia:
Have fun! When you feel like including something into the dough, mix in about 3 ounces of one of the following into the dough after you knead it:
- Finely chopped raw onions.
- Chopped sun dried tomatoes.
- Roasted garlic cloves.
- Roughly chopped pitted olives.
- Any other not-too-wet ingredient.
On top of the focaccia:
Add a handful of savory stuff to the top of the focaccia before popping it in the oven to bake. (Again, just pick one or two.)
- Olives. Whole pitted kalamata, Castelvetrano, or other olives. I never met an olive I didn’t love.
- Caramelized onions. Learn how to brown up onions like a pro. Maybe add a splash of balsamic vinegar to brighten up the onions.
- Roasted tomatoes. Incredible how-to for making even the most boring tomatoes taste like a million bucks. Tomato focaccia is good anytime.
- Sardines. Tinned sardines in the pantry? Add some to the top of the bread.
- Peppers. Roasted peppers are amazing when baked onto fresh focaccia bread.
- Citrus zest. Lemon, lime, or orange zest is easy and adds bright flavor to the bread.
- Cheese. Grated Parmesan, shredded cheddar, or chunks of briny goat cheese. Cheesy flatbread for the win.
- Herbs and spices. Chile flakes, cracked pepper, z’attar, thyme, dill, oregano, basil, homemade Italian Seasoning, or fennel seeds.
- Nuts. Pine nuts, chopped toasted walnuts, toasted almonds.
- Salt. Wait, even more salt? Yup! Ligurian focaccia bakers use a small amount of brine to pour over the bread as it bakes. Give it a try! Dissolve 1 ½ teaspoon Kosher salt in ⅓ cup of warm water. Then pour it over the surface of the dough, making sure it settles in all the divots your fingers made. Drizzle on the final splash of olive oil, then bake as directed, and the water will evaporate, leaving behind a delightfully salty crust that doesn’t feel like you’re eating a salted pretzel.
Making Focaccia Bread in advance:
You can mix the focaccia dough the day before and let it rest in the fridge, covered, in the bowl.
A couple of hours before your guests arrive, take it out to warm to room temperature and rise. Then proceed with baking as directed.
Freezing focaccia bread:
Wrap any leftover bread in plastic wrap (let it cool completely) then in a layer of aluminum foil. It will keep in the freezer for about a month.
To reheat the focaccia, allow it to defrost at room temperature then unwrap and refresh in a 325 degree oven until warmed through and crispy again, about 5 minutes.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fit with the dough attachment, add water, sugar, and yeast. Stir to dissolve yeast and let sit until foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- With the mixer running on medium speed, add the flour ½ cup at a time. Add 1 ½ teaspoons salt and continue kneading until dough is smooth, about 6 to 10 minutes.
- Coat a large bowl with nonstick spray. Turn out the dough, shape into a ball, and place in prepared bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (80 degrees to 85 degrees, see notes) until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
- Oil a rimmed half baking sheet (13" x 18" x 1"). Punch down the dough, then flatten onto prepared sheet (it should be no more than 1 inch thick). Brush the top of the dough with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Let rise in a warm place (80 degrees to 85 degrees, see notes) until doubled in volume, about 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Dimple the surface of the dough with your fingertips, then brush the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over the dough. Sprinkle with rosemary and flaked sea salt to taste. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
- Cut the focaccia as desired (strips or squares are common). I like to do 24 pieces, each about 2 ½ x 3 inches in size.
- To create a warm environment ideal for yeast-rising:
- Preheat your oven to its minimum temperature (170 degrees, 200 degrees, etc.), but shut it off once the temperature reaches 110 degrees.
- Place your dough (in a greased bowl, covered with plastic wrap), on a baking sheet and in the oven. The oven temperature will drop when you open the oven door, but enough residual heat will remain that your dough should steadily rise.
- For even more flavor and texture, add 3 ounces finely chopped onions to the dough when you add the salt in step 2.