Add this fluffy but crispy bread to your cooking repertoire, immediately.
Focaccia, oh my darling Focaccia! This traditional Italian flatbread hails from the southern regions of Italy and Sicily, and let me tell you, it's a must have in your cooking repertoire. It's versatile, it's delicious, and it's just begging to be topped with all of your favorite ingredients like herbs, olives, lemons, and tomatoes. It's a snack, an appetizer, and a side dish all in one. Focaccia has been a staple food in Italy for centuries and is believed to have originated in the ancient Roman Republic as peasant food — but it’s really a bread that's fit for a queen. The name "focaccia" comes from the Latin word "focus," which means "hearth" or "fireplace," as the bread was traditionally baked on the wood-fired hearth. Nowadays, it is still a popular and traditional food in Italy, especially in the southern regions like Sicily, where part of my family is from.
Here is my recipe for an authentic Sicilian focaccia:
This recipe makes one large focaccia a little over 1” thick, use a smaller, taller pan for a thicker bread. MedDiet Recipe Score*: 2
2 1/2 cups all-purpose or double 00 flour
1 1/2 teaspoons flakey sea salt plus more to sprinkle on top
1 1/2 cups warm water (between 100-110 degrees F)
1 tsp honey
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 tablespoons olive oil, separated
Toppings of your choice (such as rosemary, lemon slices, olives, cherry tomatoes)
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In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.
In a separate bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon of honey in warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it sit for 5-10 minutes or until the mixture becomes foamy or bubbly.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the yeast mixture.
Slowly pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and mix it with a soft spatula, occasionally scraping the sides to incorporate. It will be a shaggy dough that is more wet than you may think it ought to be. Don’t worry; that’s exactly what you want.
Place the dough in a large bowl heavily oiled with olive oil and use a bit more on top; covering it with a dishcloth. It will seem to be almost swimming in the olive oil. Again, that’s what you want.
Let the dough rest in a warm place for about 2-3 hours or until it has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 425F (220C)
Grease a 9x13 baking dish with (more!) olive oil. Use a smaller baking dish with higher sides for an extra thick bread. You can be heavy handed with the olive oil; it will not only make it taste amazing, it will help it release from the dish.
Transfer the dough, olive oil and all, to the baking dish and, using oiled hands, press and dimple it with your fingers to create a rough surface.
Add your desired toppings, pressing them into the dough.
Sprinkle flaky sea salt on top.
Brush the surface of the focaccia with additional olive oil.
Bake the focaccia for 25-30 minutes, or until the surface is golden brown.
Remove the focaccia from the oven, let it cool and serve.
This recipe is going to give you a focaccia with a crispy crust and a soft, fluffy interior, that's the kind of bread that you can eat by itself or split it in half and use for a killer sandwich. The dimpling of the dough with your fingers, before baking, is going to give the bread its signature bubbles and also helps to hold the toppings in place. And let's not forget about the olive oil, it's not just for flavor, it's also going to give you that crisp crust that'll make you wanna cry tears of joy.
This recipe is an excerpt from my newest cookbook, Farmstead Italian, officially launching in June. Preorder your signed copy here.
* The MedDiet Recipe Score is my proprietary scoring system to rate the recipe’s “fit” into the Mediterranean Diet to make it easier for those wanting to eat more whole foods without having to figure out what combinations of foods apply. This score is in my cookbook and will be in an upcoming Substack post.