The many flavours of focaccia

Focaccia is a delicious and irresistible food that comes in many styles. It's a flat oven-baked leavened bread from Italy with many regional variants.

The many flavours of focaccia

Focaccia is very versatile and can be eaten by itself, as an accompaniment to a meal, or used as a base for deep dish pizzas. Let's take a look at all the varieties of this fine Italian tradition.

Preparation

Basic focaccia is made from white flour, oil, salt, water and yeast.

  • The main difference between focaccia and pizza dough is that focaccia is leavened, making it fluffy, while pizza dough is generally more flat and thin.
  • Focaccia is traditionally baked in a hearth oven or a stone-bottom oven, but of course you can make it at home in a conventional oven. The resulting texture is almost cake-like.

Toppings and fillings

Focaccia is often topped with olive oil, herbs and salt.

  • The oil preserves moisture in the bread while baking and gives it a slightly crispy top.
  • Focaccia can be topped with basil leaves, parmesan, green onions, tapenade or just about anything else you like. Rosemary is one of the most common toppings, combining with the salt and olive oil to create that classic taste we often associate with this bread.
  • The focaccia dough itself can be filled with a variety of ingredients too, like sun-dried tomatoes, black olive slices, ham or cheese. The possibilities are endless.

Meals

  • It's common to serve focaccia as an appetizer, with a simple plate of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.
  • It can also be made into a kind of fluffy pizza to become a meal unto itself. However, unlike pizza, focaccia is usually only served with a single topping or filling, making for a pared-down flavour.
  • It can also be sliced in half and used as sandwich bread.

History and varieties

Roman origins

  • Focaccia goes back in some form or another to the ancient Roman empire. The Romans ate a bread called panis focacius, which is the ancestor of the focaccia we eat today.
  • Over the ages, the tradition expanded to many regions and cultures, resulting in a huge variety of styles.

In Italy

  • Even within Italy, every region has its own style, featuring local ingredients. Some of them are sweet, like traditional Viennese focaccia veneta, which is served as an Easter treat.

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