Focaccia is so popular in Liguria that it is served all day long. Warm squares, rich with extra-virgin olive oil, are placed in linen-lined baskets on hotel breakfast tables, and shoppers and schoolchildren stop by bakeries for freshly baked pieces for lunch or a midafternoon snack. The popular flat bread is made in many other regions of Italy as well. Tuscans make focaccia alluva, with wine grapes scattered on top, while Apulians stud their version with pieces of fresh tomato. In Piedmont, one can find focaccia topped with walnuts and anchovies. It is also often dusted with coarse salt or fresh herbs, and sliced onions, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or ground black pepper is not uncommon.
- 2 1/2 tsp. (1 package) active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 6 Tbs. olive oil
- 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp. dried
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary or 1/4 tsp. dried
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh sage or 1/4 tsp. dried sage
- Coarse salt, to taste
In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, stir together the flour, salt, thyme, rosemary and sage. Add the yeast mixture and stir until a soft dough forms, about 2 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Shape it into a ball.
Oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn it once to coat the top. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Oil a 15-by-10-by-1-inch jelly-roll pan. Punch down the dough, transfer to the prepared pan, and flatten it out with your hands to cover the bottom completely. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Preheat an oven to 450°F.
Using your fingertips, press down firmly into the dough to make dimples about 1 inch apart and 1 inch deep. Drizzle the entire surface with the remaining 2 Tbs. oil and sprinkle with the coarse salt.
Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Slide the focaccia onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut into squares to serve. Serves 8.