A slice of salty, olive-oil-soaked focaccia is no doubt the most popular snack a Ligurian schoolchild will have in their morning break.
I remember getting dropped off at school and Dad giving me 500 lira (about £0.20p) to run over to the bakers and buy a slice of focaccia the size of my head. They’d neatly wrap it in greaseproof paper and I’d run over to class, tucking it into the little drawer under my desk. The next two hours were painful. There would be this un-ignorable focaccia perfume wafting up from everybody’s desk that was massively more inviting than what was being chalked-up on the blackboard. Thinking about it now, it’s probably a daily routine that you can afford to keep up when you’re a child with high metabolism – now that I’m in my 30s my wife would most definitely be a roadblock to maintaining this regime…
Speaking of mrs fp, she literally did not get what all the fuss was about when it came to focaccia. Dad would give her a slice for breakfast at our bar in Italy, saying that it was a ‘special’ slice. What he actually meant was that it’s two-day-old leftover focaccia, which incidentally is lovely dunked in a cappuccino or cafe’ latte, but not overly enjoyable in any other way.
Safe to say that when she had proper, fresh, juicy focaccia, she was a convert. I’m going to go as far as saying that THIS focaccia was the catalyst.
This recipe is based on the Genovese style focaccia, which is soft and bouncy. It’s one of those rare moments in life where the adjective ‘floppy’ is actually a good thing….. To get that result there’s going to be lots of proving involved and you’re going to have to work with quite a wet dough. Oh and you’re probably going to get to the stage where you’re thinking “What? more oil??” and the answer is most definitely Yes.
Roll up your sleeves, get kneading and let that olive oil flow!
Serves 4 as a snack. Prep time 2.5hrs. Bake time 20 mins.
For the dough:
250g strong white flour
165ml lukewarm water
5g dried yeast
half tsp of caster sugar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for kneading
5g fine salt
For the topping:
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt to taste
1 white onion, finely sliced
half a dozen tuscan kale leaves, roughly chopped
100ml semi skimmed milk
In a jug add the lukewarm water, sugar and yeast. Give it a vigorous stir and set aside.
Meanwhile in a mixing bowl add the flour and salt. When the yeast starts bubbling, power into the mixing bowl along with the olive oil. Combine all the ingredients with your hands, or using a mixer.
Tip onto a well oiled surface and knead for 10 minutes, until you have a smooth ball of dough.
Line a baking tray with grease proof paper, baste with olive oil and place your dough in the middle. Using the basting brush, lightly brush the dough with olive oil and set it aside to rise. I find placing the tray in a clean plastic bag works, or alternatively just slide in the oven making sure it is off!
Leave to prove for 1 hr or until it has doubled in size.
Ensure the baking paper is still oiled. Using the palm of your hands, gently press down and stretch the dough outwards. Don’t worry too much about the shape, you just want the whole thing about 1.5cm thick.
Give it all a good brush with more olive oil and set aside again to prove for 30 mins.
Now, using the tips of your fingers, firmly press down into the dough making little wells all over. This time, as opposed to basting, lightly drizzle olive oil all over, and give it a good season of sea salt flakes.
Prove for 30 mins one last time – this time not in the oven, as you now want to pre heat it to 180C.
In the meantime in pan add the milk, onions and a little drizzle of olive oil. Place over a medium heat, and simmer gently for 3 minutes. Take off the heat, add the kale, season with salt and pepper and give it all a good stir.
Once the onions and kale have cooled, use to top the focaccia. Slide into the oven and bake for 15-20 mins.
Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack, leaving it to cool down a little before devouring!
Enjoy and thank you for reading!
Have you ever tried dunking focaccia in cappuccino?