How to Make Italian Focaccia Genovese, traditional focaccia from Genova (Genoa), in the northwest of Italy, thin and oily, fragrant, salty, soft and crunchy. The peculiarity of the Focaccia Genovese is that before the last rise, it is covered in salamoia, a brine made of abundant water, salt, and olive oil. This emulsion gives the focaccia a golden color and makes it particularly tasty, as well as soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Focaccia Genovese is not too hard to make at home, but you will need a little time and care for the multiple rises. The result will be worth every minute, I assure you. This focaccia is simply irresistible!
Steps of the preparation
There are a few steps involved, from the making of the "biga" (starter dough), to the focaccia dough, to the multiple rises. I also decided to let the dough rest overnight in the fridge, following the suggestions of an Italian blogger, Tavolartegusto.
For the “biga” (starter):
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add 100 grams of flour (taken from the total of the two flours mixed together), 60 grams of water (taken from the total), and the yeast. Knead until soft, then shape into a ball and with a sharp knife cut the top in a criss-cross pattern.
- Cover with a cling film and leave to rise in the oven, turned off, and with the light on, for 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size (for me 2 hours were necessary).
For the focaccia dough:
- In the bowl where the “biga”, the starter, is, add the rest of the flour, the rest of the water, the honey. Knead it until all the ingredients are mixed, a few minutes. The dough should stick around the hook. Then add the oil a little at a time and mix well about 5 minutes. You can also knead by hand. Finally, add the salt and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave it in the oven, turned off with the light on, to rise for 3 to 4 hours, or until tripled in volume. (In winter it will take about 4 hours, in the summer 2-3 hours).
You can prolong the rising in the fridge overnight, or use the risen dough right away
To make it more digestible, you can leave the dough in the fridge overnight. In this case, you can use 5 g of fresh baker's yeast and leave the dough in the fridge for a minimum of one night to a maximum of 72 hours. When you are ready to use the dough, leave it out until it reaches room temperature and then proceed as below.
- Turn the risen dough upside down on a work surface and form a ball. Let stand 10 minutes.
- On a floured surface, roll out the dough slightly with a rolling pin lightly dusted with flour.
- Transfer the partially stretched dough into a lightly greased baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 40 minutes.
More steps, more rising times
- After that time, stretch the Focaccia Genovese right to the edges of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap again and let rise for 1 hour. At the end of the elapsed time, the focaccia dough will look well risen and rested. Now it's time to make the holes!
- Sprinkle the surface of the dough and your hands with flour. Using the 3 middle fingers, press them gently but firmly in the dough, starting from the top of the pan and then slowly coming towards you, following an invisible line. If you have long nails you risk breaking the dough; in this case, it would be better to use the knuckles.
- Afterward, in a measuring cup or jug, add the water, fine sea salt, and olive oil. Stir well until the salt is dissolved. It will look like a huge amount of brine, but this is what makes the Focaccia Genovese. Pour the emulsion on the surface of your focaccia, each hole must be full of brine. At this point, let your focaccia rise for the last time, covered, at room temperature (or in the oven turned off with the light on) for about 1 hour. In the end, the brine will be partially absorbed. Before putting it in the oven, add another drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of coarse salt.
Baking the Focaccia
The oven must be very hot. I had my oven at 420° F convection bake (220° C) but you can use the regular oven at 450°F (230-240°C). The focaccia needs to bake in the lower rack (shelf) of the oven first, for about 12 minutes, without opening the door. Each oven is different, so please check it after 12 minutes. You can move the focaccia on the upper shelf only when you see that by lifting the focaccia with a spatula the bottom is golden. Only then, transfer the focaccia to the upper shelf, where it will cook for about 10 more minutes. If the top looks golden and crisp, that's it, your focaccia is ready, take it out. If not, after 10 minutes, turn on the grill and leave it to broil for 1 more minute. Every time you open the oven door, let the steam evaporate a bit before getting too close, it's really hot!
When you take it out of the oven, it will look like this. Brush extra virgin olive oil on top for maximum fragrance. Leave it on a rack to cool just a bit, then cut it.
The Focaccia Genovese is golden and crisp on the edges and on top, with beautiful holes. The bottom is also nice and golden and crispy.
The peculiarity of the traditional Focaccia Genovese is its thinness, they say that it can't be more than 2 cm high.
Focaccia Genovese for breakfast?
Focaccia Genovese is classically eaten at breakfast. They say to plunge it into warm milk or cappuccino to enhance the sweet/salty contrast.
More uses of Focaccia Genovese
Cut into small rectangles, this focaccia is a great accompaniment to an appetizer platter, while cut into bigger rectangular slices is perfect for stuffing with cheese or cold meats. Plain or stuffed, it is a wonderful snack for kids and grown-ups.
How to keep Focaccia Genovese
The focaccia is sublime fresh out of the oven when the edges are crunchy and the little holes are moist with the oil.
Once cold, after about 1 hour, seal the slices in plastic wrap or put them in a plastic bag so to preserve their fragrance for 2-3 days. Then, just warm it up in the oven.
You can also freeze the slices well wrapped in plastic. Just before eating it, take it out of the freezer and put the slice in the oven (at 350°-390°F/180°-200°C) for about 10-15 minutes. It will come back soft and crunchy as if freshly baked.
I know it might seem like a lot of work. And indeed it takes time. But the result is highly rewarding. I made Focaccia Genovese twice in a month and every time, whoever tried it, said it was the best homemade focaccia ever. Especially if you, like me, prefer crunch over softness. To me, it reminds me of the pizza bianca we have in Rome. Unrivaled. And if you happen to travel to Genova or Liguria, buy the original at the many bakeries that sell it.