How to Make Italian Focaccia Genovese, thin and oily, salty, soft, crunchy. Before the last rise, this focaccia is covered in a brine made of abundant water, salt, and olive oil which makes the focaccia golden and tasty.
Quantity for 1 baking pan (40x30cm/11x17in)
For the dough:
- 350 g of a strong (bread) flour, divided
- 150 g flour 00, divided
- 300 g lukewarm water, divided
- 8 g fresh baker’s yeast (or 1 heaping tsp active dry yeast) (if letting rest overnight, you can use 5 g fresh yeast)
- 30 g light extra virgin olive oil or olive oil
- 1 tsp honey
- 10 g fine sea salt
For the salamoia (brine):
- 100 ml of water
- 2 Tbsp e.v.o. oil + a little bit for the top
- 2 pinches fine sea salt
- 1 Tbsp coarse salt, for the top
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 the focaccia dough:
- In the bowl where the “biga”, 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 smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball.
- Cover the bowl with cling wrap 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).
At this point, you can use the dough right away, or, to make it more digestible, you can leave the dough in the fridge overnight. In this case, you can use only 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 covered by a plastic wrap 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 rest 10 minutes.
- 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 the pan with plastic wrap and let rise about 40 minutes.
- After that time, stretch the Focaccia Genovese right to the edges of the pan. Cover again with plastic wrap 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 to break 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 the oven, add another drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of coarse salt.
- Preheat the oven and have one rack at the bottom and one at the top. I had my oven at 420° F convection bake (220° C), but you can also use a regular oven at 450°F (230-240°C). The focaccia needs to bake in the lower rack 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 rack only when you see that by lifting the focaccia with a spatula the bottom is golden.
- Only then, transfer the focaccia to the upper rack, 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 the 10 minutes, turn on the grill and leave it to broil for 1 more minute, but please check it so it doesn’t burn. 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, 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 is delicious fresh out of the oven, when the edges are crunchy and the little holes are moist with the oil.
You can freeze part of the focaccia divided into slices. Just before eating it, take it out of the freezer and put the slices in the oven (at 350-390F/180-200C) for about 10-15 minutes. It will come back soft and crunchy as if freshly baked.