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Focaccia () is a flat oven-baked Italian bread, which may be topped with herbs or other ingredients.
Focaccia is related to pizza, but not considered to be the same.
Focaccia is quite popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil and sometimes herbs, and may be topped with onion, cheese and meat, or flavored with a number of vegetables. However, by far the most typical focaccia is simply baked dough topped with olive oil and a simple herb like rosemary or sage, and salted with coarse salt.
It is very popular as a snack in Italy and school children will often purchase a slice from a baker on the way to school, to enjoy at break time.
In the late 1800's an Italian immigrant to the United Kingdom created a version of foccacia with a unique English twist. The local baker to Kings Clipstone, Nottinghamshire developed his version, known locally as Italian Lard Bread, using that staple ingredient of every Englishman's diet at that time in history, lard.
Focaccia doughs are similar in style and texture to pizza doughs, consisting of high-gluten flour, oil, water, salt and yeast. It is typically rolled out or pressed by hand into a thick layer of dough and then baked in a stone-bottom or hearth oven. Bakers often puncture the bread with a knife to relieve bubbling on the surface of the bread.
Also common is the practice of dotting the bread. This creates multiple wells in the bread by using a finger or the handle of a utensil to poke the unbaked dough. As a way to preserve moisture in the bread, olive oil is then spread over the dough, by hand or with a pastry brush prior to rising and baking. In the northern part of Italy, lard will sometimes be added to the dough, giving the focaccia a softer, slightly flakier taste. Focaccia recipes are widely available, and with the popularity of bread machines, many cookbooks now provide version of dough recipes that do not require hand kneading.
Focaccia can be used as a side to many meals, as a base for pizza, or as sandwich bread.
Etymology and regional variants
In ancient Rome, ''panis focacius'' was a flat bread baked in the ashes of the fireplace. The word is derived from the Latin ''focus'' meaning “centre” and also “fireplace” – the fireplace being in the centre of the house. In American-English, it is sometimes referred to as ''focaccia bread''.
As the tradition spread, the different dialects and diverse local ingredients resulted in a large variety of bread (some even may be considered cake).
The basic recipe is thought, by some, to have originated with the Etruscans or ancient Greeks, but today it is widely associated with Ligurian cuisine.
Due to the number of small towns and hamlets dotting the coast of Liguria, the focaccia recipe has fragmented into countless variations (from the biscuit-hard focaccia of Camogli to the oily softness of the one made in Voltri), with some bearing little resemblance to its original form. The most extreme example is the specialty "focaccia col formaggio" (focaccia with cheese) which is made in Recco, near Genoa.
Other than the name, this Recco version bears no resemblance to other focaccia varieties, having a caillé and cheese filling sandwiched between two layers of paper-thin dough.
Regional variations also exist, such as ''focaccia dolce'' (sweet focaccia) popular in some parts of northwestern Italy, consisting of a basic focaccia base and sprinkled lightly with sugar, or including raisins, honey or other sweet ingredients.
In Burgundy, focaccia is called "foisse" or "fouaisse", and in Provence and Languedoc it's "fogassa" or, more commonly, the French "fougasse". In Argentina, it is widely consumed under the name ''hogaza'' or ''fugazza'', derived from ''fugassa'' in the native language of Argentina's many Ligurian immigrants. The Spanish call it "hogaza".
Focaccia is present in many variants in Italy itself, for example the ''focaccia alla genovese'', originated in Genova, the ''focaccia alla barese'', from Bari, or the ''focaccia alla messinese'', from Messina.
The Sicilian-style pizza, and the Roman ''pizza bianca'' (white pizza) must also be considered to be a variant of focaccia.
Focaccia is used extensively as a sandwich bread outside of Italy.