A crunchy golden crust dotted with tiny tomatoes, sprinkled with oregano and sea salt flakes, and drizzled with olive oil!! Focaccia (Puglian Style) is a traditional Italian bread made with potatoes. If you think that potatoes would make this bread heavy, not so!! It’s amazingly soft and light.
I learnt how to make Focaccia (Puglian Style) at a cooking class whilst on holidays in Puglia (Poo – lee – ah) in 2016. Puglia, a southern region forming the heel of Italy’s “boot,” is known for its whitewashed hill towns, centuries-old farmland and hundreds of kilometres of Mediterranean coastline. Sounds beautiful? It is!!!
My cooking class was held in the gorgeous village of Squinzano, where we learnt how to make a variety of Puglian dishes. My other inspiration is my neighbour whose family happen to hail from this region, and who has given me some of his mother’s recipe secrets. Lucky me!!
There are a couple of things that set Focaccia (Puglian style) apart from other focaccia. First, is the use of durum wheat semolina. During the cooking class, we used a combination of 2/3 plain (all purpose) flour and 1/3 durum wheat semolina. Durum wheat semolina is far finer than the semolina we find in supermarkets in Australia. I had to go to great lengths to source it, only to discover that my one supplier has now closed down. Not to worry!! As it is difficult to source, my recipe will be using only Soft Wheat Flour 00, and that you can get in supermarkets.
The second is potatoes!! This is what gives this focaccia its softness. Bite through the crunchy exterior to a soft, springy centre. If stored in an airtight container, it remains soft and springy for a day or two! I doubt if it will last that long!!
You can’t make a good Focaccia (Puglian Style) without using lots of olive oil!! The olive oil is used in the dough mixture, and is also drizzled generously over the top. This is the #1 tip passed onto me by my Puglian neighbour, and is the secret behind that gorgeous crust on the surface.
How quickly your bread rises can be affected by circumstances such as the weather, the warmth of your kitchen and where you place your dough to rise. Make sure you read Note 5 for some helpful, if not unusual tips that can help things along.
Whenever l make this focaccia l usually send a slab over to my Puglian neighbour to enjoy with his family. Sadly, he wasn’t home last night, but his wife was! Hmm wonder if she left him any??
Preparation Time: 30 mins Cooking Time: 30 mins Servings: 4
- 300 g / 10.5 oz 00 soft wheat flour or plain/all-purpose flour (Note 1)
- 1 x 150 g / 5 oz small potato
- 160 ml / 5 1/2 fl oz warm water
- 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra 2 -3 tbsp for drizzling
- 2 tsp dried yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp salt, plus 1 tsp sea salt flakes for sprinkling
- 6 – 8 tiny tomatoes, halved
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- Place the potato (unpeeled) in a small pot of cold water. Boil until tender (20 mins). To check for tenderness, pierce with a toothpick. If the toothpick does not meet any resistance, it’s ready (Note 2). Once cooked, cool, peel and pass through a ricer. If you don’t have a ricer, mash it very well.
- Place 160 ml of warm water in a small jug. Use 2 tbsp of this water and place it along with the yeast and sugar in a small bowl (Note 3). In about 10 mins you will see it frothing (see photo).
- Place the flour, salt, riced/mashed potato, yeast mixture, 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium bowl. My bowl measures 9.5 cm / 4″ in diameter at the base and 20 cm / 8″ in diameter at the rim. Pour in the remainder of the warm water. Mix ingredients with a fork or spoon until combined. Use one hand to bring together in the shape of a ball. Tip out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for approximately 8 minutes or until the dough feels smooth and springy (Note 4).
- First Rising: Oil the same bowl you mixed the ingredients in. Place the dough inside the bowl, rub olive oil on its surface and cover loosely with cling film. Set aside to rise in a warm spot. It usually takes 1 1/2 hours for my dough to roughly double in size. (Note 5 will give you important, if not unusual tips on how to encourage your dough to rise. Please read them!!).
- Second Rising: Tip the dough straight into a well oiled baking tray. My tray measures 21 cm x 30.5 cm / 8″ x 12″. Use your fingers to gently to push the dough to the edges of the tray. Press the tomatoes into the dough. Sprinkle generously with oregano, olive oil and sea salt flakes. Set aside in a warm spot (uncovered) and allow to rise for 45 mins. It should rise to or just above the rim of the baking tray.
- Preheat oven to 190 C / 375 F. Place the tray on the middle rack and bake for 30 min or until the top is golden.
- 00 refers to the grade of flour. 00 is very white and fine, perfect for making bread and pasta. It is also packaged as strong, high protein plain flour.
- Avoid piercing the potato too often as it will take on too much water and affect the consistency of the dough.
- Getting down to eye level is the best way to measure liquids accurately. A little too much or not enough water will make a difference. The water used must not be hot or it will kill the yeast.
- This dough is going to feel a bit on the sticky side. Avoid the temptation to keep adding flour. If you add big handfuls of flour you will most likely end up with a rock hard focaccia. If you find the dough is too sticky to work with, sprinkle it with one teaspoon of flour until you have a consistency you can work with but is still just a bit sticky. A little sticky is good!!!
- I mentioned in my introduction a number of circumstances that can affect how quickly your dough rises. Here are some techniques l use during the cooler months. 1. If l am drying clothes in my drier, l place my bowl nearby. The laundry door remains open. 2. I heat up tea towels and wrap them loosely around the bowl. I reheat them every now and again 3. If l have been cooking on the stove top and all my elements are off, l will place my dough close by and 4. I can’t take credit for this one! My neighbour (the one from Puglia) places his bowl on his waterbed. He says it works!!!