When I started this group for baking bread, my only thought was that it would be nice to bake with others who loved baking bread as much as I did. Activities of this sort are always more fun when done with others, even if virtually. I never thought we would get to be quite a large group or that we would be baking beyond 2013.
This month, the “We Knead To Bake” group has some new members who have joined to bake with us for the next twelve months. Sometime in November there was an idea that for January, we could bake a bread that the majority of members wanted to bake. We put this idea to the poll, and by popular demand it was decided to to bake Focaccia.
I have baked a Focaccia Pugliese before and this time I thought of trying another variation – a Focaccia Caprese. Focaccia is a type of flatbread from Italy, thought to have originated in ancient Greece but now associated with the north eastern part of Italy. Today however, it is a flatbread that is found all over Italy and baked in a variety of ways.
While most of us think (at least I do) think of Focaccia as a savoury flatbread, there is also a sweet variation called the Focaccia Veneta (also called Focaccia Pasquale Veneta , Focaccia Dolce Veneta or the Fugassa Veneta) that is baked in Venetia at Easter time and made with wheat, eggs, butter, sugar and flavours.
The name Focaccia originates from the ancient Roman “Panis Focacius” which was originally a flatbread that was baked on the hearth.
A lot of people feel that the Focaccia is not much different from the Pizza and even go as far thinking it is a kind of square shaped Pizza! However, the Focaccia is different from the Pizza in more than just shape. Traditionally, Focaccia has the topping ingredients kneaded into the dough while Pizza has it on top of the dough.
Also, an Italian Pizza crust is on the thinner side, rarely more than 1/2″ thick whereas a Focaccia is at least about 3/4″ thick. Focaccia therefore, tends to be “spongier” and softer whereas a Pizza is crisper. A lot of oil into the Focaccia dough after which it is shaped and then more oil is brushed/ drizzled on whereas in a Pizza, oil is not kneaded into the dough and only used on top.
Focaccia maybe served warm or cold (at room temperature) but a Pizza is always served hot and never cold.
In the old days, Focaccia rarely had any toppings except oil and herbs (and garlic as well) for flavour though this has changed. Perhaps this is why there is this confusion between the Focaccia and the Pizza!
Focaccia Caprese is nothing but a basic Focaccia dough topped Caprese style. “Caprese” refers to something that comes from or is in the style of Capri, an island off the Italian coast near Naples. Capri is famous mostly for its villas, grottos and jutting limestone towers, and also for the salad named after it – “Insalata Caprese” whose signature is fresh tomatoes, basil and fresh buffalo mozzarella (Mozzarella di Buffala)
This means that the topping of the Focaccia Caprese is sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, in addition to the usual olive oil and herbs that are typically used in this flatbread.
Though it is fresh mozzarella that is the best in this Focaccia, if one cannot find it like in my case, then one must use whatever one has on hand. I used regular mozzarella that I use on my Pizza, and you can also use any other “melty” cheese if you have no choice.
If any of you would rather use different toppings, then please go ahead and use whatever you like. You can try using rosemary and potatoes like I did for the Focaccia Pugliese. Just remember two things – that it is a good idea to keep to traditional toppings used on Italian Focaccia for the best results and also to use as few as possible because less is always more.
The Focaccia is usually served either as a light snack, can be made into sandwiches or be served with a soup or salad to make a meal.
(Adapted from The Kitchen Whisperer)