Focaccia (pronounced foe-CAT-cha) is a flat oven-baked
Italian bread, which may be topped with onions, herbs or other foodstuffs,
related to pizza, but not considered to be the same. The word is derived
from the Latin focus meaning "centre" and also "fireplace"
-- the fireplace being in the centre of the house -- and this is a bread
baked in the hearth. In English, it is sometimes redundantly referred to
as focaccia bread.
In ancient Rome, panis focacius was a flat bread baked in the
ashes of the hearth (focus in Latin). As the tradition spread, the
different dialects and diverse local ingredients resulted in a large
variety of bread (some even may be considered cake). 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 fugazza, derived
from fugassa in the native language of Argentina's many Ligurian
immigrants. The Spanish call it "hogaza".
The basic recipe is thought by some to have originated with the
Etruscans or ancient Greeks, but it is now known as a delicacy of the
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 caill� and cheese filling
sandwiched between two layers of paper-thin dough.
Focaccia is quite popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive
oil and herbs, topped with cheese and meat, or flavored with a number of
vegetables. Focaccia doughs are similar in style and texture to pizza
doughs consisting of high-gluten flour, oil, water, sugar, salt and yeast.
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.
Focaccia is used extensively as a sandwich bread outside of Italy.
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 brush prior to
rising and baking.
Focaccia can be used as a side to many meals, as a base for pizza or as