Friday, August 10, 2012

What the Focaccia?!

Being someone who has worked in the kitchen, you know what's right and what's wrong. You know where someone in the back is cutting corners, and you know why. You can tell when something is done on purpose, like strategically placing burnt, overdone potatoes underneath fresh ones, hoping no one would notice. When it comes to problems like that it's amazing how often "on purpose" coincides with "half assed". You can also tell when something is done out of pure ignorance, like when you order a Caesar salad and the lettuce is wet prior to tossing, making the dressing watery and diluted. Or if it comes out with half of the leaves black and nasty, forcing you to pick through it and leaving most of it on the plate. Or...

When you get like 2 croutons.


Ok, I digress. I'm not here to complain about restaurants and everything they do from charging you 3 times more than what the meal actually costs or sticking you with a pissed off waitress whose manager is an assclown because he won't comp her food even though she's working a 10 hour shift with no break and has 15 tables. 

No, I'm here to talk about Focaccia.

O0o0o.. Did you feel that? ...Say it again...


I'll explain how Focaccia ties into all of this in just a bit, but for now, let me put it like this: Bread is bread, but Focaccia is Focaccia. Capiche?

One of the simplest, most joyous pleasures in life is a crusty, hot, freshly baked bread, and some extra virgin olive oil seasoned with fresh ground pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt. The amount of time I can live off of that is unhealthy. So it’s really no wonder why Focaccia is one of my favorite things ever. It’s everything I love in one bite.

In case you're lost and don’t know what it is, it’s basically an Italian flatbread. Usually seasoned with olive oil, herbs, and salt. Sometimes it is dressed with other toppings like onions, and cheese, but you know me, simple is the way to my heart. The biggest characteristic to a Focaccia are the wells, or dimples, that are pressed into the dough with your fingertips before baking. These wells help the olive oil and the herbs penetrate and seep into the Focaccia, making it more flavorful throughout and not just the outer crust.

I did a little rant in the beginning of this post, and it was because some restaurants out there claim they are giving you Focaccia, when in reality, it’s just a thick piece of bread with a cheap brush of canola oil and an even cheaper pinch of herbs. And by “some restaurants”, I mean all of them. At least, every single one I’ve encountered. Don’t go describing to me all these wonderful flavors and tastes, telling me it’s sprinkled with herbs and brushed with olive oil, and then give me something that looks like it was part of a TV dinner.

Don’t piss in my ear and tell me it’s raining.

Maybe I’m just spoiled? Maybe I expect too much? Or, there’s a very good possibility that a lot of people out there just don’t know what the hell they’re doing.

I’m not perfect by any means. I can’t make you the worlds greatest Focaccia and I’ve never had the best. All I know is that when it’s done right, it’s simply amazing.

Now, I know I've put this on an insanely high pedestal when in the end, it really is just bread. And bread is one of those things that not everyone enjoys or has time to make, usually because of having to deal with or simply buying the yeast that makes bread rise. So considering that and my views on making cooking at home simple and worth doing, this recipe will not be your typical Focaccia.

This is going to be a Yeastless Focaccia.

O0o0o0.. Did you feel that? ..Say it again...

Yeastless Focaccia..

....Nah, it wasn't the same.

I've been using this recipe for a very long time and even though it doesn't have any yeast, and doesn't rise like a normal bread would, the flavor and the magic is still there. This is an amazing trick to have up your sleeve for pasta night, especially if you don't have anything to make a garlic bread with. It can be done in a cinch and the results are spectacularly better than any Fauxcaccia you may encounter in the wild. 

See what I did.. there.... Ok, fine, here it is!

Yeastless Focaccia:   (adapted from here)

                               1 cup ~ Water
                       2 1/4 cups ~ All-Purpose Flour
                    3 teaspoons ~ Baking Powder
                      1 teaspoon ~ Salt
                     ½ teaspoon ~ Garlic Powder
                      1 teaspoon ~ Dried Rosemary
                      1 teaspoon ~ Dried Thyme
                     ½ teaspoon ~ Sea Salt
  At least 4 Tablespoons ~ Extra Virgin Olive Oil
                               ¼ cup ~ Grated Parmesan Cheese


  • This will be good for 2 or 3 days if you keep it air tight. The more it sits, the more tough and chewy it'll be. But hey, if you make it right (a monkey could make it right), it won’t last the first day.
  • If you don't have sea salt... Use whatever salt you have. Seriously. Don't bother me with such questions. 

Alright, let's get to bakin':

  • First, wash your hands, because they're going to get dirty. After that, line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and spread around about a tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. If you don't like foil, go naked.

  • Next, in a medium sized bowl, add the flour, baking powder, salt and water, and mix it with your hands till a dough comes together. Yeah, you can use your mixer with a dough hook, but really, why waste the time? Your 2 hands are the best tools in your kitchen. Ok, stop looking at your hands in amazement and get back to the dough.. It should be a little sticky

You do not want a clean dough, you want it to be sticky. But if you can't even handle it, add a few more tablespoons of flour. You want it to be sticky enough to grab on to your skin, but not so much that you'll have dough stuck all over your hands when you handle it.

  • Once it's good to go, plop it onto the oiled tray. Rub it on the tray a bit and flip it over; it's easier to handle with a little oil on top. Now work it with your fingertips and spread it around until it's about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. I like to make mine into an oblong, circular shape. You could shape yours to look like a pig if that floats your boat, just make sure there are no holes anywhere and the thickness stays consistent throughout. Otherwise, thinner parts will cook quicker and give you more crispier areas than others.

  • Once it's the shape you want, start dressing it. Take the garlic, herbs and sea salt, and sprinkle them evenly all over the dough. When it's covered with the yumminess, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over it and spread it around, making sure you coat the entire thing, sides and all. Now pretend your fingers are dancers and the dough is a dance floor. Go crazy and make dimples everywhere using your fingers.

  • When it looks like a golf ball, set it aside and turn your oven on to 425°. I say turn it on now instead of when you started because I found it comes out better if you let the dough rest a bit. It may not have yeast, but it's still dough, and you just beat it up like it owed you money so let it relax a little.

If you don't know why you should let dough rest, it's because of the gluten that was formed during kneading. Look at it like this: If you give that gluten time to rest, the dough will be happier and relaxed, therefore it'll give you a more tender bread when it's finished baking. If you make a dough, knead it, and throw it in the oven like you don't care about how it feels, the dough won't be happy and it'll be tough and chewy when it comes out.

There's a joke in there about letting your tired spouse rest, but I'll leave it alone :-)

  • When the oven is preheated, put it in and set the timer for 20 minutes. When you're done twiddling your thumbs for 20 minutes, take it out, but put the knife down because it's not ready yet. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on there and then drizzle that last tablespoon or so of olive oil on top. When you're done moping because it's not ready yet, put it in the oven for another 5 minutes

When that timer goes off, do your happy dance because it's done. Cut it up however you want and put whatever is left over in something airtight.

But good luck with that left over part...


  1. Your description is wonderful!!

  2. Thank you for this you made me smile out loud!

  3. a much better recipe, thanks for sharing