Best Focaccia Ever

Focaccia_2

MfitaliathHappening upon Camogli's market may have been sheer luck, but we had a very specific target in mind on this visit. We had returned to the town in search of the most amazing focaccia we have ever had. This might sound like an overstatement, but upon looking at these photos again from our trip, I'm convinced that this is, hands down, the best focaccia ever.

Its source is a small focaccieria located at the Eastern end of Via Garibaldi, where the sunlit promenade loses the view of the beach and narrows into a darkened alleyway between two buildings. Blink, and you might even miss the place, but for the aroma of bread baking.

There's focaccia topped with chopped tomato, another with thinly sliced onions, and one with olives. There's pizza too, but the real draw is focaccia col formaggio, a specialty of the region, and in particular the neighboring town of Recco. Loaded with olive oil, the bread contains fresh, soft crescenza cheese stuffed between two extremely thin layers of dough.

I had never tasted anything like it on our first visit, and when a New York City restaurant opened a few years ago promising authentic focaccia col formaggio, I was disappointed to find something closer to a quesadilla instead. I tried to make the focaccia once after my last visit, but it just wasn't the same. After tasting it again this summer, I realized that I had forgotten how incredibly thin the layers were -- paper thin, almost crepe-like. You might need to use a pasta machine to make dough that thin.

I spied a menu posted on the wall of the focacceria detailing the ingredients: "Farina tipo '00,' acqua, olio di olivia e di sansa, cereali maltati, lievito, sale, crescenza."

Unable to translate cereali maltati, I tried to ask some questions about how the focaccia is made, but no one who worked there spoke any English and my phrasebook Italian was not up to the task (if anyone can translate, please comment below). Lievito, which appears to mean yeast, is a surprise ingredient since every recipe I have found for focaccia col formaggio uses an unleavened dough made from just flour and water.

Thoughts about how I might go about reconstructing the focaccia upon our return home quickly turned to eating, as I paid for a focaccia trio -- con pomodoro, con cipolle, and col formaggio.

There's nowhere to sit inside (plus, it's too hot even if there were tables), so you take your focaccia, carefully folded in paper, and quickly find a spot along Via Garibaldi to sit in the sun and unwrap the bready, cheesy goodness. It's gone in seconds, and all that's left is the olive oil covering your fingers.

Colformaggio

Tomato


 





Comments

Ciao! The focaccia I know is usually thicker, like bread, but this is probably a regional difference.
I spoke with my darling Italian hubby and he said that cereali maltati is barley (literally means malted cereal). And yes, lievito is yeast and in our house we do use yeast to make thin pizza, it just takes a lot of muscle to roll it thin.
I hope this helps.

 

i love how you set out with the single-minded intention of finding the best possible focaccia and did. it's so pure, i could cry.

great photos btw. what did you have to wash it down? tell me you tapped into a bottle of birra moretti.

 

"Farina tipo '00,' acqua, olio di olivia e di sansa, cereali maltati, lievito, sale, crescenza."

Double 00 flour, water, olive oil and olive pomace oil, assorted (and/or malted) grains (probably for texture, like adding semolina or cornmeal to pizza dough), yeast, salt, crescenza (a type of soft italian cheese, in between cream cheese and something more firm like a prima salata).

 

cereali maltati literally translated is malted grains. Of course, the most common use of malt grain is for making beer. But I have seen that in Italian baking (and maybe in the US too) malted wheat or orzo is used in yeast breads to optimize the fermentation process. Does this help?

I will say that all the "traditional" recipes for foccacia col formaggio that I've seen in Liguria don't mention yeast, but that I've always suspected that some of the fluffier ones were leavened. I'm not really a baker (just an observer and an eater) and I don't if whether using yeast (and malted grain) is a shortcut or substitute for working the dough by hand or just a matter of taste.

 

... might be worth mentioning that the water (ingredient) should be tepid - _never_ cold.

 

Thank you for all the comments (and expert translations)! The fluffier ones were definitely leavened, but I was really surprised the focaccia col formaggio had yeast in it.

If I remember correctly, I think I washed it down acqua minerale gassata, though beer would have been excellent.

Has anyone attempted to make this (with any success)?

 

I am living in Italy and we call plain foccacia, "pizza bianca" or white pizza, just plain. When we make it at home we use yeast and make it really thin, like the pizzas in Rome. With just rosemany and olive oil. In Piemonte, the foccacia is thicker and with nice air holes all over and not too brown on top. There are many ways to make it, every region has their own recipe. You'll just have to experiment. Here Butoni makes a pizza dough and foccacia dough pre-made and all you do is bake. I tested these and they are okay but making from scratch is easy with a stand mixer, so why not?

 

Josh,
trying to replicate focaccia at home is a huge task for anybody. Don't rely on the recipe on the menu, that's just nutritional facts. The real recipe is a unique combination of flour _blends_ not to mention that water composition is essential.
In fact, there are many kind of bread which are specialties of one particular town that cannot replicated elsewhere. For example, in Ferrara we have a peculiar type of bread resembling two pairs of twisted horns joined back to back(they are called "coppie"). There are bakeries here in Milan selling these coppie and pretending they taste like the original ones, but I can assure you they don't.
Once I asked to a baker the reason for that and he explained to me that even an expert baker native from Ferrara can't redo that kind of bread in another town, even using the same ingredients. Differences in water composition and air humidity are enough to turn the flavour into something different. I guess it's the same with the focaccia di Recco, here in Milan they don't even try. Since Recco is some 200 miles away from here, many people know well the original taste and few would buy a fake focaccia. Therefore you usually find the original one delivered very early in the morning in some selected places in the city.

 

Hi guys, i'd like to point out that the best focaccia place in liguria probably is the little bakery up in Sori, just on the east of genua. been there, done them, and forever passionate about the "Fugas'". One other little thing: if you plan to make it, try to make it with prescinseua, freshly made cheese which you can make easily at home.

 

Malted barley is used a lot in bread baking (does wonderful things to your pancake and waffle batter). I get mine from King Arthur flour as I can't find it in any stores in my area.

 

awesome post. i could almost kill for that foccacia it looks so good. have a look at this great story on pizza bianca at TMN: http://www.themorningnews.org/archives/opinions/amanda_hesser_mr_latte_and_me.php#002842

ciao!

 

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My husband and I spent a few days in Santa Margherita Ligure near Camogli and ate Foccacia everywhere. Even left on the train with squares of it wrapped in paper....but the best was toasted in the small extremely hot rotating toaster oven type appliance that our hotel had on the breakfast buffet....just plain with all the olive oil in it, toasted for breakfast. Have to make some soon.

 

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