Every region of Italy makes some form of focaccia, but if we want to nitpick, it seems that focaccia had its start in the Ligurian culinary tradition. In Genova, the capital city of Liguria, freshly baked focaccia studded with basil leaves enhances almost every table. But as you travel to the different regions of Italy, the herbs and flavorings will change from rosemary to oregano to olives, onion, and tomatoes. The variety of toppings on the Italian focaccia is endless. You should feel free to change this recipe by using the herb that you have in your refrigerator, or your family’s favorite.
- for the focaccia
- 1 packet active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working the dough
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- for the topping
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
- 3 tablespoons grated Grana Padano
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in ½ cup warm water (90 to 110 degrees F). Let the mixture sit a few minutes, until the yeast is bubbly.
Put the proofed yeast in a mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Pour in another 1½ cups warm water and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the flour, holding back about ½ cup of the total measured amount. Add the salt. Mix on low speed to combine into a wet dough. If the dough is still dry or seems tight, add up to ½ cup more warm water, a little at a time. If it seems too wet, add up to the remaining ½ cup flour, a little at a time. Knead the dough on medium speed until it is soft and springy and leaves the sides of the bowl clean, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Dump the dough on a floured counter, and knead a few times by hand to bring together into a ball. Oil a large bowl, and toss the dough to coat. Cover, and let rise until doubled in size, about
1 to 1½ hours, depending on the temperature of your room.
Punch down the dough. Oil a half sheet pan with olive oil, and dump the dough into the sheet pan. Press with your fingers to fit dough to the edges of the pan. Let rise another 30 minutes, uncovered. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Once the dough has risen, gently press indentations in the dough with your fingertips, about 1 inch apart. Bake until set, about 10 to 15 minutes, pull out of oven, and brush with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Finish baking until the focaccia is golden brown on the top and bottom, about 25 minutes in all.
While the dough finishes baking, in a bowl stir together the basil, grated cheese, and the remaining olive oil. As soon as you remove focaccia from oven, spread with the basil mixture.