One of the things that I loved most about my time in Italy was how friendly all of the people were, no matter where you were. Everyone was willing to help you or answer questions. I remember being at the grocery store one day and asking a woman in the bakery to explain the difference between the packages of focaccia and the Ligurian focaccia. The difference – SALT! Back in the Middle Ages, salt was rather expensive and so the Italians made their bread without it because they could not afford salt. Liguria is considered to be the birthplace of focaccia and let me tell you, I’m happy they added the salt because it tastes amazing.
Another one of my favorite stories from my time in Italy was when my husband joined our AirBnB hosts for an afternoon of olive picking and pressing on their farm, helping them to make olive oil. It has been some of the best olive oil that I have ever tasted and I have been looking for something similar since my return. I’m so thankful to live in a region of California where olive groves are everywhere and there are a lot of amazing producers right in my backyard.
Seka Hills Olive Oil
I was so excited when I stumbled across this producer with an amazing history. Seka Hills is a producer run in the Capa Valley of Northern California run by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. For thousands of years this tribe has inhabited this area and utilize the fertile land to produce agricultural goods. Their sustainable farming practices allow them to preserve their lands for generations to come.
Seka Hills produces a variety of products such as wines, olive oil, honey, vinegar and much more. They sent me over a package with their olive oil and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to try, and I’m so thankful that they did! (The bottle of wine didn’t last very long.) They sent over 2 varieties of olive oil: Aarbequina, which is peppery, and Picual, which offers a more herby flavor. Both were fresh and delicious and with this fresh oil I decided it was time to try my hand at a batch of Ligurian Focaccia.
How to Make Ligurian Focaccia
I promise you that once you make a batch of this focaccia you’ll want to make more and more and eat every sandwich moving forward with this bread. This recipe will take some time, but it is worth the patience. The most important part of making this recipe is using a high quality olive oil, such as Seka Hills. If you’re looking for some baking therapy, let’s get started!
The best part of this focaccia is that there is no kneading required. The most important part of the mixing stage is making sure that the water is the correct temperature so that your yeast activates properly. You’ll mix the ingredients until they are just combined and then allow it to rise for 12 – 14 hours.
When you’re getting ready to bake the dough, you’ll need to build in additional time for the dough to proof. You’ll also need additional olive oil! In addition to the olive oil you’ll mix a brine to pour over the dough. Do not be alarmed at how wet the dough will seem because it will absorb as it bakes. After the final proof you’ll bake the focaccia, allow it to cool slightly before removing it from the pan and serving. It’s going to be hard to keep from eating multiple pieces!
In my opinion it is best when it is fresh from the oven. The outside of the focaccia is crisp and the center is soft and moist. It’s great to serve along with a dish of pasta and perfect for making caprese sandwiches on a panini press.
My word of advice on this recipe is to use high quality ingredients, especially olive oil. Also, take your time because it’s an easy recipe and when done right turns out amazing!
- For the dough:
- 2½ cups (600 grams) lukewarm water
- ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2½ teaspoons (15 grams) honey
- 5⅓ cups (800 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (18 grams) Kosher salt or 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- ¼ cup (50 grams) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan and finishing
- Flaky salt for finishing
- For the brine:
- 1½ teaspoons (5 grams) Kosher Salt
- ⅓ cup (80 grams) lukewarm water
- In a medium bowl, stir together water, yeast, and honey to dissolve. In a very large bowl, whisk flour and salt together to combine and then add yeast mixture and olive oil. Stir with a rubber spatula until just incorporated, then scrape the sides of the bowl clean and cover with plastic wrap. Leave out at room temperature to ferment for 12 to 14 hours until at least doubled in volume.
- Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons oil evenly onto a 18-by-13 inch (46-by-33 cm) rimmed baking sheet. When dough is ready, use a spatula or your hand to release it from the sides of the bowl and fold it onto itself gently, then pour out onto pan. Pour an additional 2 tablespoons of olive oil over dough and gently spread across. Gently stretch the dough to the edge of the sheet by placing your hands underneath and pulling outward. The dough will shrink a bit, so repeat stretching once or twice over the course of 30 minutes to ensure dough remains stretched.
- Dimple the dough by pressing the pads of your first three fingers in at an angle. Make the brine by stirring together salt and water until salt is dissolved. Pour the brine over the dough to fill dimples. Proof focaccia for 45 minutes until the dough is light and bubbly.
- Thirty minutes into this final proof, adjust rack to center position and preheat oven to 450°F (235°C). If you have a baking stone, place it on rack. Otherwise, invert another sturdy baking sheet and place on rack. Allow to preheat with the oven until very hot, before proceeding with baking.
- Sprinkle focaccia with flaky salt. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes directly on top of stone or inverted pan until bottom crust is crisp and golden brown when checked with a metal spatula. To finish browning top crust, place focaccia on upper rack and bake for 5 to 7 minutes more.
- Remove from oven and brush or douse with 2 to 3 tablespoons oil over the whole surface (don’t worry if the olive pools in pockets, it will absorb as it sits). Let cool for 5 minutes, then release focaccia from pan with metal spatula and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
- To store, wrap in parchment and then keep in an airtight bag or container to preserve texture. Gently toast or reheat any leftover focaccia before serving. Alternatively, wrap tightly to freeze, then defrost and reheat before serving.
Recipe from Samin Nosrat