FOCACCIA PUGLIA STYLE
Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Preparation - Medium
1 Double-crust focaccia 10 inches in diameter
Please note that there are 3 different fillings offered in the lower part of this recipe.
In most parts of Italy, focaccia is a flat bread, often dotted with oil and sprigs of rosemary or bits of tomato, that is quickly baked, like a pizza, on the floor of a wood-fired oven. Traditionally, this was the bread that went in first, to test the oven's heat. In Puglia, however, things are a little different. Here, the same word, focaccia, also stands for a double-crusted free-form pie, something like a Spanish empanada, that is stuffed with a great variety of fillings. I give some of these below, though the one most often encountered is the Pugliese favorite, onions, tomatoes, black olives, and capers stewed in olive oil, like the filling for panzerotti. You'll also find potato focaccia that's more like other focaccie - a flat dough with a tasty topping.
The dough for focaccia is always a leavened bread dough; in fact, both the Homemade Bread from Bari and the Potato Bread from Foggia make excellent focaccia doughs. When you're making one of those breads, simply set aside about a quarter of the dough for a good-sized focaccia, roughly 10 inches in diameter, enough for 4 to 6 servings as a main course, 8 to 12 sezvings as an appetizer with a glass of wine before dinner. Or use the following recipe, which gives enough dough for a focaccia roughly 10 inches in diameter.
Focaccie are ideally made as free-form savory tarts on a flat baking sheet; if you use a round, low-sided tart pan about 10 inches in diameter, be careful to make the crust as thin as possible. In either case, the metal surface should be lightly brushed with olive oil before the focaccia is formed.
DOUGH FOR A SINGLE FOCACCIA:
FOR THE BIGA (starter):
FOR THE BREAD DOUGH:
- 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
- 1/2 cup very warm water
- 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
10" round tart pan or baking sheet, lightly greased, mixing and kneeding utensils.
- 1 cup very warm water
- l teaspoon sea salt
- 3 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- Drops of extra virgin olive oil
- FIRST make the biga in the usual manner: Sprinkle the dry yeast over the surface of the warm water in a mixing bowl and leave to dissolve. Once the yeast has "bloomed," stir in the flour. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside to work for a couple of hours or overnight. The biga is ready when the surface is bubbly and has collapsed just a little, but it will develop more flavor if you keep it longer, refrigerated and covered with plastic wrap or a damp cloth.
- WHEN ready to make the dough, mix the water, salt, and flour into the biga until it is well combined, then turn out on a lightly floured board and knead until the dough is satiny and has lost its stickiness. Put a few drops of oil in the clean, dry bowl and turn the dough in it. Then cover with a damp cloth and set aside to rise for an hour or so, or until doubled in bulk.
- ROLL the dough out into two disks no more than 1/8 inch thick, one a little smaller than the other. Top the larger disk with one of the fillings, put the smaller disk on top, fold the bottom edge over the top edge and seal together, then prick the top crust to let steam escape. Set the focaccia aside, loosely covered with a cloth, to rise for 1 1/2 hours. when ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F., brush the top layer with a little olive oil, and bake the focaccia until the top is golden and crisp, about 45 minutes.
- PROCEED with the recipe, following the instructions above for shaping the focaccia and using one of the fillings below. Each of the fillings should be sufficient for this much dough.
FILLINGS FOR FOCACCIA:
SWEET RED, YELLOW AND GREEN PEPPER FILLING
- 3 bell peppers, preferably l yellow, 1 red, 1 green
- 1/2 medium yellow onion
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt to taste
- 1/2 small dried hot red chile pepper
- 4 medium very ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded, or 2 cups drained canned tomatoes
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano
- CORE and trim the peppers, discarding seeds and white membranes. Chop the peppers with the onion to a coarse blend.
- IN a saute' pan over medium heat, gently saute' the peppers and onion in the olive oil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft but not turning brown. Add salt and chile pepper as desired.
- WHILE the peppers are cooking, chop the tomatoes. Add to the peppers when they are soft and continue cooking until the tomato liquid has evaporated and the sauce is thick and naps the peppers well. Set aside and cool to lukewarm before spreading on the bottom crust of the focaccia. (If there's still a lot of liquid in the peppers, drain in a sieve before spreading.) Sprinkle with black pepper and the freshly grated cheese before adding the top crust.
FISH AND SWEET LEEK FILLING
Pesce e porri
To make thin shavings of pecorino, use a vegetable parer, drawing it toward you over he cheese in short spurts.
- 1 or 2 medium leeks, trimmed and sliced (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 pound white-flesh fish fillets (hake, cod, haddock, or the like)
- About 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup thin shavings of pecorino cheese
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- IN a sauté pan over medium-low heat, very gently sweat the sliced leeks in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, stirring frequently, until they are melted into a sauce, about 45 minutes. Do not let brown.
- WHILE the leeks are slowly cooking, set the raisins in a small bowl of hot water to plump.
- CUT the fish fillets into small pieces, about 3/4 inch to the side. Place the flour on a plate and roll the fish "nuggets" in the flour. Heat the 1/3 cup of olive oil in a skillet or saute' pan over medium-high heat and when it is hot enough, quickly fry the fish pieces until crisp and golden, draining them on paper towels when done.
- SPREAD the leeks over the bottom crust of the focaccia and top with the fish pieces. Drain the raisins and dot the fish with them. Then scatter the chopped herbs and shavings of pecorino over the top. Add salt and pepper to taste, then top with the second crust.
- 1 pound fresh ricotta, preferably sheep's or goat's milk
- 2 large eggs, well beaten Pinch of salt
- 1/2 pound very flavorful baked ham or mortadella, cut in thin slivers
- 1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino or Parmigiano - Reggiano
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- IF you are using ordinary commercial ricotta, drain it overnight in a colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth. (Otherwise, the whey will leak out and make the bottom crust very soggy.)
- MIX the ricotta with the eggs and salt. Spread on the bottom crust of the focaccia and top with the ham or mortadella. Sprinkle the cheese on top, add pepper to taste, and top with the second crust.
Flavors of Puglia
Nancy Harmon Jenkins