This is one of my favourite snacks and a staple antipasto at my kitchen studio events. It’s also a very popular street food from my home province of Bari in Italy: as kids we’d always stop for a slice at the local bakery on our way home from school.
Focaccia barese can be made with or without olives – I like both but I usually make it without because not everyone likes olives. I usually make it with cherry or pachino-style tomatoes but plum tomatoes are great too, as long as they are fresh and in season.
I recommend fresh yeast for this recipe. It’s not as common here in Canada as in Italy but quite often you can find it at your local bakery.
- 325 g bread flour
- 50 g semolina
- 200 ml tap water (cool, not cold)
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 half-pound potato, boiled
- 1/2 ounce fresh yeast or 1/2 pack dry active yeast
- 20 g fine sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 tsp sugar
- Oregano QB [quanto basta – a quantity that you feel is enough]
A 12- or 14-inch round or 9 x 12 inch rectangular pyrex pan
- In a small glass, dissolve the sea salt in ¼ cup warm water.
- Prepare your yeast according to the instructions on the package.
- In a mixing bowl, add remaining warm water and olive oil. Slowly mix in the flour and semolina, the yeast, crushed potato, and finally the dissolved salt.
- Keep working the dough till it becomes smooth but still a bit wet and sticky, approximately 5 minutes.
- Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and pour the dough into it. Lightly oil your hands as well to prevent sticking.
- Flatten the dough towards the edges of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 90 minutes in a warm place. (I use the oven with the light on, but make sure the oven itself is not on if you do this!)
- Preheat oven to 425°.
- Uncover the pan. Break the tomatoes into small pieces by hand over the focaccia, letting the juices run onto the dough. Lightly press the pieces into the dough (rather than just placing them on top).
- Sprinkle the focaccia with oregano and drizzle generously with olive oil. Then finish with a healthy sprinkle of sea salt.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on the strength of your oven. Keep a close eye the first time you make it to avoid burning – you want the focaccia to be golden brown on top and bottom.
The dough can be made 1-2 days in advance and kept refrigerated. Keep it in a plastic bag but not fully sealed. Don’t forget to let it come to room temperature before baking!
Massimo Bruno is a Toronto-based chef and culinary tour guide originally from Bitritto in the Puglia region of Italy. This recipe appears in Pizza Cultura, a book commissioned by the Italian Chamber of Commerce of Ontario, written by Mark Cirillo and published by Mansfield Press. It is available at amazon.ca or by contacting the ICCO.