Last Updated on 2023/05/30
Authentic Bari-Style Focaccia Recipe: Savor Southern Italian Flavors
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This focaccia is a leavened baked good hailing from the Puglia region in Italy. It originated in Altamura as a variation of the traditional hard wheat bread, likely as a way to take advantage of the initial high heat of a wood-fired oven before it reaches the ideal temperature for baking bread. In its most classic version, the focaccia base is made by combining re-milled semolina, boiled potatoes, salt, yeast, and water to create a rather elastic dough that is soft but not sticky. The dough is then left to rise, spread onto a round baking pan generously coated with extra virgin olive oil, allowed to rise again, seasoned, and baked, preferably in a wood-fired oven.
Oil is also poured on the surface of the focaccia along with the seasoning. As for the latter, which must be applied to the dough before baking, there are at least three traditional variations:
- The quintessential focaccia, topped with fresh tomatoes and/or Baresane olives.
- Potato focaccia, featuring a layer of potato slices approximately 5mm thick, covering the entire top surface.
- White focaccia, seasoned with coarse salt and rosemary.
Other variations may include the addition of peppers, eggplants, onions, or other vegetables. Once baked, the result is a fluffy flatbread that is thicker than pizza, with a height of 1-3 cm (0.4-1.2 inches). It is best enjoyed warm to fully savor its delightful fragrance.
How to Prepare the Classic Bari-Style Focaccia (Focaccia Barese)
Makes 1 standard baking tray or two 30cm round trays
For the dough:
- 200g all-purpose flour (type ‘0’)
- 200g semolina flour (remilled durum wheat)
- 100g Manitoba flour (you can substitute with type ‘0’ flour, but I recommend using Manitoba for maximum softness)
- 300g room temperature water
- 150g whole potatoes
- 15g salt
- 2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons dry active yeast (4g) (alternatively, 10g fresh yeast)
For the topping:
- 500g cherry tomatoes
- 15-20 black olives
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Dried oregano
Instructions for Focaccia Barese:
- First, mix all the flours together. Take 95g from the total and place it in a bowl. Add the yeast and 100g of water from the total amount.
- Stir until you have a soft sponge. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise at 26°C (in a slightly warmed, turned-off oven) for about 2 hours, or until it doubles in volume and is full of bubbles.
- While the sponge rises, wash the potatoes, boil them, and mash them to make a puree. Allow the puree to cool completely before incorporating it into the dough.
Prepare the dough:
- To make the Bari-style focaccia, you can either mix the ingredients by hand in a bowl or use a stand mixer.
- Add the remaining flours, water, and cooled potato puree to the risen sponge.
- Combine with your hands or a dough hook attachment. The dough will be soft; mix until the liquids are fully absorbed and the dough has taken shape.
- Gradually incorporate the oil, one spoonful at a time, followed by the salt.
- The dough should be elastic but still quite soft—don’t worry, it will firm up during folding but should never become too hard or dense!
- Transfer the dough to a floured work surface.
- Dust the dough with flour and fold it twice like a letter.
- With floured hands, fold the dough twice more, this time laterally.
- Shape the dough into a smooth ball, dusting with flour as needed, and place it in a bowl.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise at 26-28°C (in a slightly warmed, turned-off oven) until it triples in volume (about 3 hours).
Stretching the focaccia dough:
- Traditional Apulian focaccia is quite oily, so coat your hands with some oil. Grease the baking tray(s). You can use a standard rectangular baking tray or two 28-30cm round trays.
- With oiled hands, spread the dough evenly in the greased tray(s), dimpling the surface with your fingertips.
- Optionally, you can add thinly sliced onion beneath the dough, like in Puglian-style focaccia. The onions will caramelize during baking, adding a delicious flavor.
- Allow the dough to rise for another 30 minutes at 26°C.
- Meanwhile, halve the cherry tomatoes and season them in a bowl with salt, oil, and oregano.
Topping the Focaccia Barese:
- Press the tomatoes slightly into the semi-risen dough, alternating with black olives. Spread some tomato juice over the dough for added flavor.
- Drizzle with olive oil,
- sprinkle with oregano, and add a pinch of salt.
- Let the focaccia rise for at least another 1.5 hours, until it doubles in volume.
- Baking the Focaccia Barese:
- Preheat your oven to 200°C (392°F) using the static setting. Place the tray on the bottom of the oven for a crisp crust, and bake for approximately 12 minutes if using a small tray or 15 minutes if using a large baking sheet. The edges should be slightly golden.
- Transfer the focaccia to the middle-upper part of the oven and activate the broiler (grill). Continue baking for another 6-7 minutes if using a small tray, or another 10-12 minutes if using a large tray.
- Always keep an eye on the focaccia, as ovens may vary. Test the doneness by inserting a toothpick or lifting the edges to check.
- Remove the Focaccia Barese from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes. Enjoy it warm or cold!
- Storing Focaccia Barese:
- Once the focaccia has cooled for about 1 hour after baking, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. This will keep it soft for up to 3 days at room temperature.
Featured image: source
Topics: authentic Focaccia Barese recipe, traditional Bari-style focaccia, Southern Italian bread, easy Focaccia Barese recipe, Italian bread with cherry tomatoes and olives
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