Focaccia is quite popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil and sometimes herbs, and may be topped with onion, cheese and meat, or flavored with a number of vegetables. However, by far the most typical focaccia is simply baked dough topped with olive oil and a simple herb like rosemary or sage, and salted with coarse salt. It is very popular as a snack in Italy and school children will often purchase a slice from a baker on the way to school, to enjoy at break time.
In the late 19th century an Italian immigrant to the United Kingdom created a version of foccacia with a unique English twist. The local baker to Kings Clipstone, Nottinghamshire developed his version, known locally as Italian Lard Bread, using that staple ingredient of every Englishman's diet at that time in history, lard.
Homemade Focaccia with olives and herbsFocaccia doughs are similar in style and texture to pizza doughs, consisting of high-gluten flour, oil, water, salt and yeast. It is typically rolled out or pressed by hand into a thick layer of dough and then baked in a stone-bottom or hearth oven. Bakers often puncture the bread with a knife to relieve bubbling on the surface of the bread.
Also common is the practice of dotting the bread. This creates multiple wells in the bread by using a finger or the handle of a utensil to poke the unbaked dough. As a way to preserve moisture in the bread, olive oil is then spread over the dough, by hand or with a pastry brush prior to rising and baking. In the northern part of Italy, lard will sometimes be added to the dough, giving the focaccia a softer, slightly flakier texture. Focaccia recipes are widely available, and with the popularity of bread machines, many cookbooks now provide version of dough recipes that do not require hand kneading.
Focaccia can be used as a side to many meals, as a base for pizza, or as sandwich bread.