Focaccia and pizza are the best Italian party crowd pleasers, period. They are always the first to go at a buffet table.
This recipe is for a highly hydrated, soft focaccia that has a sort of neapolitan pizza kind of feeling. It looks complicated to make, but comes together in a cinch as it practically makes itself overnight, and it's super simple to make. As with all breads and doughs, though, there are a couple rules to follow that will grant better results.
This focaccia can be made beforehand and frozen, then thawed in the oven right before you need it. It will still be good the day after, too, but I would recommend warming it a bit in the oven before eating. The quantities make quite a small pie, but the recipe easily doubles or triples!
Even though this recipe is usually present in appetizers buffet tables, it also makes a great accompaniment to a holiday meal. —Valentina Solfrini
enough dough for a 8" or 9" pan
For the Focaccia
(150 grams) strong bread flour
(150 grams) spelt flour
(240 to 250 ml) lukewarm water
(1.5 grams) fresh yeast *
1 heaping teaspoons
barley malt syrup**
olive oil, plus more to top
If you can't find fresh yeast, substitute with a good pinch of active dry yeast.
** I really recommend using barley malt, but if you can't find it honey or sugar will do.
For the Topping
medium potato, thinly sliced into rounds
medium onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
In This Recipe
THE NIGHT BEFORE (or at least 12 hours before): Add the flours to a bread machine or to a bowl with the dough hook attachment. Dilute the yeast and the malt in some of the water, then add it to the flour, along with the 2 tbsps of olive oil and the rest of the water. Depending on the flour you're using, you might need more or less water: I suggest starting with 240ml, then adding a bit more if the dough seems too stiff. Knead everything until incorporated, then add the salt, and knead until the dough is well mixed. it should be very loose and sticky, but not really liquid.
IF KNEADING BY HAND: This can be totally kneaded by hand! The dough is quite loose, but work it well with your hands, collecting it from the bottom and slamming it in the bowl for several times. You'll see how the dough will start to look smoother and more elastic after 5 to 10 minutes of this collect-and-slam process. Proceed just like with the machine, adding water, yeast, malt and oil to the flours, then the salt when everything is already incorporated.
Oil a glass bowl and put the dough in it, cover with plastic wrap and leave it in a place where there are not going to be temperature changes, like the oven. The dough should stay at a temperature of about 25 C? (77 F?).
IF MAKING 24 Hrs BEFORE: the dough can also be assembled 24 hours before, but you should keep it in the lower part of your fridge for the whole time.
Cut the potatoes into thin rounds - make them slightly thicker than a potato chip, and soak them in water overnight.
AFTER 12 HOURS: At this point, your dough should have noticeably risen and should be very bubbly on top.
Prepare a pan that can fit your dough in an even layer, about a half inch thick. Oil the bottom, and scrape your dough into the pan. Add a little oil on top, and spread it out with your oiled hands, then fold it over itself a couple times. Spread it out again in an even layer, and leave it to rest, covered with plastic or with a cloth, for about 1 hour. Again, make sure is stays in a current-free environment at about 25C? (77F?).
30 minutes before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 240C? (465F?). Make sure it is set to static.
Also, cook the onions: add a bit of olive oil to a pan and add your thinly sliced onions, add salt, a bit of water and cook until they start to color, but are not browned. It should take around 15 minutes. Keep adding tablespoons of water to prevent them from burning, but make sure there's no water left when they're ready.
After 1 hour, you Focaccia should have puffed up a bit. Mix 1 tbsp of water with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt, and spread on top of the focaccia. Spread the potato slices evenly, then put your focaccia in the lowest part of your oven for 15 minutes. After this time, transfer the pan to the medium rack of the oven, bake for a further 5 minutes, then spread the onions evenly on top. Finish baking for 5 more minutes.
The focaccia should be a golden color. If the edges start turning brown, remove immediately from the oven. The total time of cooking here is 25 minutes, but it could take more or less depending on your oven.
Cut the focaccia into bite-size cubes and enjoy warm! If it gets cold, I suggest reheating it in the oven.
MORE TOPPING AND FILLING SUGGESTIONS: This focaccia is also great cut lenghtwise and stuffed with cold cuts, grilled vegetables or cheeses (or all three).
A tasty addition to the topping are zucchini sautéed in olive oil, salt, pepper and parsley.
To make a simple focaccia, skip the onion and potato and top with rosemary and coarse salt instead.
24 Year old Italian web dev, Graphic and UI designer who, like many designers, got seduced by food photography. I talk to way too many random people when in New York and to way too many random animals when I'm in the Italian countryside.
I run hortuscuisine.com, a blog about Italian, natural vegetarian cooking.