Focaccia with Sweet Paprika
High, low, Genoese, Barese, Messina, flat, sweet, with onions, with cheese... there are a thousand variations of focaccia. Each one a true delicacy! Here we present a focaccia recipe with an unusual ingredient, perfect for an aperitif with friends.
The Origins of Focaccia
The true origins of focaccia are lost in the mists of time. There are mentions of it during the time of the Romans if not earlier. Probably the first focaccia were prepared by bakers, who during the long gruelling hours of work at night, took a few breaks to cook leftover dough that was not leavened properly - perhaps by adding a little oil or lard. The term focaccia derives from the Latin word "focus" to indicate its cooking on the hearth. It is found all across Italy with different traditions, ingredients and recipes. In some areas, this term is used to indicate a sweet food such as in Val di Susa, Piedmont but also in Veneto, where there is an Easter cake that is called focaccia. In Tuscany, on the other hand, focaccia is flatter and crisp and is called "schiacciata" while in other areas of Italy it is called by various other names. Among the most famous variants are the ones from Genoa and Bari.
The Genoese Focaccia - from Genoa
The Genoese focaccia, called fugassa in the local dialect, was consumed in medieval times even on important occasions such as weddings. Thanks to its excellent storage properties, it was a favourite food among fishermen and travellers. In the harbour area of Genoa there were many bakers who sold focaccia. Because it was so cheap, it became very popular among the dockworkers of the Genoa harbour, the "camalli". The fugassa is rather soft and high with classic holes on the surface and a golden colour. Among the more classic variations of this focaccia is the one with onions.
The Barese Focaccia - from Bari
The greatest rival of the Genoese focaccia, the one from Bari is a speciality that completes for the title of "Queen of Focaccias". Probably originating in Altamura, the focaccia was conceived to exploit the heat of the oven before the temperature stabilised. The modern recipe has of course been modified from the original to include tomatoes and potatoes that came to Europe from the New World. Not to be confused with pizza, the focaccia from Bari is made from re-milled semolina, boiled potatoes, salt, yeast and water and then baked in an oven. There are many variations here as well - with cherry tomatoes and olives or the white one with rosemary and the one with potatoes. In 2010, the "Consorzio Focaccia Barese" was set up to register this product in the European Register of Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) - a register that includes mozzarella, Neapolitan pizza and, amatriciana among others.
Recipe - Sweet Paprika Focaccia
Here is a recipe for focaccia with an unusual ingredient - sweet paprika. Perfect for a quick, casual meal with an aperitif along with olives and cheese on the side.
Ingredients for 1 large focaccia:
- 500 g flour
- 30 g salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 7 g dry yeast
- 400 ml water
- 80 ml olive oil
- 200 ml sparkling water
- 5 g sweet paprika
Mix flour, salt, paprika, yeast, sugar and 40 ml oil in a large bowl. Gradually add the water and knead vigorously to make a soft and slightly sticky dough. Cover and let it rest for a least 4 hours. Flatten it and place in a greased baking mould. Let it rise for a further 40 minutes.
Spread the remaining oil over the focaccia. Now comes the fun part - press your fingers into the dough to form the classic dents all over the top. Sprinkle with salt and bake at 210°C for 20 minutes until it is slightly golden.
Recipe and photo by bm_thelittlecaper