FOCACCIA, THREE WAYS
The simplicity of an Italian sandwich was presented to us while we were in Italy.
We ended ourselves in San Gimignano, an ancient village in Tuscany. Our cousin Kim had arranged a last-minute tour for us. Despite my aversion to touring groups, this was a simple and convenient way to get out and explore the countryside outside of Florence for an entire day without putting too much effort into it.
ANYWAY. A midday meal was included, as it should be on most tours of this type (ideally). We were going to spend a few hours exploring San Gimignano on our own before returning to the agriturismo for a substantial lunch.
Porchetta and panini signs all over the place didn’t stop my sister or I from salivating. We ate a panino toscano, which consisted of dried salami and cheese on a wonderful piece of bread. That was the end of the matter. This is yet another illustration of how incredibly simple Italian cuisine can be to prepare.
Our tour guide slapped my friend and me on the shoulders and shouted, “PANINO!!!” as we were in a trance. We nearly choked on our bread when we leaped about three feet in the air.
As we prepared for “a huge lunch coming up,” he warned us against overindulging. So he could very easily be the mother of Augustus Gloop, in which case…. The embarrassment!
We didn’t look back on our decision to finish our meal in the shadows.
Focaccia with a variety of toppings and a crispy, greasy crust is a nod to the simple pleasures of Italy, which inspired this recipe. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!
FOR THE FOCACCIA:
- 1 3/4 cups of warm water
- 2 1/4 tsp. of active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp. of sugar
- 5 cups of all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
- 1 tbsp. of salt
- 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil divided
FOR THE TOPPINGS:
- You’ll need soppressata, pecorino romano, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, basil, and salt and pepper
- Warm water, yeast, and sugar should be combined in a measuring cup and left to foam for 15 minutes. Mix the yeast mixture, flour, salt, and half a cup of olive oil in a bowl with a dough hook and knead until a smooth dough is formed. In a medium-speed mixer, knead the dough for 6 minutes, adding additional flour if necessary.
- After transferring the dough to an oiled basin, let it rise for about an hour, covered with a moist kitchen towel. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread the dough evenly around the pan, covering the entire surface. Spread the dough with your fingers, poking holes to ensure it is well covered in oil.
- Re-rise the dough for one additional hour. The oven’s temperature should be set at 425 degrees Fahrenheit before you begin baking. Take the bread out of the oven and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Allow it to cool down before serving.
- Slice the focaccia and eat it with your favorite toppings!