Focaccia is a very Pugliese dish. Most bakeries that you pass will have them in different variations that will come out of the oven warm and fresh all day long. They are being cut with the scissors into large pieces that are sold over the counter. Almost every little town has a panificio that will do great focacce. In Molfetta, where my husband grew up, there is Panificio Centrale that does incredibly good focacce. Close to Molfetta in Terlizzi we highly recommend Ecce Homo. In Ceglie Messapica you find Forno San Lorenzo which is one of our favourites. In Ostuni there is Panificio Farina on Via Cattedrale that does them topped with potatoes, onions or tuna or the classic version with tomatoes. In August you will find very long queues there.
My husband is the master of focaccia in our house. First we liked our focaccia with a fluffy, thick pastry so we could stuff it with prosciutto or mortadella. But since we discovered the more thin focaccia of Panificio Imbriani in Andria, we have become big fans of the thin and crispy kind. Either way, they are highly addictive. With the recipe below you can do both kinds.
This amount is enough to do one thick or two thin Focacce:
1 small potato
1/4 l tepid water
1 tea spoon salt
Extra vergine olive oil
1/2 cube yeast (25gr)
About 15 – 20 cherry tomatoes
Coarse sea salt
Start with boiling the potato, it will make the pastry softer. When it’s boiled to soft, remove the skin and squash the potato with a fork. Mix the yeast with the tepid water. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt and the squashed potato. Then add the water/yeast mix gradually and knead the pastry until soft and smooth. Let the pastry rise for at least one hour in a warm, dry place, covered with a clean, wet towel.
Once the pastry has risen, distribute some oil on a baking tray so the focaccia won’t stick to the tray. Then flatten the pastry inside the oily tray. Let the pastry rise in the tray for another 5 minutes before adding the tomatoes. Best is to rip the tomatoes apart by hand as you want the tomato juices to spread on top. Punch the base with a fork (no mercy, it will help to absorb the oil), sprinkle the focaccia with oregano and coarse sea salt. Then add some more oil on top, dare to be generous! Bake it in the lower half of the preheated oven (200 degrees) for approx. 30 mins. When it’s golden, switch to grill for a couple minutes with increased heat until the tomatoes are slightly burned. We snack it with burrata, salami, prosciutto crudo or just have it plain. Of course you can also experiment to your liking by adding olives or tuna etc. Buon appetito!
P.S. More on the topic can be found here. You won’t find the Focaccia Barese but you will see that many different kinds of great breads come from Puglia such as the Pane di Altamura, Pane di Matera or the famous Taralli. You love bread? Head to Puglia!