We love a recipe that gets to the heart of a region and shows off what makes it special. This month we turn to culinary giant Italy and new i-escape addition La Sosta di Ottone III, who show us their recipe for focaccia: a flat bread typical of Liguria and the best way to enjoy its world-class olive oil.
Though everybody calls it ‘focaccia’, each city and indeed each bakery tends to make its own unique version. Variations usually include thickness – from very thin and crunchy to high and soft – and the amount of oil in the recipe.
In line with tradition, we make our own ‘La Sosta’ version using stone-ground flours and sourdough. We love the slight acidity and extra crunchiness which these provide, but the recipe works with any flour you might have at hand or want to try, so experiment away!
Recipe for 1 round baking tin with a diameter of around 28cm; feeds 4 to 6 people
200g sourdough starter
200g flour (the kind which you used to make the sourdough starter)
Extra virgin olive oil and coarse sea salt to taste
1. Refresh your sourdough, then mix it with the flour and the water, making sure that the water is room temperature and not too cold. Knead the dough until it looks and feels smooth.
2. Once the dough is ready, cover it with a cloth and leave it to rise for around 3 or 4 hours – the exact time depends on the sourdough starter, the flour you use and the room humidity, so after around 3 hours check how puffy it looks and see if it needs a bit more time.
3. Spread a bit of extra virgin olive oil on the bottom of the baking tin, so that the focaccia won’t stick.
4. Once the dough has risen, place it in the baking tin and spread it flat with your hands so that it fills the tin. Use the tips of your fingers to push down on the dough and make small “holes” on the surface (they don’t have to go all the way through to the baking tin, just make hollows). To make this process easier, wet your hands and sprinkle a bit of water on top of the flattened dough.
5. Spread extra virgin olive oil on top of the dough, making sure most goes in the hollows – this is where the oiliness of the focaccia will condense, so use as much as you feel like.
6. Sprinkle the salt on top – again the quantity depends on how salty you’d like the focaccia to be (bear in mind there is no salt in the actual dough).
7. Place in the oven at 200 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until golden.
8. Leave to cool down for a little while before happily devouring it!
One of the key aspects of focaccia, and in fact the backbone ingredient of the Mediterranean diet, is extra virgin olive oil. Italy produces around 300 varieties, each with a different mixture of basic flavors: fruttato (fruity), amaro (bitter) and piccante (pungent). At La Sosta we wanted to showcase this amazing variety by offering extra virgin olive oil tastings that take you on a sensory discovery of this often overlooked ingredient.
So once you’ve made your focaccia, don’t be shy to dip it into your favorite olive oil for a mouthful of true Italian flavours!