Focaccia is an oven baked bread originating in Italy, and is usually coated in herbs and olive oil, although onion and cheese are commonly added too. The most popular focaccia bread, however, is covered with olive oil, seasoned with salt and topped with rosemary. Focaccia is commonly eaten as a snack food in Italy, and in schools during breaks.
Before the turn of 20th century, an Italian baker, living in England, created a form of focaccia using lard to prepare the dough. This bread became known as ‘Italian Lard Bread’, because of its lard component. Italian focaccias though, are akin to pizzas in texture and in the way they are prepared. The dough is hand rolled and pressed into a thick slab before baking, and then pricked to prevent bubbling.
Of course there are variations in the preparation of this bread. Dotting, for instance, is commonly practiced when preparing the focaccia dough. Dotting involves creating grooves in the dough to preserve moisture when baking, whilst lard is added to create a softer texture in some parts of Italy too. Once baked, the bread can be eaten as an accompaniment to various foods, or in sandwiches.
Etymology and regional variants
Focaccia comes from the latin word, ‘focus’, which means fireplace or centre, and is related to the way in which the traditional focaccias of ancient Rome were made i.e. in the fire in the centre of the house. Over time - and due to regional differences - the bread took on many forms and is now available in many different varieties, but the first focaccia is thought to have been Ligurian.
There are some variations on focaccia that are so different that the original form bares almost no resemblance. These variations can be found in Recco, where the cheese filling and flat dough produce a bread almost nothing like a focaccia, yet the bread still bares the name, and is known as ‘focaccia col formaggio’. There are also sweet varieties of the bread that are sprinkled with sugar or honey. There are other variations too, such as the ‘focaccia barese’, which is prepared in the same way but covered in tomatoes and olives.
Focaccia is known by different names throughout the world, for instance, in France it is known as ‘fougasse’, whereas in Argentina it is known as ‘fugazza’. There are obvious linguistic differences, but the derivative of the words are still the same. The Roman pizza bianca, and the Sicilian pizzas, are considered to be a form of focaccia too.