There are many different variaties of Focaccia Bread in Italy. Every region or even cities have their own variety of Focaccia.
In Siena – where I was born and raised – we call it “Ciaccino” and we have 2 different variaties of it: “Ciaccino” is usually a very thin bread which can be plain or stuffed with Mozzarella and Ham or Mozzarella and Tuscan Sausage, then we have the “Ciaccino Alto” (Tall Focaccia) which is about 2-3 cm thick, very soft in the middle but with a crunchy crust on the edges (my favorite part). Both varieties have to be super oily and salty to be perfect and they are always baked in very large baking sheets and sold in square cuts (I always buy the corner so it has more crunchy crust).
If you ever visit Siena, I can tell you that the best “Ciaccino Alto” in town is made by Panifici Sclavi. While the best stuffed “Ciaccino” is made by Pizzeria Poppi (Everybody knows the famous Ciaccino del Poppi in Siena).
However, if you just travel a few kilometers away from Siena and ask for a Ciaccino, the bakers will look at you like you said some nonsense because nobody knows what Ciaccino is outside of Siena. Around Italy the Focaccia bread has many different variaties and names like Schiacciata or Ciaccia in other parts of Tuscany, Focaccia Genovese in Liguria region, Pizza Bianca (white Pizza) in Lazio region, etc..
When I was a kid I remember I always used to buy a corner of Ciaccino in the local bakery of my countryside’s little town while I was waiting for the schoolbus and then bring it to school for breakfast. Although sometimes I could not resist the tempting scent and I immediately took a bite of the crunchy crust.
When I moved to The Netherlands I missed the Ciaccino so much that I tried to re-create it by myself. Of course it will never be as tasty as the bakery ones because they have some sort of secret recipe and a better oven than mine, but it’s a very good attempt that still reminds me of my childhood. So enjoy a taste of Italy with this Focaccia Bread: it’s amazing to be eaten plain as it comes out of the oven and then the next day you can use it as bread for your sandwich and take it to work or school for lunch.
The best part?
- The oil and salt concentrated in the holes – LOVE it!
- 500g (1lb) All Purpose Flour
- 1 package of Active Dry Yeast
- 10g (2 tsp) Sugar
- Extra-Vergin Olive Oil
- 275-300ml (1+1/4 cup) Warm Water (40°C / 100°F)
- Add the sifted flour in a large bowl and mix it with the dry yeast. With your hands make a hole in the middle and add the 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and 6 tablespoon of oil.
- Mix with a fork and slowly add the warm water, a little bit at a time.
- When the ingredients are uniformly mixed, transfer the dough on a large wooden cutting board or wooden/marble table, sprinkle with flour and knead energetically the dough for at least 10 minutes, hitting it with your fists and slamming it on the working surface (you need to be rough to make the dough more elastic).
- Now make a smooth ball of dough, put it in a large bowl and cover it with a thin layer of oil so it won't stick. Cover the bowl with a moist cloth and set it aside in a warm place to raise for about 1 hour and a half or until it doubles in size.
- Line a baking sheet (30x40 cm) with parchment paper and with your hands stretch out the Focaccia dough in it until you have a nice rectangle with uniform thickness.
- Drizzle some olive oil and set it in a warm place to raise again for about 20 minutes. Then with your fingers or with the back of a knife punch deep holes all around the dough, then cover all with enough oil to fill the holes and sprinkle with abundant salt (as much as you like).
- Bake at 200°C / 390°F or 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.
- As a variety, you can add onions or olives on top to garnish before baking it.