Bonci’s Focaccia Pugliese

Few things are as good as really well-made, fresh bread. That initial crunch, then the springy softness of the inside, perhaps still warm. Even better when it’s homemade and the smell of bread baking fills your kitchen and lingers throughout the house.

I’m lucky to have a passionate home baker as a husband. I love having homemade bread around but if it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be able to get all the way through the process – these days, running around after a curious, walking one year old, it’s hard to even finish a cup of tea. So while I’m passed out after an exhausting day of following the baby around, husband, on the other hand is up late at night, mixing up a bowl of dough and putting it to rest so the next morning fresh bread is ready to be baked.

Focaccia is a favourite. An easy, forgiving bread, so charming in its rustic nature and so moreish. Sometimes it might be plain, sometimes topped with ripe tomato, sometimes it’s baked with a filling inside (sausage and broccoli, yes please), a little like a cross between bread and pizza.

And when it comes to something like this, there’s no one better to take advice from than baker and pizzaiolo Gabriele Bonci, the larger than life figure behind Rome’s pizzeria, Pizzarium.

Focaccia Pugliese

This is based on Bonci’s recipe for Focaccia Pugliese, a beloved bread from Italy’s southern heel – thick, spongy and hearty. It’s amazing to think that this dough is 80% water. It’s delicious eaten while still warm – one of the benefits of making it at home – and it’s best eaten the day it’s made.

  • 1 kg fine durum wheat flour (semolina)
  • 5 gr of active dried yeast
  • 800 ml water
  • 18 gr salt, plus extra for sprinkling
  • extra virgin olive oil for oiling and drizzling
  • cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • handful of breadcrumbs
  • about 1 tablespoon dried oregano

In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, water and salt. Knead the dough for a few minutes until it comes together. Place the dough in a bowl oiled with olive oil and leave in the fridge for 24 hours to rise.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface, folding the dough in half, turning 90 degrees, folding in half again, turning 90 degrees and folding in half a third time. This adds strength and elasticity to the dough. Roll it out to a thickness of about 2cm and place the dough in a large rectangular baking tray dusted with breadcrumbs, spreading to the edges. Arrange the cherry tomato halves on the top of the dough. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and oregano on top. Let rise for another hour.

Place on the bottom rack of a hot oven (220ºC) for 15 minutes (this helps the bottom get nice and crisp) then move to the middle rack and continue baking a further 10 minutes. It should be golden and crisp. Cut into squares and enjoy your focaccia warm or that day.

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Comments

13 Responses to “Bonci’s Focaccia Pugliese”
  1. Rosa says:

    It is beautiful and really appetizing!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. Cecilia says:

    Hi Emiko,

    This looks so wonderful, and how fortunate you are to have a husband who makes breads!

    I don’t mean to quibble, but reading that this is 80% water took me aback. In fact, the flour to water ratio is less than 1:1, as there is a kilo of flour, and 800ml of water, which weighs 800g. Unless, of course, I am mistaken in my calculation, in which case I apologise.

    Regardless, it looks wonderful and I always look forward to reading what you have been cooking, baking, and photographing.

    Best wishes,

    Cecilia

    • Emiko says:

      Hi Cecilia, yes you read right! You need 1 kg of flour to 800 ml/800 gr water. This type of flour absorbs plenty of water. You have a wet/sticky dough to begin with but after the kneading/folding technique it gains strength and elasticity like in the photos. You need a soft dough for this focaccia to be so airy and fluffy. Hope that answers your query!

  3. Robyn says:

    Cecilia, bread bakers relate the hydration of a dough by the weight of water used in relation to the weight of flour used. This formula is indeed 80% water, that’s 80 bakers percent. Naturally in the course of being baked some of this moisture will be lost, how much depends on many factors.

    This method of relating the other ingredients to the weight of the flour allows bakers to instantly assess a formula. To those unfamiliar with bakers percent, it seems rather mysterious magic maths!

    Emiko, lovely to see your wee girl stretching out for a piece! I’m sure you’ll have an exciting Christmas.

    Seasons Greetings, Robyn

    • Emiko says:

      Thanks for relaying this so eloquently, Robyn! Happy holidays to you too.

    • Cecilia says:

      Robyn, thank you for that explanation. Since it is particular to bakers, and not being one, it left me puzzled and didn’t seem logical – for me, that is. Each discipline develops its own vocabularly, understood by those who practice it, but often seeming arcane to others.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    There’s nothing like fresh foccacia, I make a potato foccacia which is bascially a ratio of half mashed potato to flour which also makes it deliciously spongy and fluffy.

  5. Sophia says:

    Lucky you in having a husband who bakes bread for you – I totally agree there is nothing better than having freshly baked bread at home (aside from the amazing taste it must be the anticipation after the long and slough prove and watching the sheer magic that turns water, flour and yeast into this beautiful piece of bread). In our house, I am the one who bakes the bread, the pizzas and the foccacias, not that I mind though as my boyfriend is only too greatful to gobble it all up and help clean up the kitchen! I am a big fan of Bonci’s technique too which put me on the road to the best homemade pizzas I have yet been able to make!

  6. I still have not gone to eat at Pizzarium, but the next time I’m in Rome, it has to happen. In the meantime, I shall try this recipe of his. I have a feeling it will be gone in a flash.

  7. oh the little hand! I love Bonci’s pizza and foccaccia, you know, I love the soft chewy breadcrumb, and the toppings as well. Claudia once tried to make it with artichokes, it was delicious!

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