I spent a semester of college in Florence and my bus stop was directly in front of a focacceria called Pugi. The focaccia at Pugi is transcendent. It’s golden brown and crispy on the outside, with a spongy soft center soaked with fruity olive oil. The variations are endless; thin slices of ham and cheese, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, olives, rosemary. They make stuffed and layered focaccias, individual pizzas, and dessert breads slathered with sweet seasonal fruit. It’s no surprise that there is constant line out the door.
It would be impossible to recreate Pugi’s focaccia, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying. Here’s a great recipe for a classic rosemary focaccia from The Tucci Cookbook. I served this as a first course at a dinner party, alongside my favorite creamy ricotta spread, salmami, prosciutto, and a spicy pear jelly.
1 package dry yeast
2 1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups bread flour
4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup milk
6 tblsp olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl
leaves from one 5-inch sprig of fresh rosemary
1. In a measuring cup, stir the yeast, sugar, and warm water. Set aside for 5 minutes.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the all-purpose and bread flours with 2 teaspoons of the salt. Stir in the yeast mixture. Gradually stir in the milk and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Mix at low speed until the dough has come together and is smooth (about 5 minutes).
3. Lightly oil a large bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and drape a dish towel over the bowl. Set aside in a warm place and allow to double in size, about 2 hours.
4. Lightly grease a large baking sheet (about 9 x 15-inch). Gently punch down the dough. Place on the baking sheet and roll it out evenly to fit on the sheet. Cover with a dish towel and allow the dough to rise for 20 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
6. Use your fingertips to make random indentations in the dough. Drizzle the top with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and the rosemary leaves. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving warm.
* Variations: Before baking, top the focaccia with any combination of the following: 1/4-inch-thick slices ripe plum tomatoes; 24 pitted kalamata olives, 1/4 cup very thinly sliced red onion; 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese; 1/4-inch-thick slices of peeled eggplant; 1/4-inch-thick slices bell pepper; 1/4-inch-thick slices zucchini; 1/3 cup pesto.
For a sweet variation, gently press 1 cup dried fruit, such as cherries, blueberries, raisins, or 1 cup chocolate chips into the rolled and risen focaccia. Brush with 3 tblsp melted butter and bake.