Focaccine

It’s Friday afternoon and I’m making focaccine, or little focaccia as adding the diminutive ‘ino’ or in this case ‘ina’ makes it little. So these are little focaccia, although if you’re familiar with the true Ligurian focaccia, don’t expect that. These are more like mini pitta breads and taste like piadina rather than true focaccia which is the type that oozes olive oil and can only really be eaten in Liguria. If you ever go to Liguria, the first thing you need to find out is where you can buy the best focaccia. Trust me, the locals will know. They always do.

While true focaccia involves proving times and is not always as easy as it looks, focaccine are very easy, and before you know it you too will be rustling them up like a pro for that Friday night aperitivo. They’re literally child’s play, and I can testify to this because I have made them with children. They’re also cooked in minutes and you don’t need a whole list of ingredients either.

To make them you’ll need the following ingredients to get around twenty, although don’t quote me on that as when I counted them we’d already eaten a few. Also don’t forget to add salt. The first time I made these I did forget the salt as my kids pointed out rather vociferously. Teach kids to eat well and appreciate food, and you’ll have active food critics for life.

Ingredients:

400g strong flour (in Italy we use farina 00, if you can find it)

200g soft ricotta, the fresh type that’s stored in the fridge and comes in a tub – this is what makes the focaccine so lovely and soft

140ml water at room temperature

50ml extra virgin olive oil

1 packet of fast action dried yeast (the ones I use are 15g)

Salt (and be generous or they will taste bland)

Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. You’ll need to sieve the flour before you do this, add the yeast and salt, then the ricotta and finally the oil and then the water. I always add the water last because you get more control over it. Start to mix it all together with a wooden spoon and then when it’s started to come together, put it on your kitchen worktop or table and knead it a bit with your hands. It won’t feel as strong as bread dough. This is softer and less elastic.

Then, get out your rolling pin and roll out the dough. You need to roll it out quite thin – just a couple of centimetres. After you’ve done this, get a glass and cut out circles. Bind all the leftover bits together and then roll out again, cut more circles and repeat until you’ve used all the dough. With the last bit of dough you can just shape and squash it into a circle with your hands.

Take a non-stick frying pan and pan lid, and without adding any oil, start to lay in the focaccine and then put the lid on the frying pan. You need to put the lid on as this will help them to cook. Also, cook them on a fairly low heat or they’ll burn on the bottom before they’re ready. Leave them for a couple of minutes and then turn them over. Put the lid back on and leave for a further few minutes. If you want to test whether they’re done, just take one out and pull a bit off and take a look inside. If it looks ‘bready,’ then it’s cooked. As you take the cooked focaccine out of the pan, you can put them on a metal tray to cool.

Although believe me, these are utterly divine straight out of the pan still warm with a slice of Parma ham on top. Serve for aperitivo, or even better add a couple of pizzas, a few dishes of olives, cherry tomatoes and crisps and other various things you fancy and call it apericena. Apericena is a cross between aperitivo and dinner meaning that you can sit back, relax, feeling suitably virtuous about your freshly home-cooked focaccine, and enjoy your evening.

Dream of Italy.

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