Focaccia col Formaggio
I want to share a recent discovery. My cheese friend Paola just returned from a trip to her homeland in Italy and sent me a delicious recipe for Focaccia col formaggio. Here is what she says:
Focaccia col formaggio is a typical dish that originated in Recco, a small town located on the Italian Riviera very close to Genoa, Liguria.
It seems 'focaccia col formaggio' was already known in Liguria at the time of the crusades in 1200. History books relate that it was offered to soldiers before their departure from San Frattuoso Abbey located in an enchanting tiny village close to Portofino in Riviera Ligure.
Being such a popular and delicious dish, you can find it in many places throughout Liguria - even in bakeries. However, in my opinion the best version is the one you eat sitting down in a focacceria.
The amazingly rich taste of this focaccia is due to the soft and creamy fresh cheese, crescenza - incidentally named for the similar shape of a type of focaccia from Lombardia called "carsenza". Crescenza is part of the stracchino family of cheeses. The name “stracchino” is derived from the reference to tired (“stracche”) cows, that were milked on their journey to and from the mountain pastures and whose milk was used for making this cheese.
The ingredients are very simple but the talent and experience come into place when they are put together and specially for kneading the dough:
2 pounds bread flour (the original recipe calls for manitoba flour basically bread flour with high strength)
1 and 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup olive oil
4 pounds crescenza or stracchino
Also, if possible, a copper pan should be used in order to get the high temperature required and of course the best results are obtained with a wood fired oven.
1. For the dough, put flour on a wooden board and make a hole in the center.
2. Pour in the water and oil and start to mix, working them in to incorporate the flour from the center to outer side of the flour fountain.
3. The dough must be very elastic. Test by forming a ball until surface is smooth and without cracks.
4. Let sit for 1-2 hour at room temperature.
5. Divide into smaller balls (you need 2 for each focaccia) and size depends on diameter of pan you use.
6. Start flattening just a bit with rolling pin but mostly stretch it with the knuckles of your hands until it becomes extremely thin almost transparent. Sprinkle oil on the bottom of the copper pan and cover with first layer of dough.
7. Place crescenza in little pieces making sure to cover the whole surface.
8. Put second layer on top and make many holes to let the steam come out. Spread top with oil and salt and bake in the oven for 5 to 8 min at the highest oven temperature (500-550 F).
There is no easy way to translate from Italian how delicious focaccia al formaggio is, but it's definitely worth a trip to Recco to taste it !!