Sunday, October 17, 2010

Focaccia di Recco

In the small town of Recco, on the Ligurian coast, the Focaccia col Formaggio, also called Focaccia di Recco (Cheese Focaccia) is a source of local pride. Different from the typical thick focaccia you may have tried in an Italian restaurant, the Focaccia di Recco is a very thin double crust bread enriched with melted fresh cheese. What makes this focaccia so special is the creamy local fresh soft cheese referred to as formaggio di Recco, very similar to crescenza or stracchino cheese.

The fame of the Focaccia di Recco has attracted people around the world making Recco the gastronomic capital of Liguria. The origin of this delicious bread dates back to the XVI to the XVII century, when the city of Recco was the target for Saracen’s attack. During that time, the population of Recco took refuge in the hills and survived from the only foods that were available - olive oil, flour, and the soft local cheese. The ancient Recchesi (people from Recco) would make focaccia dough from flour, water and olive oil. No leavening agent was used. Instead, the focaccia was shaped into two thin layers of dough filled with fresh cheese and cooked on a slate stone that was heated on the coal, cooked within minutes. That’s how the Focaccia di Recco was created.

This is my recipe for Foccacia col Formaggio. The only secret ingredient is the cheese: crescenza or stracchino. In the SF Bay Area I found theses cheeses at Draegers in Blackhawk (thanks to the charming cheese lady that looked it up for me)

Focaccia col Formaggio  (Focaccia di Recco)

• 2 cups (220 grams, 7.8 oz) all purpose flour
• 1 pound Crescenza cheese, or Stracchino cheese
• 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (plus more to brush the bread)
• water as needed (approximately ½ cup)
• salt to taste

Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if you want to knead it by hand) and mix together. Add the olive oil and the water, just a little bit at a time, and mix on the stand mixer with a dough hook on low speed until the dough starts to form into a ball.

Increase the speed to medium, and let it knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover the dough with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit for 1 hour at room temperature. Divide the dough into two equal parts and roll out the dough as thin as possible, almost transparent.

Once you have rolled out both pieces of dough, begin assembling the Focaccia di Recco. Oil a 1/2 sheet pan with extra virgin olive oil. Place one layer of dough on the bottom of the pan.

Add the Cresenza or Stracchino cheese in pieces using your hands or a spoon. Cover the cheese with the second sheet of dough. Seal the edges by pinching the dough.

Pinch holes with a fork into the top layer of dough above the cheese so that the steam can come out during cooking. Brush with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle salt all over the top of the bread.

Bake in a very hot oven (400/450°F) for about 5 or 6 minutes, or until golden. When the focaccia is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool. Cut it and serve as an appetizer.