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Focaccia

Focaccia (pronounced foe-CAT-cha) is a flat oven-baked Italian bread, which may be topped with onions, herbs or other foodstuffs, related to pizza, but not considered to be the same. The word is derived from the Latin focus meaning "centre" and also "fireplace" -- the fireplace being in the centre of the house -- and this is a bread baked in the hearth. In English, it is sometimes redundantly referred to as focaccia bread.

In ancient Rome, panis focacius was a flat bread baked in the ashes of the hearth (focus in Latin). As the tradition spread, the different dialects and diverse local ingredients resulted in a large variety of bread (some even may be considered cake). In Burgundy, focaccia is called "foisse" or "fouaisse", and in Provence and Languedoc it's "fogassa" or, more commonly, the French "fougasse". In Argentina, it is widely consumed under the name fugazza, derived from fugassa in the native language of Argentina's many Ligurian immigrants. The Spanish call it "hogaza".

The basic recipe is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans or ancient Greeks, but it is now known as a delicacy of the Ligurian cuisine. Due to the number of small towns and hamlets dotting the coast of Liguria, the focaccia recipe has fragmented into countless variations (from the biscuit-hard focaccia of Camogli to the oily softness of the one made in Voltri), with some bearing little resemblance to its original form. The most extreme example is the specialty "focaccia col formaggio" (focaccia with cheese) which is made in Recco, near Genoa. Other than the name, this Recco version bears no resemblance to other focaccia varieties, having a caill and cheese filling sandwiched between two layers of paper-thin dough.

Focaccia is quite popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil and herbs, topped with cheese and meat, or flavored with a number of vegetables. Focaccia doughs are similar in style and texture to pizza doughs consisting of high-gluten flour, oil, water, sugar, salt and yeast. Regional variations also exist, such as focaccia dolce (sweet focaccia) popular in some parts of northwestern Italy, consisting of a basic focaccia base and sprinkled lightly with sugar, or including raisins, honey or other sweet ingredients.

Focaccia is used extensively as a sandwich bread outside of Italy.

It is typically rolled out or pressed by hand into a thick layer of dough and then baked in a stone-bottom or hearth oven. Bakers often puncture the bread with a knife to relieve bubbling on the surface of the bread. Also common is the practice of dotting the bread. This creates multiple wells in the bread by using a finger or the handle of a utensil to poke the unbaked dough. As a way to preserve moisture in the bread, olive oil is then spread over the dough, by hand or with a brush prior to rising and baking.

Focaccia can be used as a side to many meals, as a base for pizza or as sandwich bread.

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