How Barese focaccia bread is made in Italy
Breaking away from the more well-known olive oil seasoned flatbread, focaccia in Bari,
Italyis a feast of flavors made with tomatoes, olives, oregano, and olive oil.
We visited Panificio Fiore, a local bakery that's been churning fresh focaccia every day for over a century.
The bakery is just a few steps away from the city's Basilica di San Nicola, an important destination for pilgrims all over the world.
For those foodies exploring the old town on another kind of pilgrimage, a slice of focaccia here will cost only 1 euro and will for sure open the doors of heaven.
Following is a transcript of the
Claudia Romeo: We are in Bari, Italy, my hometown, and today I am going to take you to a local bakery to try some focaccia bread. I know what you're thinking, haven't you done a video about focaccia already? Well, kind of, but what in the northern regions is a savory
Antonio Fiore: We are central, next to the Basilica di San Nicola. I am the third generation.
Claudia: The third generation.
Antonio: So, are known everywhere, I think. My grandfather, my father, and now there's me.
Claudia: And the shop has always been this one?
Antonio: It has always been this one. Nothing has changed here. The oven is from the time of the war, and we carry on the traditions of the past.
Claudia: Focaccia at Panificio Fiore is made with a combination of semolina and wheat flour.
Antonio: This is the focaccia dough that's ready. We start the processing.
Claudia: What are the ingredients?
Antonio: Water, salt, brewer's yeast, sourdough, sugar, and malt.
Claudia: OK. How long ago did you prepare it?
Antonio: This one, I prepared it about an hour ago.
Claudia: About an hour ago. So now you left it here to rest for one hour.
Antonio: Yes, it rested for one hour. Now we start the making of the focaccia.
Claudia: All right. How many kilos of dough are these?
Antonio: These, about 20 kilos.
Claudia: And how many focaccias will you get, more or less?
Antonio: About 20.
Claudia: About 20, OK.
Antonio: Because each weighs 1 kilo.
Claudia: Perfect. Yes. When the leavening time is over, the next step is to split the dough into small portions, which will, in turn, have to rest again for some time. How long will the dough leaven for?
Antonio: Now, it depends on the climate and the period. Now it's summer, and here it's at least 80 degrees.
Claudia: Eh, yes.
Antonio: So these will rise in a quarter of an hour already.
Antonio: Yes, because the heat clearly leads to fermentation.
Claudia: Eh, yes. Whereas how long would they take in winter?
Antonio: In winter, you need to allow at least one hour.
Claudia: One hour.
Antonio: One hour here, this leavening. Then we have another leavening.
Claudia: Ah, there are three.
Claudia: Eh, yes. So, at every step. As the dough is gradually split.
Antonio: It's gradually split.
Claudia: And so we wait.
Antonio: Yes, yes.
Claudia: But you don't control the air-conditioning here?
Antonio: Of course we control it.
Claudia: Ah, yes?
Antonio: Now it's 72 degrees.
Claudia: In here? Now?
Antonio: You don't feel it?
Claudia: Yes, I feel it, but I was not expecting it to be 72 degrees. Mamma mia.
Antonio: Because we have an oven that's almost 20 meters, and obviously in there it's 350 degrees. Imagine outside.
Claudia: Yes, yes. So the oven takes basically, I don't know -
Antonio: A room.
Claudia: An entire room.
Antonio: Almost all the space.
Claudia: And then it heats everything up.
Claudia: Oh, my God.
Antonio: Here, in winter, it feels great.
Antonio: But in summer, you have to suffer.
Claudia: In summer…. 15 minutes later, the dough has fermented and is stretched onto these round baking trays, ready to be seasoned. I see some tomatoes. Now it starts to be Barese focaccia, right?
Antonio: So, these are the tomatoes. We start to squash them to make the seasoning of the focaccia.
Claudia: What type of tomato is it?
Antonio: This one, today, is San Marzano.
Antonio: We change periodically. Sometimes we get the San Marzano. It depends on the season of the tomatoes.
Claudia: Rightly so.
Antonio: Now it's summer, we use the San Marzano.
Claudia: So there isn't a tomato that is best for focaccia.
Antonio: This one. I'll show you now. Here it is, a nice San Marzano.
Claudia: They are super big.
Antonio: These come from Foggia.
Claudia: Nice big tomatoes.
Antonio: We start making focaccia.
Claudia: Oil at the base.
Antonio: Now, see. It has risen already.
Claudia: Why is Barese focaccia round?
Antonio: Eh, it has always been like this. It's round to stretch it on the tray. Because if you don't make it round, and you make it square, you will still have to give it a wide base.
Claudia: But the characteristic is that it's always made round.
Antonio: Yes, it has to be round.
Claudia: So then you get a focaccia wheel.
Antonio: Very good. These baking trays are handmade by artisans that are now disappearing. It's hard to find them. They're tins.
Antonio: They're not made of iron. Because this is really the classic focaccia baking tray. So, let's start seasoning it.
Claudia: How long have you been keeping these trays for? They're also third generation?
Antonio: No, no. These, you have to throw them out after one year because they burn.
Claudia: Ah, yes.
Antonio: Obviously, they're not eternal. These come from - we have an artisan who, thank God, still lives. He's from Molfetta. So he makes about 1,000, and we keep them.
Claudia: He makes them only for you? It's not -
Antonio: Yes, because there aren't many of these people anymore. The artisans have all disappeared.
Claudia: So here everything is handmade. Antonio: Everything is handmade. The focaccia, but also the very tray on which it's baked.
Antonio: So, let's start making focaccia.
Claudia: Is there, more or less - in short, you judge the ingredients by eye?
Antonio: Well, now, yes.
Claudia: They're all added raw?
Antonio: Yes, of course, then there's the baking.
Claudia: They're all cooked together. After tomatoes, Antonio flavors each wheel with olives, salt, and oregano. So these are now ready to be put in the oven?
Antonio: These have to rest a bit.
Claudia: Ah, they rest with all the ingredients. For how long?
Antonio: Now, with this temperature, a quarter of an hour leavening. Then we put them in the oven.
Claudia: Here we go. Another 15 minutes have passed, and the focaccia has soaked up all the flavors of the seasoning. Now it's time to cook it in the bakery's 120-year-old wood-fired oven. This oven is enormous. Wow. Wow, beautiful. Here it's so hot, by the way.
Antonio: It's hot?
Claudia: Incredible. Why do you have such a long peel?
Antonio: Can't you see how big the oven is?
Antonio: How is it supposed to reach behind?
Claudia: How many meters is it?
Antonio: It's 8 meters.
Claudia: 8 meters. But why is it long, let's say, rather than high?
Antonio: Before, in ancient times, they were made like so.
Claudia: They needed to be made like so. So, over and under -
Antonio: Up there and down here there is another chamber, just like that one.
Claudia: Ah, so the whole room is basically full of focaccia.
Antonio: So it's normal for it to be this warm.
Claudia: Ah, I understood this. This is very dangerous, by the way. You have to be careful.
Antonio: We are used to it. We calculated all the meters.
Claudia: Yes. How long is this peel?
Antonio: This is 4 meters.
Claudia: 4 meters. Jeez. So this is the focaccia that's ready. What suggests to you that it's ready when you see it?
Antonio: When there is a nice crust around. It's well cooked.
Claudia: So, what is the best way to eat focaccia? Well, actually, there are many. What I like to do is just come in here by the seaside, sit here, and have my piece of focaccia with a beer sometimes. It depends on the time of the day. So, you see, this one has been made just around the corner at the bakery. Look at the oil. So good. Wow! Oh, my goodness. It's so good. It's so oily, but in a good way. So fluffy inside, and the tomatoes are just incredible. I just love all the flavors all together. You've got the acidity of the olive and the oily texture, and the tomatoes add that extra creaminess. And then you've got the dough, which is nice and fluffy. This is the best feeling ever. Sitting here by the seaside, having a piece of focaccia. So good.
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