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A casual encounter in Southern Italy: Focaccia Bari-style

Source: Italian Street Food

Italian Street Food author Paola Bacchia was wandering in Bari when she noticed a long queue of locals emerging from a bakery with a glorious focaccia in their hands.

"I ate this focaccia for the first time in Bari from a little bakery called Panificio Santa Rita, in a tiny laneway, off the beaten track", Italian Street Food author Paola Bacchia tells SBS Radio about this traditional Southern recipe.

"It was mid-morning and I stood outside, as one elderly local after another emerged holding a slice of yeasty dough studded with bright red tomatoes."

"They stood in a circle outside, chatting between mouthfuls of focaccia.

"I found out from the fornaio (baker) that the dough is made with potatoes, and that I was lucky to have found any left, as he had usually sold out by this time. And I could see why – the centre of the focaccia was moist, the outside crisp, and the sweet tomatoes and salty olives made for a delicious snack.

"You can experiment with other toppings, but tomatoes, olives and oregano are traditional."

Listen to the Paola's interview (in Italian) with SBS Italian, below:

Recipe: Focaccia Bari

- 1 medium pontiac or desiree potato

- 250 g (9 oz/12/3 cups) flour or plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

- 250 g (9 oz/2 cups) fine semolina

- 6 g (1/4 oz) instant dried yeast

- 1 teaspoon sugar

- 350 ml (12 fl oz) tepid water

- 1 teaspoon salt

- Extra-virgin olive oil, for greasing and drizzling

- 50 g (13/4 oz) pitted black olives, halved

- 200 g (7 oz) ripe cherry or other small tomatoes, halved or quartered

- dried oregano, for sprinkling

1. Place the potato in a small saucepan, fill with cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for about 30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Drain, peel and mash or push through a potato ricer. You need 150 g (51/2 oz) cooked potato. 

2. Whisk the flour, semolina, dried yeast and sugar in a large bowl. Add the warm potato and tepid water. Stir through using a wooden spoon, then add the salt. Bring the dough together, then tip onto a well-floured work surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth. Divide the dough in half and fold the dough a couple of times.

3. Oil the base and sides of two 22 cm (83/4 in) cake tins. Place each mound of dough, seam side down, in the centre of each tin and cover with clean tea towels. Place in a draught-free spot for at least 1 hour or until doubled in size.

4. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

5. With well-oiled hands, lift the dough from the tins and flip onto the other side. Push the dough back into the tins using your fingers, so that they are covered in small indentations. Push olive and tomato halves in the indentations, then sprinkle over some dried oregano. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

6. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the focacce have risen and are golden on top.

‘Recipe from Italian Street Food by Paola Bacchia. Published by Smith Street Books'.

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See more Focaccia recipes on SBS Food