I got the idea for the focaccia bread pizza from Giuseppe on the Great British Baking Show – as it’s called here in the U.S. My wife and I watch the show religiously.
During the 12th season, episode 3, the bakers faced the dreaded bread week. In one challenge judges tasked them with making flavored focaccia. Giuseppe made a version using milk, which won him the challenge.
Unlike many of the challenges on the show, making a focaccia looked pretty easy. I love trying Great British Baking Show inspired recipes, like these hand pies, and I love winning recipes. I had never made a focaccia so I decided this was the time to try it.
What is Focaccia Bread?
Focaccia originated in Italy and features a flat yeasted loaf with dimples poked into it to aid cooking. You’ve probably encountered it most in sandwiches, where its crisp crust and soft interior structure can both hold up well and soak up flavors.
Choosing Flavors for the Focaccia Bread Pizza
In my experience, American supermarkets typically carry only plain or garlic-flavored focaccia. I wanted something different. The recipe I used as inspiration for this one featured rosemary as the primary flavor, an herb my wife really despises. So I wanted to try ingredients I knew both she and my teenage daughter would like. The idea of stuffing it with pizza style goodies really sounded appealing and would be an accessible and welcome respite from traditional pizza night.
I grabbed inexpensive pepperoni slices, fresh mozzarella cheese (the wet kind), and some sliced mushrooms. All of these ingredients are easily sourced.
You’ll notice I left out tomatoes. I did this because I get a little tired of tomato based sauces on pizzas. I could have used sundried tomatoes but I no longer live in the 1980s, so, no. If you want the extra hit of acid, then you could use a tomato sauce for dipping. If I wanted more acid in the flavorings, I would go with sliced green olives instead.
Creating the Focaccia Dough
This was a relatively straightforward bake, which is ideal for me because I struggle with the exactitudes of baking. To me, baking is to cooking as paint by numbers is to art. However, I’m determined to add baking to my repertoire because I do really like to eat baked things!
With focaccia, you make a dough by combining flour, milk, sugar, yeast and olive oil. In this recipe we infuse the olive oil with some flavor, including garlic, thyme and black pepper.
You then bring this dough together and knead it only a dozen or so times, just enough to get the dough smooth. If you over-knead then you risk creating too much gluten that will make the whole thing too tough.
Then you let it prove by resting it for an hour in a large mixing bowl covered with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. This step will allow the yeast to eat the sugar and create gas, which will aerate the dough and cause it to rise. This air will give the dough a soft, light texture.
After it rises, you can roll it out and put it onto a sheet pan, letting it rest another 20 minutes or so.
Adding Ingredients and Baking the Focaccia Bread Pizza
After your rolled out dough rests, you can start adding flavorings to it. Unlike a pizza, where you simply spread the ingredients on top, with this dough you will want to try to get the ingredients into the dough.
My daughter and I simply stared poking ingredients into the dough with our fingers, stuffing each piece into the dough far enough so it would stay there. We did this for the pepperoni, chunks of mozzarella, and sliced mushrooms.
After we added the ingredients we found a few bare spots and poked our fingers all the way down to the bottom of the dough to add the characteristic dimples.
Once that was done we popped the dough into the 450 degree oven for 20 minutes. I removed the focaccia, let it cool, sliced it, and served it warm with a simple but expensive olive oil dipping sauce. It was filling and flavorful enough that we skipped any pretense of dinner and just ate the bread!
Focaccia Bread Pizza Style
- Glass Mixing Bowl
- Rolling Pin (or flat-sided bottle, like a wine bottle)
- 1⅓ cups Warm milk
- 2 tsp Sugar
- 3½ cups Flour - all purpose
- 1 pkg Dry Active Yeast
- ½ cup Olive oil
- 1 tsp Dry rubbed thyme You can use a tablespoon or more of fresh if you have it
- 2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
- ½ tsp Black pepper, ground
- 1 tsp Salt Use less if you are watching your sodium intake
- 10-12 slices pepperoni, quartered
- 4 oz Mozzarella, fresh (the watery kind)
- 4 oz Mushrooms, sliced
Create Infused Olive Oil
- In a medium saucepan over low heat, add ⅓ cup olive oil, minced garlic, tyme, and black pepper. Heat and stir occasionally about 5-10 minutes. Don't let garlic burn. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- In large mixing bowl, stir sugar into warm milk then sir in yeast and let the yeast bloom for about 10 minutes. Bubbles and froth should form on the surface of the milk.
- In the same bowl, add half the flour, salt, and infused olive oil and stir or mix to combine until the dough is completely wet. Then add the rest of the flour and stir to combine for about 3-5 minutes until all the flour is incorporated and the dough has formed.
- Turn out dough mixture onto a flat, floured surface and knead about 10-15 times until the dough is smooth. Don't over-knead it or you will create too much gluten in the dough and ruin the texture.
- Form the dough into a ball and place it into a mixing bowl that is large enough to let it expand to at least double its size. Cover with plastic wrap or with a slightly damp towel and place it in a warm spot in your kitchen. Let it rest (prove) for an hour.
- After an hour, turn the dough back out onto a large, flat floured surface and roll out until the dough is about ½ inch thick. Then place dough on an oiled sheet pan (or one covered with a layer of parchment paper) and cover with a slightly damp towel and let it rest another 20 minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 450°
- After resting for 20 minutes, poke your pizza ingredients into the dough. I used quartered pepperoni slices, quartered mozzarella pieces and sliced mushrooms. I tried to get them into the dough enough where they would stick, about halfway through.
- Once the ingredients are added to the dough, find open spots and poke your finger to the bottom of the dough so you dimple it throughout. I could get about 20 finger holes in mine between all the ingredients. After that, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper to your liking.
- Place the pan with the dough on the center rack of the 450° oven for 20 minutes, or until the crust on top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Slice into 1 inch slices and dip in a nice olive oil for a wonderful and filling treat!