This focaccia is typically found in a little town in Liguria called Recco, not far from Genoa. It is a far cry from your typical focaccia and it has a special twist – it is stuffed with the most amazing cheese. Since the dough does not contain yeast, it is not thick and fluffy like its well known focaccia cousin. The cheese encased in this lovely crisp dough is Crescenza, a soft cheese made from cow’s milk. The taste = DIVINE!
I was so excited to serve this recipe on New Year’s Eve. I’d been pining over it for months and struggling to find the desired cheese. I had eaten this focaccia years ago when I lived in Italy and I loved it – the crisp crust revealing the soft oozy cow cheese.
While I have never had focaccia di Recco in the U.S. I was eager to experiment. Since I had a great deal of difficulty finding Stracchino or Crescenza cheese, my initial attempt was using a single cream brie to see how it would hold up. I consulted the cheese mongers at Whole Foods close to my home and while all agreed that Crescenza would be best, they had not had it in stock for a few months. The single cream brie was the cow’s cheese recommended. I gave it a go and while it was nice, it was not memorable. The Brie just didn’t melt the way it needed to and the flavor wasn’t as interesting with the crust. It seemed bland. Of course, we had to eat the entire focaccia to arrive at this decision. 😉 I assure you, it was not horrible, just not what I was looking for. The recipe below is one I can stand behind and I have a few other ideas on how to use this crust which I will share in upcoming posts but for now, indulge and enjoy. Happy Twenty-Fourteen!
Focaccia di Recco
4 1/4 cups (1 lb) all-purpose flour
1 lb Crescenza cheese, or Stracchino cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin Italian olive oil, plus a little extra
1 1/4 cups cold water
salt to taste
koser salt (optional)
In a large bowl combine flour and a pinch of salt, forming a well in the middle. Then add water and extra virgin olive oil into the well. Start mixing the dough with a fork, incorporating the flour, little by little. Once the dough has come together, start kneading it by hand.
Knead the dough for 5 – 10 minutes, until smooth and uniform. While the dough will be a little wet and sticky it should not remain attached to hands. If needed lightly dust hands and continue to knead until dough is desired consistency. At this point the dough can be transferred to a smaller bowl if necessary; cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least an hour at room temperature. (Note: I find that allowing the dough to rest even longer produces a lighter crust. I like to put the dough together in the morning and let it sit until I need it later that evening.)
Grease a round 10-inch baking dish with extra virgin olive oil. (Alternative: if a round 10-inch baking dish is not available a rectangular 9×13-inch baking dish can also be used.) Prepare a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal parts and roll out the dough, trying to keep it round, and as thin as possible, almost transparent. If making rectangular in shape due to the baking pan, shape into a rectangle before rolling out, and roll out as thin as possible.
Begin assembling the focaccia di Recco. Place the first sheet of dough into the bottom of baking dish, repairing any holes by pinching the dough together with fingers. Add the Cresenza or Stracchino cheese in pieces using your hands or a spoon. Cover the cheese with the second sheet of prepared dough. Use a knife to remove the excess dough from around the edges of the pan.
Seal the edges by pinching the dough. Pinch holes into the top layer of dough above the cheese so that the steam can come out during cooking. (Note: If making ahead, wait until just before baking to complete this last step.) Sprinkle with salt and brush with extra virgin olive oil.
Bake at 425 degrees for about 14-20 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer from pan to a cutting board. Cut and serve as an appetizer or finger food to serve with an aperitivo.