by Emily King

For all their foibles, we have to give credit to the ancient Romans! In addition to revising the Greek political model of democracy, they created aqueducts (the inspiration behind modern plumbing), and the design-technology to create arches (where would McDonald’s be without them?).  Fashionistas should be grateful to the Romans for the sandals that were “so-in” this year, and foodies everywhere are indebted to the ancient Romans for contributing Focaccia, the yeasted flatbread that has penetrated the bread-loving communities of America.

To be fair, it is likely that the basic recipe for Focaccia was a regional recipe that was popular among many emerging Mediterranean cultures, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll give most of the credit to the Romans since they christened it.

The name, Focaccia, is a derivative of the Latin word “focus” which means “fireplace.” The Romans cooked the bread on the hearth of a fire on a strong, earthenware tile. Focaccia gets its characteristically uneven-looking surface from the “dotting” or formation of shallow wells in the unbaked dough that the baker must make to keep the bread from forming large bubbles during the baking process. After the bread has finished baking, it is traditional to brush olive oil across the surface of the bread to preserve its moisture and improve its flavor.

Naturally, as the Romans expanded their empire, they influenced the beliefs, politics, and cultures of other nations.  Not surprisingly, these other nations held onto the tradition of making Focaccia bread. The French call it “fougasse” while the Spanish refer to it as “hogaza.” In fact, the Spanish in turn took the bread to Argentina where they started their small colony in the early 16th century. Modern Argentineans re-named the bread “fugazza” and use it as the base of their version of pizza.

As bread-making became less of a necessity and more of an art, bakers all over the world began to add savory and sweet toppings to focaccia to create the gorgeous varieties that we see in bakeries, stores, and restaurants today. Rosemary, sage, garlic, cheeses, olives, and onions are all common savory toppings. Sweet versions are less prominent in the United States, but include honey, dried fruits, baking spices, sugar, and citrus zest.

The versatility of Focaccia is one of the best things about this bread. You can dip it in infused oil, go the way of the Argentineans and make your own fluffy pizza, or make a fantastic grilled sandwich.  Whatever you do, make sure you get a good-quality loaf so you can enjoy this bread to the fullest. We can vouch for Capistrano’s Focaccia bread which comes in tomato-herb, tomato-Parmesan, and regular Parmesan varieties.

Visit Capistrano’s Wholesale Bakery online by clicking here.

Click Here to read more Breakin’ Bread Features

Or, in Arizona, Capistrano’s artisan breads are available at Vincent’s Saturday Market on Camelback when it is open, at Holsum Outlets, and now at Luci’s Healthy Marketplace. Here are the locations.

  • Apache Junction – 10107 E. Apache Trail
  • Casa Grande – 823 N. Pinal
  • Chandler – 7275 W. Detroit
  • Peoria – 9210 W. Peoria
  • Tucson – 2801 S. 4th Avenue
  • Luci’s Healthy Marketplace -1590 East Bethany Home Road, Phoenix