Yes, I know. This looks more like a quesadilla than your typical focaccia. But this is Ligurian-style focaccia, best described as a crispy, paper-thin flatbread stuffed with creamy, melted cheese. It’s irresistible. Traditionally, this focaccia is made with Stracchino, a soft, delicate cow’s milk cheese. Stracchino can be challenging to find, so as an alternative, I’ve made it with mascarpone and fontina for an updated twist.
About the Dough: For this particular recipe, it’s all about how you stretch the dough. You’ll do this pizzeria-style minus the air toss, letting the natural weight of the dough do the work for you. The cheese is dolloped on top, covered with another sheet of dough, and then baked to crispy perfection. You’ll need the base of two 10-inch (25-cm) springform pans or a small pizza pan to bake the focaccia.
- Yield: 2 Crispy Focaccia Rounds
- 0.33 cup (75 g) bubbly, active starter
- 1 cup (220 g) warm water
- 1 tbsp (15 g) olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 30.33 cups (400 g) bread flour
- 1½ tsp (9 g) fine sea salt
- 0.33 cup (70 g) mascarpone cheese
- ½ cup (30 g) grated fontina cheese
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Small handful of watercress or arugula
- A few days before baking, feed your starter until bubbly and active. Store at room temperature until ready to use.
- Make The Dough: In a medium bowl, whisk the starter, water, and olive oil together with a fork. Add the flour and salt. Combine to form a rough dough, then finish mixing by hand to fully incorporate the flour. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 1 to 2 hours. The dough doesn’t need to rise much at this stage, but the longer it rests, the easier it will be to roll and stretch.
- Replenish your starter with fresh flour and water, and store it according to preference.
- Cheese Filling: Add the mascarpone and grated fontina to a small bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and mash with a fork to combine. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to use.
- Roll and Shape: Brush the bottom of two 10-inch (25-cm) springform pans with olive oil and set aside.
- Remove the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. (It’s not necessary to weigh the dough.) Roll one piece into an 8-inch (20-cm) circle. Lift the dough and gently stretch the edges while turning in a circular motion to create a large round, about 1 minute.
- Once the dough becomes noticeably larger, make a fist with one hand and drape the dough over the top. Sneak your other hand underneath. Using both hands, continue to turn the dough, using your knuckles to stretch and pull the surface. The dough is ready when you have created a large round that’s tissue-paper thin. Hold it up in front of a window to double check; you should be able to see through to the other side. Note: If there’s any resistance or if you need to take a break, drape the dough over the back of a chair and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Assemble The Focaccia: Drape the dough over the oiled pan, letting the excess hang over the sides. Dollop the surface with half of the cold cheese mixture. Roll and stretch a second piece of dough and drape it over the cheese. It will look like a pie. Let rest for 10 minutes, and then trim the excess dough around the sides. Meanwhile, roll, shape, and assemble the remaining 2 pieces of dough with the cheese.
- Preheat your oven to 500°F (260°C).
- Bake: Brush the focaccias with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Make a few slits in the top layer for the steam to escape. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes. The focaccias will puff up and become golden and crisp when ready. Cool for 1 to 2 minutes before cutting into wedges, if you can wait that long!
- Top with tangled watercress or arugula for a pop of fresh green color to serve.