An heirloom is usually described as something of value passed down from generation to generation.
Normally, one’s mind would envision a beautiful piece of jewelry, antique furniture, fine art or even vintage handmade articles.
I seem to have “inherited” something that may not fit into any of the above categories… well if I stretch it perhaps only one.
After marrying and moving to a home of my own I made sure to “borrow” the large focaccia pan my mother used to make the best focaccia ever. A few decades later I’m still borrowing it but think it’s safe to say it’s not going anywhere any time soon.
Over the many years of use it has never been washed with soap or water. This allows the pan to become well- seasoned while protecting the metal from rust and creating a non- stick surface similar to a well seasoned cast iron skillet. From a small town communal oven in Italy to my mother’s gas stove to my electric oven it has certainly made its share of focaccia!
This pan has a history going back almost one hundred years. My maternal grandfather had it hand made for my grandmother. Its rustic appearance bears evidence of being crafted by hand.
There was a time when my grandmother came from Italy to live with us. Packed in a huge trunk along with the rest of her belongings this pan also made the journey. Eventually, a longing for the homeland had her packing that trunk again and returning home.
For years I always thought she had been kind enough to leave it behind for us but eventually the truth of the matter unfolded…she had forgotten it! It would be dishonest to say that I felt sorry for her…maybe just a little since I’m sure she missed it.
The recipe? I had to figure that one out on my own, once again, no surprise there was never a written recipe!
Although this pan is very old and very dear to me, as I reflect its origin and journey down through generations I will no longer call it an heirloom…instead more appropriately…a legacy!
Focaccia della Nonna
5 cups all- purpose flour
1/3 cups corn oil
2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 ¾ – 2 cups additional warm water
4 tablespoons of corn oil to grease pan
1 cup canned plum tomatoes
salt cured black olives (optional)
- Add sugar and yeast into the 2 cups of warm water and let stand about 5 minutes or until foamy.
- Combine flour and salt in a large bowl, make a well in the center then add oil and yeast mixture.
- With a wooden spoon or spatula combine all ingredients gradually add remaining warm water a little at a time beating vigorously 3 to 4 minutes until you get a sticky, shiny, almost gluey consistency. (It may not be necessary to use full amount of water.)
- Pour dough into well- oiled pan then using a spatula or wooden spoon spread dough out evenly.
- Loosely cover the pan with wax paper and set aside to rise for about 45 minutes or until dough doubles in volume.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In the meantime tear plum tomatoes into small pieces removing seeds and halve pitted black olives (if using) then disperse over top of focaccia. Sprinkle with dry oregano.
- Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until focaccia is golden in colour.
- Remove from pan onto a cooling rack lined with paper towel to remove any excess oil.
Notes, Tips and Suggestions
- This focaccia dough is more like a batter since it cannot be kneaded but instead beaten with a spatula or wooden spoon to develop the gluten. This gives it a unique focaccia texture and a crust that is just too delicious to describe!
- The listed ingredient measurements accommodate an 16 inch round pan. Similar results might be obtained by using a 10 to 12 inch cast iron skillet and cutting the recipe in half.
- If omitting salted black olives sprinkle top of focaccia with coarse salt.
- Save the inner bags from empty cereal boxes, they often come in handy. Instead of using wax paper, I split one open and it generously covered the large pan.