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Focaccia vs. Pizza: Differences Explained

In this focaccia vs. pizza guide we will learn about differences in the ratio of ingredients for the dough, how it gets prepared, and cooked.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Focaccia is a flat, leavened, oven-baked Italian bread that is normally topped with olive oil, fresh herbs and flaky salt. It is a fantastic pairing to a meal especially when you have some dipping oil and balsamic vinegar on hand!

Pizza on the other hand is a flat round base of dough that is baked with a topping of tomato sauce and cheese such as fresh mozzarella as well as other toppings such as meat, fish, or vegetables and a drizzle of olive oil. It is traditionally baked in a wood fired or brick stone oven at a very high temperature.

The primary difference between the two is that pizza dough uses very little leavening and only has one prove whereas focaccia dough usually has extra leavening agents added and proves at least twice.

Both of these are absolutely delicious and they are definitely staples in Italian cuisine. They are served during different times of the meal or sometimes they are even served as the main part of the meal and many variations and flavour combinations have been created over the years.

Focaccia and Pizza Differences

There are many similarities between focaccia and pizza dough but there are also differences in the ratio of ingredients for the dough, how it gets prepared, and how it is cooked. These differences are what make it possible for them to be identified either by the end product or even just the dough itself.

Ingredients

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The base ingredients for a focaccia recipe consist of bread flour, water, olive oil, salt, and active dry yeast and some recipes also include a biga starter, which is a pre-ferment that is made of flour, water, salt, and active dry yeast which is left to ferment for about 12 hours at around 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Farenheit).

The biga adds taste and lends to the rising of the dough. It is also completely possible to make a delicious focaccia without a biga if you are tight on time and there are many recipes out there that will teach you how to do just that.

The base ingredients for pizza dough are simply flour, lukewarm water, salt and active dry yeast, and a bit of oil and sugar.

Focaccia dough has a large ratio of liquid in its recipe which produces a very loose dough whereas pizza dough has a higher ratio of flour which makes the dough firmer.

Preparation

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To prepare a focaccia you add all your ingredients to a stand mixer and mix it with a dough hook for around 4-5 min on low speed. The dough will be very loose and it has a 2-stage fermentation of 45 min each where you will fold the dough in on itself after the first ferment.

After the second ferment, you will shape the dough and put it into your baking tray where you will do the dimpling technique for the signature look and scatter your desired toppings along with some olive oil.

To mix pizza dough, you add the flour, sugar, salt and yeast into your stand mixer along with only 80% of your lukewarm water and the dough gets kneaded in the mixer for about 12-15 minutes on low speed. The warm water needs to be lukewarm so that it helps the yeast activate along with the sugar, but not boiling hot otherwise the yeast will burn and die.

You will only add the rest of the water if the dough is not hydrated enough. Pizza dough is not nearly as loose as focaccia dough and you should be able to pick it up without it sticking to you so ensure not to add all the water if it is not needed. You can then remove the dough, place it into a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise until it is double in size after which you knock it down and let it rest for 10 min.

After 10 min you will then immediately throw it out on a lightly floured surface and begin to stretch and shape your pizza base and add your toppings.

Cooking

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To cook focaccia, you pre-steam the oven and then put your focaccia in the steaming oven for 3 min after which you bake it until the crust is golden brown and it sounds hollow if you tap the bottom. This normally takes about 25-30 min in a 240 degrees Celsius (464 degrees Fahrenheit) oven.

If you do not have a steam oven, you can add a tray at the bottom of your oven with some water to mimic the process.

Pizza is traditionally cooked in a brick oven with a temperature of 260 degrees Celsius (500 degrees Fahrenheit). If you want to cook it in a domestic oven, you will heat it up to 200 degrees Celsius (390 degrees Fahrenheit) and put a tray or pizza stone into the oven to heat it up. You will then put your base onto the hot tray or the pizza stone, and bake it for about 8-12 min until you get a crispy but flexible crust and your cheese is melted.

If you want to bake your pizza on a cold tray or make a pan pizza, make sure to grease the pan or the tray to ensure that your pizza does not stick to the bottom.

Toppings

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The toppings for both focaccia and pizza can either be kept simple or be more substantial, depending on your preference and whether or not it is only an accompaniment to the meal or a part of the courses.

Focaccia is normally topped with simply olive oil, flaky salt, and fresh herbs but you can also add toppings such as sundried tomatoes, sliced garlic, sliced onion, and even different kinds of spice mixtures if you want to play around with flavors and textures. It is also possible to add a tiny amount of cheese such as parmesan cheese but not too much otherwise the focaccia won’t bake as it should.

Pizza toppings are another story altogether! There are layers to a pizza that start with a sauce of pureed tomatoes, followed by mozzarella cheese or a mixture of different cheeses, and then of course the toppings. Toppings include things such as pepperoni, fresh basil with fresh mozzarella, and many more combinations. Just ensure that you don’t add too many toppings otherwise your flavors could clash or your base could get weighed down.

The toppings for focaccia and pizza aren’t specific to each and it is completely possible to add whatever toppings you want to try and experiment. In terms of focaccia, it is also possible to stuff it with things like ham and cheese after it has been baked, but there are many more things that you can add.

How and when is Focaccia vs Pizza served

Focaccia is usually eaten during breakfast instead of normal toast and during dinner, it is served as a side and has the ability to elevate a meal. It is also a very popular and very satisfying snack either by itself or stuffed with something.

Venetian focaccia is the sweet, baked version and is normally made for Easter and resembles the traditional Christmas cake, panettone. Sugar and butter are used in place of olive oil and salt.

Unless you are having pizza al taglio, which is sold on the streets in a rectangular, square or triangular slice and by weight, it’s always presented round and served on a plate. You cut the pizza yourself and then eat it either with a knife and fork, which is the most common way of eating it, or you fold each slice and eat it with your hands – that’s the traditional Italian way!

Conclusion

There are definitely some similarities between focaccia and pizza but they have enough differences to not get confused most of the time. In summary:

  • Focaccia dough is looser than pizza dough.

  • Focaccia has a much longer baking time than pizza but pizza has a higher baking temperature.

  • Focaccia toppings are kept simple but pizza toppings are put on in layers.

  • Focaccia dough needs to prove 2 separate times for a long period of time but pizza dough only proves 1 time until it doubles in size and the time can vary depending on the environment.

  • Focaccia has dimples for olive oil and toppings to pool in but pizza has a flat, round base.

Focaccia is recommended for people who want a fluffy but smooth texture and taste along with simple toppings and pizza is recommended for people who want a burst of flavour in each bite and something more substantial.

If you feel particularly inspired by this article and want to try these 2 dishes for yourself to see which one you like better, don’t miss out on these amazing recipes for pan pizza and focaccia made from pizza dough. These are the perfect recipes to master and then play around with as you explore different flavour combinations as well as different toppings.

Frequent Asked Questions

Sicilian pizza is similar to focaccia but focaccia has more yeast added to the dough and therefore it has more of a rise.

Focaccia is similar to pizza as it is a yeasted dough that has toppings but the texture is more similar to a thicker bread.

Focaccia is usually baked at 245 degrees Celsius (475 degrees Fahrenheit), while the baking temperature for a traditional bread is 120 degrees Celsius (248 degrees Fahrenheit). Another difference is that focaccia does not get stale nearly as quickly because of all the herbs and olive oil that it contains, and it also has a higher gluten quantity than traditional bread.

The correct term for poking the dough is “dimpling”. This is done during the leavening process and before the focaccia is baked to create the characteristic dimpled appearance, and it provides space for the toppings and olive oil to collect and pool together on top of the bread.

Focaccia is absolutely fantastic when it is served warm but it is possible to serve it cold. It is more commonly served at room temperature but it is especially nice when it is served toasted and warm.

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