Q. A lot of restaurants serve focaccia bread, but when they do they make it seem as if it’s something special. It reminds me of garlic, bread, but to tell you the truth I’d rather eat regular garlic bread. What is it, anyway?
A. The word focaccia (gesundheit!) translates roughly into “baked in a hearth.” So it’s been around awhile. It exploded in popularity about fifteen years ago, and is still spreading to more restaurants. It’s essentially the same as pizza dough, but with a good bit more olive oil in the mix. Herbs and Parmesan cheese are often kneaded into focaccia (God bless you!). The difference is that it’s rolled out after the first rise, and the second rise takes place in the flat form. (Pizza would be left in a ball for its second rise, and would be punched down afterwards.)
Frankly, I suspect that one of the main reasons for the rise of focaccia (God bless you again! Is that a cold or just an allergy?) is that a frozen dough for making it can be bought easily from a food distributor. So all the restaurant has to do is bake it. The lighter versions are the ones most likely to be made in house.