The Nasty Bits: Lard Focaccia
Before I'd ever made my own focaccia, I thought there must be a reason why I so dearly loved the Italian flatbread, which always seemed to me like bread wanting to be cake. Fat, as it turns out, was the explanation. Depending on the recipe, one batch of focaccia dough—enough to make a baking sheet's worth of the rich and crispy bread—requires one-quarter to one-half cup of olive oil.
Drizzling that much olive oil into a batch of dough never gave me much pause for reflection. It was only when I decided to replace all of the olive oil with lard that I realized how much fat goes into a pan of focaccia. I'm told that the practice of putting lard in focaccia is more common in Northern Italy, though it's rare to find an Italian restaurant in the States offering lard focaccia in its bread basket. (All the more reason to try it at home.)
Why would you want to make lard focaccia? If you want your focaccia to taste like lard, of course. As an added bonus, as the focaccia bakes your entire house will smell like lard, though you can also use duck fat or mix in a little bacon fat if you'd prefer something with a smoky flavor.
Be prepared, though, for just how much fat you'll need. Melting down one-half cup worth of lard is a lot. As is oiling the pan with more lard, and brushing the top of the dough with lard before putting it into the oven to bake. My lard came from a crock of fat that I keep in the refrigerator for confiting, and as this crock of fat had already seen pounds worth of duck and goose, it was salty fat fragrant with the smell of confit—cloves, garlic, thyme. The results are well worth the effort: You'll get a softer, flakier focaccia that's not any better than olive oil focaccia, just different.