On Comfort, II {nonna’s figassa}

A year ago, getting out of a rough spot, I wrote about some things comfort is. Last week, I was back in a rough spot and in need of some good, old-fashioned comfort. I was was the most stressed I’ve been since arriving in A2, with end-of-semester assignments and tests, gnarly weather, and even petty stuff like my snow boots coming in too small, etc. It was just not my week and I really let the stress get to me more than I usually do.

We are what we can be, not what we ought to be.

—Romaine Brooks (Big ups to Bon Appétempt for sharing this quote.)

Beyond comfort, I needed some good, old-fashioned self-compassion. I’d been struggling with feeling like I was not producing quality enough work, and dealing with the time crunch of doing ALLTHETHINGS I just got to a self-doubtful rut. And I had to take some deliberate steps back, and a couple of walks in the snowy cold to check myself.

In yoga this week, our instructor asked us to think about this universal truth: what you feed will grow. What are you feeding in your life? Are those things you want to grow? I realized that I’d been feeding my own insecurity, my own stress, my own doubt in my place here, and not feeding the good stuff more. I needed to refocus and re-feed my confidence, my grounding in myself, my self-compassion. I am a hard worker, I can and will get it all done and everything will shake out just fine in the end.

Anywhow, comfort right now looks like Friendsgiving, mom-just-knows care packages, and figassa. Despite my poor time management skills and it not being on the official “to do” list, it was worthwhile to make this bread. It tastes like home, and I need to feed that homey feeling to get me to December.

Figassa is a family treasure—there is no party without it. The recipe has been simplified over the years from my dad’s nonna‘s recipe. We call it figassa not focaccia because that’s the Ligurian dialect, where our family is from. Figassa/Focaccia/Fuh-whatever you want to call it, make this—it is so tasty, fluffy, amazingly olive-oily, and actually easy to make even for someone who is not a confident bread-baker (read: me). My mom sent me the recipe and I’m sharing it as is because it is hilarious and brought a huge smile to my face amid the stress…and I think you’ll enjoy it, too 🙂

Nonna’s Figassa

As told by my mom


  • 5  cups bread flour, sifted (all-purpose flour works just fine)
  • 1 cup milk (pretty much any fat %, just not non-fat)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 package rapid rise yeast
  • Olive oil olive oil and olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Thinly sliced yellow onion (optional)
  • Equipment :
    • two large bowls (glass, metal, or ceramic—I used two big pots)
    • Jelly roll pan, 10x 15 inches. Don’t use cookie sheet, they are too big


  • Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Place one bowl in oven to warm for few minutes.
  • Combine milk, water, butter, salt and sugar in small saucepan. Stir. Warm over low heat, remove from heat as soon as butter is melted and mixture is warm. Stir again. You do not want it to boil, you should be able to stick finger in. If too hot will kill the yeast later in process.
no sifter? no problem—I just use a fine mesh strainer over a giant bowl.

Emily sidebar: no sifter? no problem—I just use a fine mesh strainer over a giant bowl.

  • To warmed bowl add half of flour. Add yeast, stir thoroughly, then stir in milk mixture with fork. Beat energetically and enthusiastically, until lumps are gone and your arm hurts.
terrible lighting, but you get the idea of what you're looking for

terrible lighting, but you get the idea of what you’re looking for

  • Stir in rest of flour, a quarter cup at a time. Incorporate all flour before adding next batch. Reserve about 1/3 cup for flouring kneading surface. It gets hard to do at the end, but don’t give up, Columbus didn’t!
towards the end it gets tough for realz

towards the end it gets tough for realz

  • Flour surface with reserved flour. Place dough on floured surface, you will have to scrape bowl to get all sticky dough out.
little scraggleball, ready for a kneading

little scraggleball, ready for a kneading

  • Rub olive oil on hands and knead, adding more flour to surface if necessary. Knead at least 3 minutes, until dough is smooth and comes together in ball. Then slam dough ball down onto surface 4 or 5 times. Great stress reliever. (Sidebar: this used to terrify me when my mom did this when I was little…but now I get to do it and it’s aweeeesomeeee)
nailed it, I think? :)

nailed it, I think? 🙂

  • Drizzle some olive oil into second bowl, enough to lightly coat inside surface. Place dough ball into bowl. Top with a drizzle of olive oil, turn over  and drizzle some more, so there is a ring of oil around dough. Olive oil, it’s a good thing.
pardon the terrible picture, but all I had for my second bowl was a giant stockpot....

pardon the terrible picture, but all I had for my second bowl was a giant stockpot….

  • Cover with clean kitchen towel. Place either in oven (make sure it’s off) or sunny spot in kitchen to rise, at least 90 minutes. It will double. If it’s cold, like in Michigan where Emily is, you can turn oven on briefly, then place dough in oven to rise.  Be sure to turn oven off or you will end up with a ginormous biscuit. I hope Emily comes home soon 😦
about 60 minutes in

about 60 minutes in

thanks sister mama for the cute towel to use!

thanks sister mama for the cute towel to use!

ready for a-punchin'

ready for a-punchin’

  • Prepare baking pan by greasing with olive oil.
  • Oil hands again. Cancel spa appointment, your hands are silky smooth again!
  • Punch risen dough down middle, deflating the whole dough. Ouch.  Pour into middle of pan, stretching to get it to all edges. Using fingertips, make finger holes all across surface. A very  cute dimpled surface will be the result.  On butts, not so much.
  • Drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, add thinly sliced onions if using.
dimply and ready for the last rise

dimply and ready for the last rise

  • Return to oven that is not on, and let rise for 30 minutes. Remove.
  • Heat oven to 425. Put jelly roll in oven, bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.


  • Remove from oven. Brush lightly with MORE olive oil. Immediately  slide long bamboo skewers or long knives under bread to let it cool without bottom getting soggy. No comment about other soggy bottoms.
  • Cut into charming squares.
(Alternatively, tear a hunk of it off and eat it as is, right out of the oven. Mom can't yell at you to use a knife if it's your house and your loaf!)

(Alternatively, tear a hunk of it off and eat it as is, right out of the oven. Mom can’t yell at you to use a knife if it’s your house and your loaf!)

can't stop, won't stop

can’t stop, won’t stop (you’re welcome, mom, for using a knife to cut this charming square)

solid gold.

solid gold.

This. Stuff. Is. GOOD. Eat it plain, eat it with pesto, use it for some bomb breakfast sandwiches or a strata…just make it and eat it. You won’t regret it. And you get to say you made BREAD!

All right, it’s back to work for me…but until next time, buon appetito! 🙂



8 thoughts on “On Comfort, II {nonna’s figassa}

  1. Dear me, did I forget to mention that you definitely should not get mixed up and use yellow liquid dish soap in place of the olive oil? That’s a definite no no! Mae

  2. This looks so good! And I like the play by play because it makes me feel like I could attempt this as well. I do not feel confident in the bread department either–so many variables! But this looks awesome! I am going to give it a try. Sorry about your rough week 😦 Love your yoga perspective–gives me a lot to think about too. Hoping this week is the best one yet! That is usually how it works–one bad week is followed by a really good one! 🙂

    • Thanks, Mary! You are always so sweet and positive, we all need to keep more of that optimism and positive energy fed 🙂 Hope to see you and baby B when I’m home!! xoxo

  3. Lots of huggggzzz. This recipe made me laugh a bunch of times. I’ve made focaccia in a cast iron pan, which was also very easy. This was so good at your party in August…will try it soon!

  4. Pingback: Old Year, Old Food {my great-grandmother’s spam hash} | Everything Emily Eats

  5. Pingback: Michigan “Heat Wave” {chinese 5-spice & orange rolls} | Everything Emily Eats

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