Adventures in Focaccia and Parchment Paper

Luisa’s Focaccia di Patate

Sometimes I just have to learn things the hard way. Take, for example, my experience this week while making Luisa’s wonderful focaccia di patate.

While reading Luisa’s recipe I noted that she lined her baking pan with parchment paper, in order to keep the dough from sticking to the pan. I have to admit that I rarely use any sort of pan liner when I bake. That’s probably why a look at the top of my refrigerator, where my various boxes of sandwich bags, aluminum foil, and cereal reside, revealed wax paper but not parchment paper.

I stared at the roll as I asked, “Jim, is there a big difference between wax and parchment paper?”

“Yes, there is,” he called back from the living room. “You’re not supposed to bake with wax paper, just parchment paper.”

A few days later on Sunday afternoon I stood in the kitchen, surrounded by flour, yeast, a boiled potato, grape tomatoes, oregano, and salt. I had everything I needed except I had forgotten to purchase the parchment paper. Jim was away on a business trip, his cautionary words long forgotten. Should I walk the half block to the bodega for the parchment paper or just throw caution to the wind and use the wax paper? I decided to take a risk and forgo the stroll. Come on, what could go wrong?

After two hours of rising time for the dough and another forty minutes of baking time, the pan emerged from the oven at 8:30 pm. The browned bread, dotted with cheerful grape tomatoes and spirited flecks of green oregano, looked perfect, but then I tried to separate the bread from the paper.

The wax paper had melted into the bottom of the focaccia. Suddenly it all made sense. I mean, candles are made from wax. Candles melt at high heat. Nice one, Christina. Anyway, I couldn’t save the focaccia, no matter how carefully I tried. With one swift movement, it landed in the trash. 

But I couldn’t let this recipe meet such a sorry end. On Monday night I bought some parchment paper on the way home from the subway. After another three hours the bread was done, and this time it slid off the paper with ease when I transferred it to a plate.

As for the focaccia itself, its yeasty, chewy goodness will accompany me to work as lunch for the rest of the week. Many thanks to Luisa for a wonderful recipe, and for teaching me the difference between wax and parchment paper. It took six hours, two tries, and one waxy focaccia crust, but now I’ll never forget the lesson.


4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Ashley said,

    Don’t worry, I’ve done it too. It took me a long time to figure out what that waxy burning smell was…. Now, I love parchment paper and use it all the time for cookies, baked chicken, cakes, etc.

  2. 2

    Christina said,

    Thanks for the support! I’ll have to start using it more often, as it does seem to make the clean-up a little easier.

  3. 3

    Derek said,


    As a mere male who has just discovered the joys of cooking [truly!] I am having some trouble regarding parchment paper as well. Here in Australia I haven’t seen “parchment paper” anywhere. Is it the American version of what is known here as “non-stick cooking & baking paper” ?

    Help! I need to know. And what is the advantage of using parchment paper over say just greasing the pan/container like our Grandma’s used to?

    Thank you in advance for your assistance.

    Derek Still
    Queensland, Australia

  4. 4

    Christina said,

    Hi Derek! Thanks for stopping by. It sounds like we might be talking about the same thing. But please note that parchment paper does not have any coating on it; American wax paper does. I think lining your pan with parchment paper provides slightly easier clean up compared to greasing with butter. I hope this helps!

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