I shared this recipe with the Boulder County Farmers Market and it appeared on The Boulder Daily Camera together with other in season produce in Colorado, and a word from a Colorado farmer about tomatoes.
Since we return from Cinque Terre I’ve been on a focaccia-making kick. With rosemary, or mixture of herbs like oregano, french tarragon, thyme and parsley; with roasted garlic, and the latest one topped with tomatoes and an assortment of herbs from the garden. Focaccia is my favorite bread to make at home. It’s easy to get lured by this bread. It’s delicious, simple to make, and I’d dare say, foolproof.
I used to make focaccia when I worked at a small restaurant as a pastry chef more than a decade ago. Making this bread was easier than making any other bread because I didn’t have to tiptoe around it in fear of rough handling it and ending with a deflated, hard bread. This is a flat bread, so it was already a winner, regardless of how busy I was, or how much I neglected it, it always worked. Because it is a flat bread, part of the process is to use ones fingers to stretch the dough on the sheet pan, poking and pushing to create its distinctive dimples and to force it to fill the pan all the way to the edges.
I hadn’t made it at home in a few years and the experience of having it in its homeland, tasting it and enjoying its light crumb, crunchy edges, and slightly chewy texture, made me crave it again. In Cinque Terre, we found many Focaccerias, but we also found the flat bread in small produce stores where they sold it by weight. They had several broken pieces of different sizes for the customers to choose, then they weighted it, and handed it in parchment paper to keep the oil from getting all over our hands.
Focaccia is made with olive oil, an important ingredient in the area where olive trees hang of cliffs on sea-facing farms; and we were told that many of the residents grow their own olives to make their family’s oil.
This bread is like a thicker version of a pizza and the array of toppings we found included olives, cured meat, tomatoes, herbs, cheese, caramelized onions, and pesto, that I can remember. But we also found it plain, unadorned, perfect to serve with any meal.
Scott loves his with lots of herbs, especially rosemary, so I make sure to add heaping amounts to the dough itself and top it with more chopped herbs. I wanted to add slices of San Marzano tomatoes we found at the Union Station Farmers market from Rocky Mountain Fresh farm. Their intense flavor reminds me of tomatoes from my childhood in Colombia. Scott made sauce for pizza last week and it was the best sauce we’ve had, well not counting the sauce from Caffè Umberto in Alba, Piedmont, but that’s a different story. So we bought a 20lb box to make sauce for the cold months.
Herb and Tomato Focaccia
Recipe adapted from The Professional Pastry Chef, by Bo Friberg
Focaccia is a fun bread to make. Playing with oiled hands and a ball of dough to stretch it and press it into the baking pan, and using your fingertips to create its distinctive dimples, makes this a relaxed bread making experience.
Focaccia is a flat bread native to Liguria, Italy, where one finds it topped with anything from olives, pesto, caramelized onions, cheese, and more.
Tomatoes and fresh herbs make a delicious summer bread. Slice the tomatoes, sprinkle them with salt, and let them rest for 15-20 minutes to draw excess water and concentrate their flavor before layering them on the dough.
I use stone-ground whole-wheat flour to give this bread a nuttier flavor.
1 ½ packages of dry yeast (10.5 grams)
3/8 cup warm water (3 ounces)
½ tablespoon of sugar
4 ounces whole-wheat flour, stone-ground
- Dissolve the yeast in water; add sugar and flour and mix to create a sticky dough. Cover and let it rise in a warm place until the sponge doubles in size and begins to fall.
1 cup warm water (8 ounces)
3/8 cup olive oil (3 ounces)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
8 ounces all purpose flour
7 ounces whole-wheat flour, stone-ground
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary and oregano, chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil for the baking pan
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary and oregano, chopped
3 San Marzano or Roma tomatoes, sliced and lightly sprinkled with salt
½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Add the dough ingredients in order to the sponge.
- Knead the dough with the hook attachment at medium-low speed scrapping down the sides of the bowl, until a very soft, smooth, and elastic dough forms. If the dough is too loose and not forming a ball, add a little more flour.
- Coat an 18″x13″ half-size sheet pan with the olive oil from the topping ingredients list; don’t use parchment paper.
- With oiled hands, Place the dough on the middle of the baking sheet and using a sharp knife cut a big X on the top to make spreading the dough on the pan easier. Press it lightly. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes in a warm area.
- Oil your hands and press the dough from the middle out to fill the pan, using your fingertips to create the distinctive focaccia dimples. Let the dough rest again once it gets too tight to move toward the edges of the pan. It should rise 1 ½ times its size.
- Heat the oven to 475°F convection bake.
- Gently press the dough to fill the rest of the pan. Layer the tomatoes; sprinkle the herbs and kosher salt. Let it rest in a warm area for 5 minutes.
- Place the prepared dough in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 375°
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until golden brown and not soggy around the tomatoes