Focaccia: Making Bread “Under the Fire”
from the Latin “focacius”- fireplace
We tend to use rather less than more salt in our breads. It is just not necessary because the bread is allowed to develop so much taste that too much salt would just spoil it. But there are exceptions, pizza for example benefits from a salty crust and so does this tomato and basil focaccia.
You can think of a lot of flavor combinations and toppings for this style of bread, but the sweetness of the ripe little tomatoes and the intense basil aroma together with a hint of garlic, makes this our favorite version of the Italian flatbread. Not forgetting the color combination is also pleasing to the eye.
Making the Focaccia
I make the focaccia dough the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight. The water content is quite high so the dough will be a bit sticky. The focaccia dough structure will benefit from this. I also add lukewarm water, even though the focaccia dough goes in the fridge, so it gets a bit more development while it cools gradually.
Ingredients for the Focaccia
makes one Focaccia
350 g bread flour
8 g sea salt
3 g instant yeast
approx 250 ml lukewarm water
3 tbsps olive oil
a handful of fresh basil leaves
24 vine tomatoes
sea salt flakes and black pepper
clove of garlic, sliced in halve
flour for dusting
Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a bowl. Add the lukewarm water and mix for 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky. Place the dough in a bowl dusted with a bit of oil, cover with clingfilm and put it in the fridge. The next day get it out of the fridge and leave it for 30 minutes to acclimatise. Give it one set of stretch and fold to develop the dough a bit further and put it back in the bowl. Leave it to rest for 50 minutes.
In the meantime you can get your basil and olive oil. Shred the basil leaves with your fingers in smaller pieces, combine them with the olive oil and set aside.
Take the dough onto a floured work surface and shape it into a 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 inches) rectangle. Put the oil with basil leaves on top of the dough and with your finger tips make holes in the dough and spread the oil, making sure the oil also drips in the holes. Put the tomatoes on top and also press them into the dough.
I like to use the vine tomatoes, branches and all, because it looks nice, but you can also take them off first or even take their skins off by blanching them in hot water for a minute, whichever you prefer.
Preheat your oven at 220ºC = 430ºF. Now leave the focaccia to proof for about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes and some black pepper. Take it to the oven and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown on top. Out of the oven, rub the bread with the sliced clove of garlic and serve immediately.
PS: I also love using wild tomatoes in all shapes and colors, purple, yellow, red and green, if and when I can find them.