Tomato and Sweet Onion Focaccia

I was kneading the dough for what seemed like ages. It felt grainy and rough no matter what I did. Then I remembered that there was cornmeal in this dough and was glad that there was no one in the room to see how silly I was being.
This focaccia is based on this Cooking Light recipe. I started it without thinking too much about the recipe – a bad habit, I know – and realised that the recipe was not a great one once I started to knead the dough. Could you possibly describe the coarse texture of this as “smooth”? There are no instructions given as to how to shape the dough as you work with it, which is unfortunate, given that the neat little pockets in the surface of the bread are one of the characteristics of focaccia. It also bothered me to see how much onion was called for. 4 cups of onion to top a bread this size was rather excessive. I wasn’t trying to make onion pie, so I felt that, while the topping should be the star, the bread should still be recognisable as focaccia.

My other complaint about Cooking Light is that they seem to use an awful lot of cheese in their dishes. Cheese is good, but when you’re putting cheese inside your falafel patties, I think you’ve crossed a line. The recipes I have made have usually turned out well, but I just don’t find them to necessarily be all that “light”.

Getting back to the focaccia, I wanted neither pie nor pizza, so I cut back on the onions, eliminated the cheese and sprinkled the whole thing with coarse salt before baking it. In spite of all this – my annoyance with the recipe, my changes in the topping and method – it turned out very well. I did have to use more oil, for greasing the pan and prodding the dough than I expected. The focaccia has a nice little crunch, which comes both from the relative thinness of the bread and the addition of cornmeal to the dough. It makes a great starter and because it was less doughy than some focaccias, it didn’t cry out to be dipped in anything (though you certainly could).

Tomato and Sweet Onion Focaccia

(inspired by Cooking Light)

1 cup warm water

1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup cornmeal

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups ap flour

Topping

3 medium sweet onions (Maui is my favorite, Vidalia or Panoche)

3 medium tomatoes

3 tbsp fresh basil, divided and finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Coarse salt, for sprinking

In a large bowl, combine warm water, olive oil and yeast. Let stand for 5-10 minutes, until foamy. Stir in cornmeal, salt and 2 cups flour. Add in the remaining flour gradually, stirring until the dough comes together, away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Place dough into a well oiled bowl, turning to coat, and cover it with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled, 1 1/2 hours.

Prepare the topping:
Cut onions in half and slice thinly. In a medium sauce pan, cook onions with 1 tbsp basil, salt and pepper over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 20-30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Slice each tomato into 3 1/4 inch thick slices. Layer slices between a few paper towels to remove excess moisture. Cut slices in half.

Finish the dough:
Oil a 10×15 inch jelly roll pan. Gently lift risen dough out of its bowl and into the pan, stretching it to fit. Lightly oil and splay your fingers, gently indenting the dough and pressing it into the corners of the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425F.
Lightly oil your fingers again and gently dimple the surface of the bread, creating little pockets. Arrange sliced tomatoes evenly over the dough, spread onions on top and sprinkle with remaining basil. Sprinkle dough with coarse salt, if desired.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
Let cool in the pan for 20-30 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.

12 comments

  1. I like your doughnut photo the best – they look like we can just pick them up off the photo and eat them.

    Have you ever tried a German variation of foccacia called Zwiebelkuchen? It is sometimes more like a quiche in a crust, but often is more like a pizza, with lots of onions, some bacon, some caraway seeds and cream as the sauce. it is often served at fairs along with Neuerwein (freshly pressed grape juice that will become wine) at fairs. It is also made at winter fairs cooked in portable wood-burning ovens, sort of like the barbecues pull behind cars to BBQ cook-offs in this country. These wood-cooked ones are sometimes called Flammkuchen, and often use a smear of sour cream as a sauce. Yum.

  2. Foccaccia, or schiacciata as it is called here in Tuscany, is really one of the most wonderful ‘bread inventions’ that exists! I love it and your foccaccia looks really delicious!

  3. DMBLGIT-1 vote for Peanut Brittle Bars and 1 vote for Raspberry Chocolate Mink. They had my mouth watering!

  4. Hi Nic – the focaccia looks delicious! I can’t imagine putting much more topping on there – seems like it would make the bread soggy.

  5. Nic, that focaccia looks so good. I wish I had a little more time to do as much baking as you do.

    As for my suggestions for the photos: I happen to like the peanut brittle bars, but the silver dollar pancakes make for a more unusual subject. And although I’m not a lover of hot dogs I thought that the hot dog photo was really sharp and the angle unusual.

  6. dksbook – I’ll have to look into the german recipe. It sounds good, but it makes me wish I had a wood-burning oven!

    ilva-lucullian – I didn’t know there were alternate names for the bread. Neat!

    Raquel – Yeah, I regret not entering the epicurious contest with my raspberry mink. Ah well.

    Cathy – I know! Who wants soggy bread?

    Ana – I love the hot dog photo. I didn’t think that it would be original enough to win.

  7. hi nic, terrific adaptation of the recipe – that foccacia looks really good…re:september pics…that’s a tough one, there are so many lovely pictures…i am especially taken with the peanut brittle (but then again, i do love peanut brittle)…

  8. I got a chuckle when I read that you kept kneading that dough….I’ve had many a time when kneading or rolling out dough and thinking this isn’t right….!!
    Your result….looks fantastic! As usual!

    Will you tell your regular readers which photo your choose for the DMBLGiT??

  9. I will be sure to mention which photo I choose. Probably in a post later this week.

  10. thanks for the recipe!
    i’ve way too much onions and can’t wait to finish up that cornmeal which has been around too long

  11. I’m very torn between the donut-cookies photo, or the silver dollar pancakes.

  12. My photo vote is for the silver dollar pancakes…so original!

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