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
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.