One of the wonderful things about focaccia is that it is a bread that can be topped with just about anything, so you never run out of options when making it. Potatoes might not be the first thing that spring to mind when looking for something to top off a loaf of bread, but they turn this focaccia into a very savory and hearty bread.
This Potato and Herb Focaccia is a relatively new favorite of mine. A basic focaccia dough is topped with sliced potatoes, herbs and olive oil before being baked, and you end up with a topping that has a tremendous amount of flavor and really stands out from other focaccia breads. The bread ends up being light and chewy, with a slightly crisp crust that gets a lot of flavor both from olive oil and from the herbs. The potatoes are cooked before they are put on top of the bread, so they are already tender, but they take on a nice roasted flavor in the oven and develop a hint of crispness themselves on top. The combination is addictive, and so satisfying that you can easily make a meal out of a nice salad, some wine and this bread.
I used smallish yellow potatoes for this focaccia. I boiled them just until they were tender, and then allowed them to cool completely before using them. You can easily prepare the potatoes the day before and let them hang out in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them. I think that a smaller potato is going to give you better results (and look a bit prettier) than a big baking potato, but as long as the potatoes have been pre-cooked, you can use what you have on hand. I also used an herb de provence spice blend, but any combination of your favorite dried spices – such as rosemary and/or thyme – can be used in the topping for good results. Don’t forget a sprinkle of coarse salt before putting this bread into the oven, because it will really give the bread and the potatoes a nice finish.
Potato and Herb Focaccia
1 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp (.25-oz) active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups water, warm (100-110F)
3 – 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
approx 1 lb small potatoes, boiled or steamed, and cooled
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp herbs de provence
(or a combination of dried thyme and rosemary)
2 tsp coarse kosher salt or sea salt
In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine sugar, yeast and water. Stir mixture and let stand for 5 minutes, until yeast is slightly foamy.
Stir in 2 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt – or mix in with the dough hook of your stand mixer – and dough will start to come together. Gradually stir in the remaining flour until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a slightly sticky ball. You may not need all of the remaining flour.
Turn out onto a floured surface (or continue to knead with the dough hook for 3-4 minutes) and knead until smooth. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Line a rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan (12×18-inches) with parchment paper or grease with olive oil.
When dough has risen, punch down the dough gently and turn it out onto prepared pan. Use your fingertips to press and stretch the dough to a rectangle that is roughly 10×16-inches. Brush dough with approx 3 tbsp of the olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tbsp of the herbs de provence. Allow dough to rest for 10 minutes.
Slice the potatoes into 1/4-inch thick pieces. Arrange on top of the dough and press them down gently. Brush potatoes with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with remaining herbs. Sprinkle coarse salt over the whole focaccia dough.
Let the dough rise for 20-30 minutes.
Bake bread for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.