a large round focaccia, serving 10 or more
The topping of marinated onions and cherry tomatoes is simple and delicious. With this dough as a base, however, you can be creative and make a focaccia with mushrooms, leeks, sausages or cheese. Keep in mind though that a simple topping, with a few distinct and harmonious flavors, is always more successful than a topping that tries to incorporate too many things. Be sure to season your topping ingredients and, where appropriate, cook and cool them before assembling the focaccia, so they don’t just dry out in the oven.
- 2 packets active dry yeast
- 2¼ cup warm water
- 5-1/2 cups (about 27 ounces) all-purpose flour plus more for handling the dough
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, for the bread bowl
- For the topping
- 1 large onion, peeled, halved and sliced thinly (about 2 cups slices)
- 2 cups ripe cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil or as needed
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt or as needed
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
To make the dough:
Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup warm water and let it sit for several minutes until it begins to bubble. Put the flour and salt in the food processor bowl.
Stir together the active yeast and 2 cups lukewarm water in a spouted measuring cup. With the processor running continuously, blend the flour and salt briefly then pour in all the liquid through the feed tube and process for about 30 seconds. A soft, moist dough should gather on the blade with some sticking to the sides of the bowl.
If it’s very sticky and hasn’t come off the sides at all, incorporate more flour, a tablespoon or 2 at a time, to stiffen the dough and bring it together. If the dough is dry, process in more water in small amounts.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, scraping the bowl and blade clean. Knead by hand for a minute, using as little flour as possible, until the dough forms a smooth round, still soft and a bit sticky. Coat a big bowl with the tablespoon olive oil, drop in the dough, and turn it to oil it all over. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.
While the dough is rising, toss together the sliced onions, cherry tomato halves, 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl and let them marinate.
Coat the baking dish or pan, bottom and sides, with 2 tablespoons or more of olive oil. Deflate the risen dough and lay it in the pan. Gently press and stretch it into an evenly flat round that fills the pan. If the dough is resistant, let it relax for a few minutes before stretching it again.
Lift the marinated onions and tomatoes out of the bowl with a slotted spoon, draining off the juices. Scatter the vegetables all over the focaccia and lightly press in with your fingertips, creating dimples in the soft dough. Finally, drizzle the marinating oil over the top.
Let the focaccia rise, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the center of the oven (with the baking stone on it, if you have one) and heat to 425°. Just before baking, gently dimple the dough again with your fingertips and sprinkle another ½ teaspoon coarse salt all over. Bake the focaccia for about 20 minutes, rotate the pan back to front for even cooking and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, or even longer, until the bread is golden brown and the onions and tomatoes are nicely caramelized.
Remove the pan and drizzle or brush another tablespoon or two of olive oil over the focaccia. Finally, crumble the dried oregano between your palms, scattering the herb all over the top. Let the focaccia cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve it warm or at room temperature.