Flour. Water. Salt. Yeast. The essence of bread. Add olive oil, prepare the yeast and let rest until bubbly, and we have the ingredients for traditional Focaccia bread. Crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside. Now add some toppings to level up the Focaccia bread. A little more work, but absolutely worth it. The proof is in the…bread! I added oven-dried cherry tomatoes, caramelized red onion, and freshly-ground Reggiano Parmesan cheese.
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (King Arthur)
1 packet dry yeast
3 cups water
Pinch of sugar
2 Tbsp salt
5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for greasing and drizzling
Prepare the Dough
Combine flour and 2 1/2 cups room-temperature water in a bowl, and mix. Cover with plastic and let rest.
Stir yeast, sugar, and 1/2 cup warm water in a glass or small bowl to dissolve. Let rest until yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes.
Combine yeast mixture with dough until it absorbs all additional water. Add salt and continue to mix, until dough is extremely elastic and very sticky.
Pour 3 Tbsp oil into a large bowl and coat sides. Scrape in dough with a large spatula or flexible scraper. Cover and place in a warm spot until dough is doubled in volume, 2–3 hours.
Drizzle 2 Tbsp oil over a baking sheet pan and rub all over bottom and sides of the baking pan. Fold dough inside bowl a couple of times to deflate, then scrape onto prepared sheet pan. Using oiled hands, lift up dough and fold over onto itself in half, then rotate baking sheet 90° and fold in half again. Cover dough with a piece of plastic and let rest 10 minutes to let gluten relax.
Uncover and go back in with oiled hands, gently stretching dough (to avoid tearing) across length and width of baking sheet in an even layer, working all the way to edges and into corners.
Let sheet pan sit in a warm spot until dough is puffed and bubbly and nearly doubled in height, 45–65 minutes (if you’re using a standard half sheet pan, it will have risen to the very top of the sides). Meanwhile, place a rack in center of oven; preheat to 450 F.
Level up with Toppings
While the dough is rising, prepare the toppings. Slice cherry tomatoes in half, and face up, place on baking sheet. Dry in oven at 250 F for 30-60 minutes (do not burn or over-dry). Remove from baking sheet, and set aside.
Slice red onion into rings, and cut each ring into quarters. Lightly sauté onion pieces in pan coated with olive oil. Set aside.
Grate Parmesan onto a plate, and set aside (I grate my own from a whole block of Parmesan cheese, because most packaged, pre-grated Parmesan contains cellulose fillers).
Finish Dough and Add Toppings
Remove plastic and drizzle dough generously with more oil. Oil hands again and press fingertips firmly into dough, pushing down all the way to bottom of pan to dimple all over.
Place oven-dried cherry tomatoes (cut side facing up) an inch to two apart in dimples of dough. Gently spread caramelized onion between tomatoes. Top with freshly-ground Reggiano Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle generously with sea salt.
Final Step – Bake!
Bake Focaccia bread until surface is golden brown, 25–35 minutes. Do not over-bake so that the bread is crusty on the outside, and retains its chewy character on the inside. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Slide a thin spatula underneath Focaccia to loosen from sheet pan, and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely before cutting as desired.