Since good, ripe tomatoes have become available in these parts, I’ve more or less been living on various combinations of tomatoes and bread. There have been a lot of panzanella salads in my life recently, not to mention fattoush, BLTs, tomato and cheddar sandwiches, toasted bagels with cream cheese and tomatoes, tomato bruschetta…
…so couple of days ago, I decided to cut to the chase and just bake my tomatoes right into the bread.
This bread is focaccia that’s really bordering on pizza. It’s soft and light in the middle, a little crispy around the edges. Sweet, sun-ripened tomatoes are countered by slices of sharp red onion and cheddar cheese. Warm from the oven, a hunk makes a perfect afternoon snack or you can pair it with a green salad and a glass of wine for a satisfying lunch or dinner. That’s what I did and it’s likely what I’ll continue to do until I reach the other side of the loaf/the other side of tomato season.
If you look through the archives, you can clearly see that I love making/eating focaccia. Sure, I make other breads from time to time but I love the fact that focaccia doesn’t tie you to your kitchen all day. If you’re going to take on bread-baking in the summer, it’s the way to go.
Mix up the dough. Proof yeast in water with a pinch of sugar. Stir in more water, olive oil, salt, and flour. Once you have a scraggly ball of dough, dump it on the counter and knead for a few minutes until it’s smooth and workable. Pop it in a bowl, cover, and let it rise. Easy, peasy.
Once risen, turn the dough out and stretch it to fit a baking sheet. Cover and let it rise again while you prep the toppings and preheat the oven.
Top the dough with rings of purple onion, a couple of handfuls of sharp cheddar cheese, beautiful slices of tomato, and sprinkling of herbs. Bake!
When the focaccia is ready, the center will be gooey, cheesy, and pizza-like, the edges, crispy-crunchy. The tomatoes stay nice and juicy without making the bread soggy. And if you’re a fan of dunking grilled cheese sandwiches into tomato soup, there’s nothing not to love about the combination of flavors.
- 2¼ tsp. Active Dry Yeast
- ½ tsp. Sugar
- 1½ c. Warm Water, divided
- 1½ tsp. Kosher Salt, plus a little more for seasoning the tomatoes
- ¼ c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus a little more for the bowl and pan
- 3½-4 c. All-Purpose Flour
- 2 large Ripe Tomatoes, thinly sliced
- ½ large Red Onion, thinly sliced
- 1½ c. grated Extra Sharp Cheddar
- 3 bushy sprigs Rosemary
- Dissolve the yeast and sugar in ½ c. of warm water in a medium bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes until the mixture is creamy and bubbly. Add the remaining c. of water, 1½ tsp. salt, ¼ c. olive oil; stir to combine. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add about 3½ c. flour and stir until a rough ball forms. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead, adding more flour as needed, until the dough is smooth. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and place in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size, 45 minutes-1 hour.
- Lightly oil a baking sheet. When the dough has doubled, turn it out and stretch it into a rectangle to fit the pan. Cover and allow to rise for another 45 minutes. While the dough is rising for the second time, place the tomato slices between several layers of paper towels to drain some of the moisture so the finished bread won't be soggy. During the last 30 minutes of rising, preheat the oven to 425°.
- After the second rise is complete, top the dough with the sliced onions, grated cheese, and rosemary needles. Layer the drained tomatoes on top and season with a sprinkle of salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Bake until the bread is cooked through in the center and the edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.
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