We’ve rounded the corner into September, and I have that funny feeling in my belly, like I need to be sharpening my pencils or catching up on the list of summer reading. Even though all the little kiddos in town are back to school though, it is still summer, and we’re still getting a lot of tomatoes. Are you tuning out? Have I talked too much about tomatoes lately? Oh well.
After all this time of eating nearly-naked tomatoes to appreciate their summery perfection, I’m finally back to being able to entertain the idea of using them as an actual ingredient or complement to something. I got stuck on the idea of tomato-basil focaccia, but I don’t always love the way herbs bake up in the oven—kind of weird and crunchy. So, I just stirred the basil into the dough, and it turned out beautifully. The tomatoes crinkle and steam down into a soft, jammy topping that makes this bread almost a meal unto itself.
(I really love focaccia-style breads—they’re yeasted but not fussy, totally delicious, and doable within a day (although forgiving enough for an overnight rise). Here are two other focaccias that have appeared here, all based on the same template from David Tanis: Focaccia with scallions & sage and Rustic harvest bread with merlot grapes)
Basil focaccia with summer tomatoes
Adapted from David Tanis’s recipe in The Heart of the Artichoke
You know me—I’m normally all about kosher salt, but there’s something really nice about the flaky crunch of a splurge-ier salt on this foccacia bread—so I used a little Maldon for finishing. Kosher, or any other salt, will certainly do, though.
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup sweet basil, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons fine-grained or kosher salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
- About 2 pounds tomatoes–heirloom varieties such as Cherokee Purple work nicely here–sliced about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick
- Coarse salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling
- Mix yeast into 1/2 cup of the water in a large bowl, and ‘feed’ it with 3 tablespoons of the all-purpose flour. Let sit until bubbly, about five minutes.
- Add the rest of the flour and water, the basil, salt, and olive oil, and mix with a wooden spoon until it forms a sticky, shaggy ball. Sprinkle with a little flour, turn out onto the counter, and work with your hands just for a minute or so.
- Lightly oil a bowl (if you’re like me and want to minimize dishes, wash the bowl you mixed the dough in and then oil it), place the ball of dough inside and cover the bowl tightly.
- Put the bowl in the fridge overnight to rise, or alternatively, let it sit at room temperature on the counter for about four hours. It will not double in size like other yeasted doughs, but it will rise significantly.
- The next day, or after the countertop rise, line a sheet pan with parchment paper, generously oil the parchment paper, and gently press the dough in. Be generous with the oil, this helps give the focaccia to obtain its signature crunchy crust.
- Allow to rise again in a warm place for about an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly dimple the surface of the dough with the pads of your fingers. Arrange the tomato slices on the surface of the dough, not completely covering its surface. Press them into the dough gently. Drizzle with olive oil and coarse salt, and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown.