It’s always the same at this time of year, I race to make sure I’ve made all my summer favorites as the month of August marches on. The farmer’s market is at its absolute height right now, and the colorful heirloom tomatoes are finally here. They were a little late this season and I was starting to worry. My favorites are the teeny tiny ones, I use them for salads, salsas, and this focaccia bread.
I love my focaccia recipe, I’ve been making it for years and it always comes out perfectly. It takes a little over an hour to make from start to finish, and I can customize it for the season or the occasion. This is the high summer version. The little tomatoes burst open when you bite into it and their sweet juice, along with the rosemary, the Parmesan, and the salty bread is a real treat.
The soft sticky dough needs only 40 minutes to rise, and then you pat it out into a rough rectangle on a baking sheet. You dip your fingers in olive oil and poke it all over so there are luscious little pools of oil that flavor the bread. Then on go the tomatoes, some fresh rosemary, sea salt, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. There’s no second rise, it goes right into a hot oven.
This is a great project for a beginning cook — the recipe is simple and straightforward but the result has got a real wow factor, and it feeds a crowd. You can top it with thinly sliced lemons, olives, sliced artichokes…the possibilities are endless.
What You Will Need
- 2 cups warm water (110F)
- 2 tsp yeast (1 packet)
- 2 tsp table salt
- 4 cups bread flour
- olive oil
- fresh rosemary leaves (approximately 2 or 3 Tablespoons)
- 1 pint of tiny heirloom tomatoes (or any small tomato)
- grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling
- Kosher or sea salt for sprinkling over the top
- set the oven to 425F
- Put the yeast in a large mixing bowl and pour in the warm water.
- Add the salt and 2 cups of the flour, mix into a soft and sticky dough.
- Add the remaining 2 cups of flour and mix well. (The dough will still be sticky)
- Cover and let rise for 40 minutes in a warm place.
- Press out the dough on a well oiled, or silpat lined baking sheet. Using your fingers, ease it into a rectangle, approximately 9×13, give or take.
- Put the olive oil in a small bowl and dip your fingers into the oil, and then all over the bread, poking the bread surface and leaving little pools of oil. Do this all over the bread. Don’t skimp; this will result in great flavor after the bread is baked.
- Arrange the tomatoes across the top, pressing them into the dough slightly, then scatter the rosemary leaves evenly across the surface. Sprinkle sea salt over all, and finally top with a dusting of Parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly golden.
- The rosemary will crisp up in the oven, so you may want to scatter some fresh leaves on top of the bread after baking to refresh the rosemary flavor and give it visual appeal.
Unless you are experienced with yeast, use an instant read thermometer (which every kitchen should have) to check the temperature of the water, it is essential to have it at the correct temperature or the yeast will not rise. You will need truly tiny tomatoes for this recipe. Even smaller than standard cherry tomatoes. If all you can find are cherry tomatoes, halve them before putting them on the dough.