Tomato and Sea Salt Focaccia
It’s hot, unbearably so and we’re walking through the wild medieval style streets of Bari’s old town. It’s a tough place to get your bearings. Even at just one square km, its narrow winding streets mean that google maps has a hard time picking up which one you’re actually on. Add to that the fear of being killed by a local flying around the corner on their Vespa or Fiat 500 and it’s all a little too much for me. We take our first opportunity to escape.
Although not it’s home city (focaccia, as we know it today, is thought to come from Liguria), focaccia is everywhere in Bari. Where we have chippers and takeaways, the Barese have focacceria – selling only focaccia and beer. The soft bread is loaded with tomato, herbs and olive oil and heated before serving, usually giving a slight burn to the bottom which adds to the texture and flavour. I’ve never had it quite the same anywhere else – like the city itself, its focaccia is a bit on the wild side.
You can do something similar to the Barese with this focaccia if you have a contact grill or panini maker. Allow the bread to cool to room temperature after baking. Heat your grill so it’s quite hot and put in the desired portion of focaccia. Don’t be too aggressive with the lid as you don’t want to squash the bread! Allow it to heat through and even burn slightly on the bottom. Enjoy with a cold beer.
(Makes 1 loaf)
500g “00” Flour (or strong bread flour)
15g Dried Yeast
1/2 tsp of Sugar
300ml of Warm Water
10g Fine Sea Salt
3 tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (plus extra for drizzling)
1 tbsp Maldon Sea Salt (flakes)
12 Cherry Tomatoes (halved)
2 tbsp Fresh Oregano (optional)
Put the water, yeast and sugar into a measuring jug and stir. Leave to sit for a few minutes until the surface foams.
Add the flour, fine salt, yeast/water mix and olive oil into the bowl of a stand mixer. Turn the speed to minimum until the dough comes together before turning it up to medium and allowing it to work for 10 minutes. If making by hand: bring the ingredients together in a bowl and form a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10-15 minutes until smooth and elastic. Being quite a wet dough, focaccia is far easier to make in a mixer than by hand.
Once kneaded, place the dough into a well oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Allow to rise until doubled in size (depending on the weather, this should take between one and two hours). Slide the dough onto a well oiled baking tray (or one lined with parchment paper) and use your fingertips to indent the dough, spreading it out as you go until it is about 3cm thick. Brush with olive oil and cover loosly with cling film – do not cover the dough tight as it needs to rise further.
Allow the dough to rise again until doubled in size (30 mins to 1 hour) before adding your toppings. Gently push the halved cherry tomatoes into the dough trying to lose as little air as possible. Scatter over the oregano (if using) before drizzling generously with olive oil and sprinkling on the flakes of salt. Cook in a 200 degree C. (fan oven) for 25 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack.