Also called focaccia bread, this is one of my favorite recipes to make with yeast. It's actually a simple dough that uses few ingredients and the result is spectacular: golden crust, salty and oily in the best possible way, with a crunchiness that is unparalleled. I love it with tomatoes, but it's very versatile when it comes to toppings. The aroma in the kitchen will make you a fan, if you're not one yet.
I can't write enough good things about focaccia. It's one of those amazing bread recipes that you'll want to make over and over. Once you make it, you'll understand why I'm such a fan! If you already eat it regularly, I bet you understand me completely.
What is focacccia?
It's an Italian yeasted bread, similar to a pizza but taller and with a crunchy golden brown crust that is heaven. They differ according to the region, but we can say they all include a drizzle of olive oil and salt on top before baking, and many times dry or fresh herbs.
It's very versatile when it comes to topping ingredients which include mostly Mediterranean flavors like garlic, sun dried tomatoes, olives, potato slices (it seems weird but is so good), maybe goat cheese, etc.
They are few and all very relevant, especially for the dough. The topping can be adjusted, but tomato and herbs is my favorite one, so we're starting with that.
- Flour: use bread flour if possible. It has more gluten, a protein that that is good for yeasted recipes because it creates the structure, the net that will hold the bread as it rises. All-purpose flour will work also, and very well.
- Yeast: this recipe works with dry (instant or active dry) and with fresh. I usually use dry because it keeps for a longer time in the refrigerator. All types will be explained in the recipe card so you can choose which one to use.
- Olive oil: this is essential for the flavor and texture of the focaccia, especially the top of the bread that will be incredibly crunchy. So use the best extra virgin one you can afford.
- Salt: I use sea salt or kosher salt. It's essential that you use a semi coarse one, especially for the topping, because it's part of the appeal when you bite into a piece of focaccia.
- Water: it's the liquid ingredient. There is another recipe in this blog that uses milk for a softer, more tender bread. If you want to check it out, it the Roasted Tomato Bread recipe.
- Tomatoes: I favor cherry tomatoes big time, because they're less watery, have great flavor year-round, and it's easier to cut the focaccia without dragging the whole tomato slice. But all types work: heirloom, grape tomatoes, etc.
- Olive oil: it's a non-negociable ingredient. Use the best extra virgin one you can afford.
- Salt: semi-coarse salt is the way to go. I like sea salt.
- Herbs: fresh or dried, they both work. Traditional focaccia is made with rosemary, but for this tomato version I like to use fresh oregano and thyme.
Though there are exceptions (like the No-knead French Bread recipe) making yeast doughs usually include kneading them for a while, like 10 minutes by hand, and letting them rest before baking to allow the yeast and structure to develop and do their magic in the oven.
Focaccia is a very easy bread to knead and quite forgiving when it comes to proofing, or doubling in size, so it's a great recipe to start your baking journey. It's hard to mess up, but following instructions is still paramount. You do need to respect the fact that yeast has a process, that you do need a warm place to let it rise, do so in an oiled bowl, you need a preheated oven and so forth. Don't rush it, and you'll be fine. Even if it's your first time making it.
- By hand: I simply use a large bowl, a wooden spoon (or a regular one) and my hands. For me kneading by hand is one of the reasons I love to bake with yeast, especially with simple doughs like this one.
- With a mixer: you can use the bowl of a stand mixer to make the first part of the dough, and the dough hook to knead it, until you have a smooth, soft dough that leaves the sides of the bowl. It will be faster and take less arm muscle.
I put together a step-by-step video to guide you 👇🏻
- Pan: you can use a round cake pan (images below) or a rectangular sheet pan or baking pan like the one shown in the video tutorial above. The difference will be of height and sometimes how the bottom of the focaccia bakes. Some types of material give it a better color than others.
- Dimpling the dough: this is a key step because the oil will pool there and create that traditional crackly golden crust. What you do on the surface of the dough is crucial to making a good focaccia.
- Oil and salt: olive oil is non-negotiable when it comes to making this focaccia bread. And the best brand you can afford will give you the best flavor. The salt is also important and i love sea salt or kosher salt, coarser than regular table.
- Tomatoes: halved cherry tomatoes are my favorite because they good most of the year. Other types like grape tomatoes or heirloom lack flavor if not in season. But it's your bread so it's your choice.
- Pre-heated oven: this is crucial as the bread needs a hot oven to get that first boost and rise well. If you didn't remember to turn it on, do so and let the focaccia wait the ten or fifteen minutes it takes for it to come to the temperature in the recipe.
- Steam: creating some type of steam as you put the focaccia into the oven will help even more with that insanely crackly crust. If you don't the focaccia bread will still be amazing, so don't fret too much about it. But if you're up to it, have ready a sprayer with water and squeeze it several times as you put the pan in the oven. The water will quickly evaporate creating steam. Immediately close the door so it doesn't go out. You can also use half a cup of very hot or boiling water, and throw it quickly in the bottom of the oven, but this one is trickier.
- When is it done? it will turn golden brown and crisp and the bottom will sound hollow when lightly tapped. For this you need to
- Baking stone: I never baked it on a baking stone but I know people that use it. They use a piece of parchment paper to stretch and dimple the risen dough instead of a baking sheet, and use a pizza peel to slide the paper into the oven.
- Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
Make sure it's active. To do that put a pinch of active dry or fresh yeast, whichever you're using, in a small cup and add a few teaspoons of water. It should start to foam in a few minutes, or start showing a few bubbles or bulge a little. In short, it should not be the same way as when you started. For instant yeast, you have to add a few teaspoons of flour also and sometimes wait a little longer until you start to see some activity.
Active dry yeast. This is they type I use because it's easy to store for a long time in the refrigerator and works very well every time. You'll find an explanation of all types of yeast in the Notes part of the recipe card.
- Details: baking with yeast is all in the details, so don't overlook them. By details I mean use active yeast, use lukewarm water for the yeast mixture, proof in a warm place and use an oiled bowl, let it double in size. All of those words mean a lot and make sure you take them seriously. I add this bullet point because paying attention to those little words will make baking much easier and the results better.
- Toppings: play around with different herbs and other ingredients like kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, sliced onion, roasted garlic cloves. I sometimes add some tomato pesto and goat cheese, and you can probably get away with some tomato sauce if you like thick pizza though it's not what is used. Let your imagination and palate try new combinations.
- Make ahead: I recommend making the focaccia and freezing it if you want to make it ahead of time. Always well wrapped, first in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil.
Frequently asked questions
Focaccia has more ingredients (olive oil the most relevant one) and uses way more salt than regular white bread like baguettes. It usually has a topping which includes herbs, though it can be made with just oil and coarse salt.
With this recipe! At the end of this post you'll find the recipe card with ingredients, instructions, and extra tips in the Notes section.
It can, and many times it is. But the toppings and thickness of the bread are very different.
That has to do with the yeast: it might've been to old and lack strength, it might be too little and it didn't have enough rising power, or you may have forgot to add it (it happens!). Unless you make a recipe that calls for sourdough starter, you need to use yeast that is active (dry or fresh, both work).
If it's well wrapped in plastic, it can last 2 days at room temperature. Otherwise, it will last a couple of hours before it loses the crunchiness. After that, put it in the fridge covered in plastic wrap. Or you can freeze it, well wrapped, for a month. Thaw at room temperature. And always warm it in a medium oven (350°F/180°C) for about 15 minutes before eating.
Other recipes you might like:
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Sometimes called focaccia bread, this is one of my favorite recipes to make with yeast. It's actually a simple dough that uses few ingredients and the result is spectacular: golden crust, salty and oily in the best possible way, with a crunchiness that is unparalleled. I love it with tomatoes, but it's very versatile when it comes to toppings. The aroma in the kitchen will make you a fan, if you're not one yet.
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon sugar or honey
- 2 teaspoons dry yeast (or 6 teaspoons fresh)
- 2 to 2 ½ cups bread or all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon each fresh oregano and thyme
- Put warm water, yeast, sugar in a large bowl (if you use a stand mixer use its bowl) and mix lightly. Leave 4-5 minutes until foamy or bubbly.
- Add half of the flour and mix with a spoon.
- Add the olive oil and salt.
- Mix everything and add the rest of the flour in half cups or so.
- Wait until al the flour is incorporated and see if it comes together. You might not need all the flour.
- Move this mass to the counter and knead for 5 minutes (or in the machine using the dough hook) until it’s well integrated and smooth but slightly sticky. This is fine. Don’t be tempted to add flour until it loses all the stickiness because it will make a tough crust.
- Transfer to an oiled bowl, turn the dough so that all sides are greased, cover with film or a kitchen towel and leave to rise until it doubles its volume, about 1 hour.
- Have ready a round or square 8 or 9-inch pan, well oiled. The difference in size will result in a higher or shorter focaccia.
- Punch the dough down softly and transfer the dough to the oiled pan.
- Stretch with your hands without forcing it and making sure it doesn't tear. It might refuse to stretch as much as you want on your first try, so let it rest for a few minutes and stretch it some more. Do this until it fills the pan.
- Cover with a kitchen towel or loose piece of plastic wrap and leave to rise until puffy, about 45 minutes. At this point, you can put the pan (tightly covered with plastic wrap but not touching the surface if possible) in the refrigerator until the next day. Take it out and leave it at room temperature until it puffs up before continuing.
- Turn the oven to 400°F/200°C about 20 minutes before you plan to bake it, so it's well pre-heated.
- Dimple the surface with your fingers, making indentations but without breaking the dough. Some dimples will stay in place, some will spring back, it's normal. Just make sure most of the surface is covered.
- Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and herbs on top.
- Top with halved cherry tomatoes or slices of large ones.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. If in doubt, lift carefully a corner of the focaccia (you should be able to do this pretty easily) and check that the bottom is brown and crisp. Leave it a few more minutes if you need to.
- Transfer to a wire rack and let cool a little before removing it from the pan.
- Eat warm, or let cool completely, wrap tightly and freeze for a month or more. Let thaw at room temperature and warm before eating.
Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
Active dry. This is my first choice and the one I always use. It's easy to store in the refrigerator and allows the dough to rise well without the risk of doing it too quickly. This type of yeast needs to be mixed first with a liquid and a tiny bit of sugar to activate.
Instant dry or rapid rise. I sometimes use it if I don't have active dry yeast. The difference is that its particles are smaller and it activates quicker, hence the name. It doesn't need to be mixed with liquid first, you can add it directly to the flour. I found that it can rise too quickly sometimes, especially if the place is warmer than usual. So it's not the one I usually use.
Fresh yeast. This one is my last choice, not because it doesn't work well, but because it doesn't keep for long, a few weeks at the most in the fridge, if that. It comes in a cube usually and, when it's fresh, it should be crumbly, with an even whitish grey hue and foam after a few minutes when mixed with liquid and sugar. You need 3 times the amount, so if a recipe calls for a teaspoon of dry yeast, you should use three of fresh.
Activating yeast. You have to make sure it's active. To do that put a pinch of active dry or fresh yeast, whichever you're using, in a small cup and add a few teaspoons of water. It should start to foam in a few minutes, or start showing a few bubbles or bulge a little. In short, it should not be the same way as when you started. For instant yeast, you have to add a few teaspoons of flour also and sometimes wait a little longer until you start to see some activity.
Toppings: play around with different herbs and other ingredients like olives, sun dried tomatoes, onion, etc. Let your imagination and palate try new combinations.
Make ahead: I recommend making the focaccia and freezing it if you want to make it ahead of time. Always well wrapped, first in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil.
Keywords: tomato focaccia