Yesterday, as I gloriously splashed around in Lake Sammamish on a perfect PNW summer Saturday, I commented to my (socially distant) friend Stephanie that this was the type of weekend we spend the rest of the year waiting for. It was warm out (but not too hot), the water was refreshing (but not cold!), and once we got back to shore, we had a wine tasting waiting for us. And to soak up the wine, we had about-to-be grilled halibut, and this Crispy-Edged Focaccia with Tomatoes and Zucchini.
There should probably be some new word to define the overwhelming emotion that is “I can’t express the rush of joy I feel being in close-ish proximity to my friends.” Like lots of other folks, I’ve mostly kept to my house over the past four months. It’s the responsible thing to do, and for me, and hardly seems like much of an ask in the face of a global pandemic. Of course, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get tiring, even though I live with my lovely partner (and we equally agree that we can’t believe how well we’re getting along, what with all of this togetherness). I just miss my friends. And the outside.
So, with masks in hand, boundaries agreed on, and outdoor plans firmed up, we headed to Jen and Tim’s for an amazing afternoon of being on the water, tasting wine, mostly, giddily enjoying a PNW summer evening with friends. The Wine Tribe tasting resulted in some excellent finds (I’ll leave it to Steph to post those results soon!), Jen and Tim made an incredible dinner (with drool-worthy tomatoes from their garden) and, I’m pleased to say, the focaccia did itself justice.
Speaking of friends, this focaccia recipe, with the adaptations, came directly from my pal Christopher. He and I like to give one another real-time updates on what we’re making for dinner (or dessert or perhaps cocktail hour). When he texted me photos of the gorgeous, chewy-cheesy-crispy edged glory of a gluten-filled dream, I demand details. As it turns out, he took this great recipe and pizza-fied it. He was kind enough to share the details for me, so that I, in turn, could zhuzh it up in my own way. I kept the crispy edge (brilliant) and added a bunch of sautéed veggies to highlight some glorious summertime produce and make it more of a side dish. The end result is an airy, chewy bread topped with crispy, cheese edges and filled with the heartiness and tang of summer veggies.
This recipe is a great one to try for bread-baking newbies, or just anyone who loves a good focaccia. It is quite simple, and the original recipe from Bon Appetite has some great videos that explain it step-by-step.
Using Christopher’s techniques, I made the following changes:
Christopher noted that, for his pizza purposes, he actually split the dough into 2 separate 9×13 glass baking dishes. He felt that created the right thickness. For what I was making – more focaccia like, but still not wanting a super thick dough, I used a large lasagna pan, 10×14.
I used the kind of mozzarella that comes in a vacuum-sealed pack, not in water
Of course, you can make this as cheesy – or not – as you like. But piling the cheese around the edges is a must for those perfect, crispy edges.
Obviously, using any veggies will work great; I went with summer produce, but subbing anything that’s in season will work perfectly well. I would suggest cooking it fully before topping the focaccia
A few extra photos for guidance:
Here’s what it looks like, unbaked but with the cheese lining the edges:
Still unbaked, with cheese edges + cooked veggies in the center:
And the full focaccia, after it’s come out of the oven:
1 1⁄4-oz. envelope active dry yeast (about 2 1⁄4 tsp.)
2 teaspoons honey
5 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons. Diamond Crystal or 1 tablespoon Morton kosher salt
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for hands
Unsalted butter, plus more for pan
Flaky sea salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
red pepper flakes, to taste
8–10 ounces mozzarella, grated
Whisk one 1⁄4-oz. envelope active dry yeast (about 2 1⁄4 tsp.), 2 tsp. honey, and 2 1⁄2 cups lukewarm water in a medium bowl and let sit 5 minutes.
Add 5 cups all-purpose flour and kosher salt and mix with a rubber spatula until a shaggy dough forms and no dry streaks remain.
Pour 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil into a big bowl that will fit in your refrigerator. Transfer dough to bowl and turn to coat in oil. Cover plastic wrap and chill until dough is doubled in size, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. Or, let it rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 3–4 hours.
Prepare your pan by generously buttering a 13×9″ baking pan – for thicker focaccia – or an 18×13″ rimmed baking sheet – for thinner, crispier focaccia (note: I used a 14×10 lasagna pan for something in-between). Pour 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil into center of pan.
Keeping the dough in the bowl and using a fork in each hand (note: I used my hands!), gather up edges of dough farthest from you and lift up and over into center of bowl. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat process. Do this 2 more times; you want to deflate dough while you form it into a rough ball.
Transfer dough to prepared pan. Pour any oil left in bowl over and turn dough to coat it in oil. Let rise, uncovered, in a dry, warm until doubled in size, at least 1 1⁄2 hours and up to 4 hours.
In the meanwhile, prepare your fillings. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the garlic and sauté until light brown, then add the zucchini, and cook for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Season with red pepper, salt, and pepper, to taste.
Add the tomatoes and continuing cooking, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have cooked down and are looking jammy. Remove from heat, and allow to cool while the dough finishes rising.
Preheat to 450°. To see if the dough is ready, poke it with your finger. It should spring back slowly, leaving a small visible indentation. If it springs back quickly, the dough isn’t ready. (If at this point the dough is ready to bake but you aren’t, you can chill it up to 1 hour.)
Lightly oil your hands. If using a rimmed baking sheet, gently stretch out dough to fill (you probably won’t need to do this if using a baking pan). Dimple focaccia all over with your fingers, like you’re aggressively playing the piano, creating very deep depressions in the dough (reach your fingers all the way to the bottom of the pan).
Drizzle with remaining 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
Using about two-thirds of the cheese, sprinkle enthusiastically around the edges of the dough. Fill the center with the cooked veggies.
Place in oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes, until the cheesy edges start to darken. Remove the focaccia from the oven and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the middle of the bread, and on top of the veggies. Return to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the focaccia until puffed and golden brown all over, 20–30 minutes.
Focaccia is best the day it’s made, and served warm. To reheat, place in a 250° oven for about 10-15 minutes until heated to (it also tastes pretty rad the next day, with a fried egg on top).
Strudel and Streusel are two friends living in different cities, sharing a love of baking (and butter) through this blog. With Streusel in Denver, and Strudel in Seattle, we've found our little site to be a great way to stay in touch, share recipes we love, and talk about experiences in our respective cities.