Heirloom Tomato & Basil Focaccia with Chili-Garlic Oil

It seems lately we’ve been craving pizza and focaccia and bread daily. In the summer months, when the markets offer so many juicy, perfect tomatoes, I find myself making tomato-topped focaccia more often than not (my other great weakness is herbed focaccia, especially rosemary).

Here is last week’s very summery focaccia. We ate it with an array of fresh and aged cheeses; roasted beets with walnuts and tarragon; steamed string beans splashed with olive oil, garlic, and parsley; and a refreshing green salad with lemon and olive oil. What more can you ask for? Oh, and we had amazing nectarines and fresh figs for dessert. We’re going to miss summer!!

Remember to allow 24 hours for the dough to rise in the refrigerator for best flavor.

Makes one 14-inch focaccia (serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer)

For the dough:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1/3 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2/3 teaspoon sea salt, plus 1/8 teaspoon for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons room temperature water, plus extra if needed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the bowl

For the topping:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 1 large or 2 small, juicy, ripe yellow or other heirloom tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 12 basil leaves, cut into thin strips


Make the dough: Place the flour, yeast, and 2/3 teaspoon of the salt in a large bowl. Mix well with a wooden spoon.

Add the water, and stir well. If the dough is too dry to gather around the spoon, add a bit more water by the teaspoon until the dough gathers into a soft mass around the spoon. If the dough is sticky, add a bit of flour by the teaspoon until it forms a cohesive, soft mass.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead vigorously for 10 minutes, or until it is very smooth and elastic. Try to add as little flour as possible to the dough as you knead it; the more flour you add, the denser the focaccia will be. It is all right if the dough sticks to your hands a little; knead it faster and it will tend to stick less. The dough is kneaded sufficiently when it is smooth and even in texture all the way through, and when it springs back when poked with a finger; it will also stretch about 6 inches without tearing when pulled apart with two hands.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in it.

Turn it to coat with the oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for 1 hour, or until starting to increase in volume. Refrigerate 12 to 24 hours (a 24-hour rise yields a tastier dough). Return to room temperature when you are ready to shape the dough and bake the focaccia.

One hour before you are ready to bake the focaccia, and after it has returned to room temperature, preheat the oven with a baking stone on the bottom rack to 425 degrees (preferably set on convection bake).

Lightly oil a 14-inch shallow pizza pan. Turn the risen dough out onto the oiled pan and using your fingers, push and flatten gently so it stretches out a bit. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes (if you try to stretch the dough too far at this point, it will simply spring back, as the gluten needs to relax).

Uncover and flatten again so the dough extends and covers the entire base of the pan. Try to stretch it evenly so it does not tear anywhere or have thin patches. Brush with the tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Let rest 15 minutes, uncovered.

Make the topping: When you are ready to bake, thinly slice the tomato. Arrange decoratively on the focaccia dough, possibly without overlapping (be sure to use any of the delicious juices from the tomato; just pour any juices from the cutting board onto the dough). Season with the salt.

In a bowl, mix the olive oil, garlic, and chili. Brush 1 tablespoon of the mixture over the focaccia dough, but try to use all the garlic at this point (ideally, you will have just olive oil left; raw garlic can be a bit jarring on the focaccia after baking).

Place the pizza pan on the hot baking stone and bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Using a plant mister, spray the focaccia three times with water during the first 10 minutes of baking. Be sure to close the oven door quickly each time or else the oven temperature will drop.

Remove from the oven, and brush with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with the basil. Cut into wedges and enjoy hot.