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Cherry Tomato Focaccia

Summer is winding down here in the Northeast U.S., but I’ve still got plenty of teensy cherry tomatoes ripening on the vine in my garden. These mini cherry tomatoes are perfect atop a focaccia, although you could certainly use regular-sized cherry tomatoes instead. The basic no-knead focaccia recipe comes from Bon Appetit, and I added the tomatoes and rosemary. Feel free to try other herbs, such as thyme or oregano if rosemary isn’t to your liking.

The hardest part of this recipe is stretching the dough across the pan. It keeps wanting to spring back, but be persistent and keep pressing and stretching until it reaches all the edges. (NOT TRUE – SEE UPDATE BELOW)

UPDATE: Let the dough rise a second time in the pan BEFORE trying to stretch it out. It works much much better that way. This is a photo of the dough when I tried to stretch it out before letting it rise a second time. It worked, but it’s much better to let the blob of dough sit in the pan to rise a second time before pressing it out.

This is a photo of the dough after it had risen a second time. Only then, did I try to stretch it while in the pan, and it had already stretched nearly to all the edges by itself. After it had risen, and I stretched it the rest of the way into the corners of the pan, I dimpled it with fingers that were wet with a little olive oil.
Then I scattered the tomatoes, minced rosemary and kosher salt on top, with another little drizzle of olive oil.

Bake it in a 450 degree F. oven for about 20 minutes to a half hour, or until lightly golden.

The recipe makes enough for a crowd, so if you can’t eat it all the same day it’s baked, it’s best to freeze the leftovers and reheat another day.

Bon Appetit’s recipe calls for a brush of melted butter on top, but I prefer to drizzle with a bit more olive oil and sea salt, Pour yourself a nice drink, and enjoy a slice of this focaccia as a perfect accompaniment.

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Cherry Tomato Focaccia
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 ¼-oz. envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ tsp.)
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 5 cups (625 g) all-purpose flour
  • 5 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1 Tbsp. Morton kosher salt
  • 6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for hands
  • a bunch of cherry tomatoes
  • butter to grease the pan
  • Flaky sea salt
  • minced fresh rosemary
Instructions
  1. Whisk one ¼-oz. envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ tsp.), 2 tsp. honey, and 2½ cups lukewarm water in a medium bowl and let sit 5 minutes (it should foam or at least get creamy; if it doesn’t your yeast is dead and you should start again—check the expiration date!).
  2. Add 5 cups (625 g) all-purpose flour and 5 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1 Tbsp. Morton kosher salt and mix with a rubber spatula until a shaggy dough forms and no dry streaks remain.
  3. Pour 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil into a big bowl that will fit in your refrigerator.
  4. Transfer dough to bowl and turn to coat in oil.
  5. Cover with a silicone lid or plastic wrap and chill until dough is doubled in size (it should look very bubbly and alive), at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.
  6. If you're in a rush, you can also let it rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 3–4 hours.
  7. Generously butter a 13x9" baking pan, for thicker focaccia that’s perfect for sandwiches, or an 18x13" rimmed baking sheet, for focaccia that's thinner, crispier, and great for snacking.
  8. The butter may seem superfluous, but it’ll ensure that your focaccia doesn’t stick.
  9. Pour 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil into center of pan.
  10. Keeping the dough in the bowl and using a fork in each hand, gather up edges of dough farthest from you and lift up and over into center of bowl.
  11. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat process.
  12. Do this 2 more times; you want to deflate dough while you form it into a rough ball.
  13. Transfer dough to prepared pan.
  14. Pour any oil left in bowl over and turn dough to coat it in oil.
  15. Let rise, uncovered, in a dry, warm spot (like near a radiator or on top of the fridge or a preheating oven) until doubled in size, at least 1½ hours and up to 4 hours.
  16. Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 450°.
  17. To see if the dough is ready, poke it with your finger. It should spring back slowly, leaving a small visible indentation.
  18. 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.)
  19. Lightly oil your hands. If using a rimmed baking sheet, gently stretch out dough to fill.
  20. Dimple focaccia all over with your fingers, creating very deep depressions in the dough (reach your fingers all the way to the bottom of the pan).
  21. Place cherry tomatoes throughout the focaccia, pushing them down into the dough,
  22. Drizzle with remaining 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt and the minced rosemary.
  23. Bake focaccia until puffed and golden brown all over, 20–30 minutes.
  24. Drizzle with more olive oil and additional salt if needed.
  25. Focaccia is best eaten the day it's made, but keeps well in the freezer.
  26. Slice it into pieces, store it in a freezer-safe container, then reheat it on a baking sheet in a 300° F oven.

Stuffed Pull-Apart Christmas Tree Bread Knots

Whether it’s a good French baguette or hefty Italian bastone, I love a good loaf of bread, and don’t need any extra incentives to eat more. But this one is irresistible and can weaken my resolve to consume fewer carbs. It’s an easy-to-make stuffed bread treat that’s a kissin’ cousin to pizza. Your family and friends will love it (unless they’re gluten intolerant). With a glass of wine and a side salad, it was dinner for me and my husband last night. We could have eaten the whole thing by ourselves, but we stopped before we became truly gluttinous. You don’t have to make it in a Christmas tree shape, but that certainly does make it festive for the holidays. You could simply make it in a circle or wreath shape, or in a square format. I started out with frozen pizza dough – about a one pound package. Of course, you can make your own dough, if you’ve got the time and inclination. But there’s enough going on at this time of year, that I take short cuts when I can find them.

Start out by rolling or stretching the dough to a rectangle that’s about 6 inches by 16 inches. Have cooked sausage (1 large piece of Italian sausage, with the casings removed — crumbled and cooked in olive oil.) and some shredded mozzarella cheese nearby. Cut the dough into 16 pieces. You’ll need 15 for the actual tree, and one for the stump.

Press the piece of dough into a square shape and into the center of each piece of dough, place a small bit of the sausage and some of the cheese. Pinch the ends together firmly to seal. Make sure none of the filling is visible or it will leak onto the baking sheet.

Arrange the balls into a Christmas tree shape, pinched ends underneath, with the stump (which you have also filled with cheese and sausage) at the bottom.

Brush with beaten egg and bake in the oven. As soon as it comes out of the oven, brush with the garlic-infused olive oil, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, parsley and bits of tomato to decorate. Serve immediately.

Bet you can’t eat just one!

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Stuffed Pull-Apart Bread Knots
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 uncooked pizza dough (about 1 pound)
  • mozzarella cheese, about 2 cups shredded, or 1 large ball
  • 1 cup cooked Italian sausage, crumbled and cooled
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ⅛ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • a few sprigs of parsley, minced
  • marinara sauce, optional
Instructions
  1. Roll out the pizza dough into a rectangle, about 6 inches by 16 inches long.
  2. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, then cut each rectangle into 8 pieces.
  3. Flatten out each piece of dough into a square shape, then holding a piece of dough in your hand, stretch it a bit to accommodate a piece of sausage and a bit of the mozzarella cheese.
  4. Pinch the dough together, enveloping the filling inside the dough, shaping it into a ball.
  5. Place on a silicon baking mat, parchment paper or on a greased cookie sheet.
  6. If you're making a tree shape, you'll need 15 pieces, plus another one for the stump.
  7. If you're making a circle shape, make as many as will fit on your cookie sheet.
  8. After filling the dough, place on the Silpat mat, with the pinched side facing the baking sheet, making sure the dough balls touch each other slightly.
  9. Beat the egg and brush a little of the beaten egg over the dough balls.
  10. Bake in a preheated 15 to 20 minutes or until golden.
  11. While the dough is cooking, gently saute the garlic cloves in the olive oil.
  12. Drain the garlic, retaining the oil.
  13. Brush the oil over the dough, and sprinkle with the grated parmesan cheese and parsley.
  14. Decorate with bits of chopped tomato or roasted peppers.
  15. Serve immediately, with marinara sauce, if desired.