Red Onion Focaccia

On Saturday we had a lazy day at home and couldn’t be bothered to go shopping in the morning, so lunch was going to have to be created out of odds and ends and store-cupboard ingredients. We had two red onions left over, and some new herbs in our window box, so decided to try a focaccia.

I’ve only made focaccia once before and it was fine, though a little flat and unremarkable. So I spent a good chunk of time reading recipes, noting down the bits I liked best, and since I couldn’t decide on any one recipe to follow, went for a hybrid.

For the dough I used Richard Bertinet’s olive oil bread recipe, but I also pre-roasted onions for the top as suggested by Dan Lepard. And since I’m a fan of deep, bready focaccia rather than shallow and crispy, I decided to cook it in a deeper 24 x 17.5cm baking tin rather than a larger shallow one. I decided to cook the bread at a lower heat than Richard Bertinet suggested, so I didn’t singe the already-cooked onions. But since I’d also gone for a deep focaccia it took a little longer than expected to ensure it was properly cooked through.

The result? A really tasty bread, with a nice crunch on the top and sides, but a soft olivey crumb inside. The onions had a nice delicate sweetness to them, which went really well with the rosemary.

I think next time I’d like to try replacing some of the water with ale. Luis Troyano went for 100% ale; Dan Lepard suggests exchanging 25% of the water for beer – I suspect that olives complement the tang of ale quite nicely, but 100% beer might obliterate the sweetness of red onions.

Anyway, here’s my recipe:


500g strong white bread flour
20g coarse semolina (or extra flour)
8g dried yeast
10g salt
50g olive oil
320g water
2 red onions
Extra olive oil


Start off by roasting the onions. Don’t peel them, just pop them in the oven whole for about 1.5 to 2 hours, until they are soft and saggy. Whenever they’re done, just trim off the root and peel off the skin, trying to keep the onion whole. Then cut each onion into about 8 pieces, trying to keep the layers together as much as possible. Leave to cool.

Whilst the onions are cooking away, put the flour, semolina, yeast and salt in a bowl together, then add the olive oil and water and mix together.

Once the dough has come together, turn it out onto a clean work surface and knead for around 10 minutes until it looks silky and smooth. I’d recommend using Richard Bertinet’s kneading technique, which is really good for high hydration doughs and gets a good amount of air into it. Rather than trying to describe it, you’re best off watching this video.

After about 10 minutes the dough will have lost its stickiness and will feel kind of alive! Form it into a ball and put it into a lightly oiled bowl. You’ll need to cover the bowl with cling film, and since the dough is going to grow quite a lot, you don’t want it to stick to the cling film. So either oil the cling film, or rub a bit of olive oil onto the top of the dough.

Leave it to prove at room temperature for an hour or so, until it’s at least doubled in size. Mine took around 1.15 for me to be happy with it.

Lightly oil your baking tray, and then gently turn the dough out into the centre of the baking tray. Try not to tear at the dough as you’ll lose the airiness inside – slide a scraper underneath it and let it gently fall from the bowl, and try wetting the scraper slightly if the dough is sticky.

Stretch it out into a rough rectangle, trying not to handle it too much. Then do a full letter fold: Fold the bottom third up, then the top third down over it. Then do the same with the left and right. You’ll now have a far firmer dough. Turn it over so the seam is facing down and then pour about 2tbsp of olive oil on the top. As the dough relaxes, gently press it towards the edges of the tin, trying not to deflate it too much.

Cover and leave to prove for 30 minutes.

Remove the cling film and with the tips of your fingers, dimple the dough, making sure not to push right through to the bottom. You may want to dip your fingers in some olive oil, but there will probably be enough on the dough already to stop your fingers sticking.

Cover and leave for another 30 minutes, during which time you will want to preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan) / 390F / gas mark 6.

It’s then time to garnish the focaccia. Pop a few sprigs of rosemary into some of the dimples, then gently push the onion slices into the dough – don’t force them. Finally, sprinkle over the rest of the rosemary and some salt flakes. Leave for another 10-15 minutes, which just gives time for the onions to settle and the dough to form up around them a little.

Then bake for approx. 40-45 mins until golden on top and hollow-sounding when you tap it.

Enjoy it warm – or if there’s any chance of it lasting longer than one sitting, wrap it up well once cool and reheat the next day.

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