Tomato & Thyme Foccacia

by thomandaimee

So here I am, seated in my little corner with the laptop propped on my lap – how do I even begin this entry? (You see, D has been bugging me to post this entry and I’ve procrastinated for a week)

I do suppose this project began when D and I took a trip down to Tekka Market, for a hope to chance upon some fruit or vegetable we could instill in a dish. The moment we laid our eyes on these fresh vibrant tomatoes – we were sold. Plus, it costs much cheaper in Tekka than in the supermarkets in Singapore.

Making the Tomato and Thyme Focaccia was pretty straightforward for me. Ever since the Apricot Issue, I’ve wanted to widen my experience in bread-making. The focaccia is also one of the easiest bread to make so really, what could go wrong? (But yes, things did go wrong unfortunately…..)

You have to try this recipe! The sweet tomatoes sit so well with thyme and olive oil. And as how Jamie Oliver would say, yes they are the best of friends! And oh, I used Pippin Thyme from our little herb garden!!! (Yes I named my thyme herb, Pippin from the Lord Of The Rings..)

This version is different from the common horrendously thick focaccia you find in Starbucks or Coffee Bean; it stands at a thickness of 1 to 1 1/4 inches. I’ll be writing some notes/tips on the recipe!

Happy baking!

Tomato and Thyme Focaccia
Adapted from Peter Reinhart

Makes one 17 by 12 inch focaccia

20 ounces poolish
12 ounces unbleached high gluten bread flour
0.5 ounce (2 teaspoons) salt
0.17 ounce (1 1/2 teaspoon) instant yeast
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) olive oil
6 ounces water, lukewarm 37.7C
1/4 cup Thyme Oil


11.25 ounces unbleached bread flour
12 ounces water, room temperature
0.03 ounce (1/4 teaspoon) instant yeast

Thyme Oil (Note 1)

1 1/2 cup of Olive Oil
1 cup Thyme
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
6 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped

Day 1

Start by making the poolish the day before baking the bread. Stir together the flour, water and yeast in a mixing bowl until all the flour is hydrated. The dough should be soft and sticky like a very thick pancake batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours, or until the poolish becomes bubbly and foamy. Immediately refrigerate it. It will keep up for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. (Note 2)

Day 2

Remove poolish from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough to take off the chill.

Stir together the flour, salt and yeast in a 4-quart mixing bowl. (Note 3) Add the oil, poolish and water and mix with a large metal spoon until the ingredients form a wet sticky ball. Continue to work the dough until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl.

Sprinkle flour on the counter to make a bed about 6 inches square. Using a scraper dipped in water, transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour and dust liberally with flour, patting the dough into a rectangle. Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes.

Dip your hands in water and start a stretch and fold sequence. Take the right end of the dough, gently stretch it out and then fold it back one-third over itself. Do the same thing with the left side. Now take the edge closest to you and repeat the process, pulling the dough gently toward you and then folding it away from you and back onto itself. Continue this motion, lifting up the corners of the fold and bringing the folded edge to meet the back edge. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Stretch and fold the dough again. Let rest for 30 minutes and repeat this step one more time.

Allow the covered dough to ferment on the counter for 1 hour. It should swell but not necessarily double in size.

While waiting for the dough to rest, make the Thyme Oil. Warm olive oil to 37.7C. Add thyme, salt, black pepper, and garlic. Left over herb oil can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Line a 17 by 12 inch sheet pan with baking parchment and drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil over the paper and spread it to cover the surface. Lightly oil your hands and lift the dough off the counter and transfer it to the sheet pan, maintaining the rectangular shape as much as possible. Spoon half of the Thyme Oil over the dough.

Use your fingertips to dimple the dough (like playing a piano) and spread it to fill the pan simultaneously. Do not use the flat of your hands – only the fingertips – to avoid tearing or ripping the dough. Try to keep the thickness as uniform as possible across the surface. Dimpling allows you to degas part of the dough while preserving gas in the non dimpled sections. If dough becomes to springy, let it rest for about 15 minutes before resuming. Don’t worry if you are unable to fill the pan 100%, especially the corners. As the dough relaxes and proofs, it will spread out naturally. Use more herb oil as need to ensure that the entire surface is coated with oil.

Loosely cover pan with plastic wrap and proof at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until dough fills the pan.

About 15 minutes before baking, drizzle more Thyme Oil if desired and dimple it in, as well as placing the tomatoes on top of the dough. Let the dough relax for 15 to 30 minutes before baking to allow the gas to build back up. It will rise to almost 1 inch in thickness.

Preheat the oven to 260C. If by then the dough has yet to soak up the Thyme Oil, spoon the oil back. Place the pan in the oven and lower the temperature to 230C. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the dough begins to turn a light golden brown. (Note 4)

Remove the pan from oven and immediately transfer the focaccia out of the pan onto a cooling rack. If the parchment paper is still stuck on the bottom, carefully remove it by lifting the corner of the focaccia and peeling it off the bottom with a gentle tug. Allow the focaccia to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing or serving.
Note 1- You can substitute thyme with other herbs such as basil, parsley, oregano, tarragon, rosemary and sage in any combination.

Note 2 – The poolish sponge can be used as soon as it ferments but an overnight retarding draws out more flavour.

Note 3 – Do not let the yeast and salt have direct interaction as the salt can render the yeast ineffective.

Note 4 – For a crustier, chewier finished product, reduce the oven heat temperature to 200C and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer.