Focaccia With Pesto and Fresh Tomatoes

This bread disappears in a hurry! The light, chewy bread with pesto and tomatoes is reminiscent of pizza without the sauce. The aroma of garlic, basil and Parmesan is irresistable.

Servings: 10 -12

Cook Time: 5 plus overnight rising

Pair With: A lively Cal-Italian Sangiovese or Tempranillo.

Source: Recipe and photo courtesy Tama Takahashi, Touring & Tasting Food Editor


Ingredients For the Pesto:
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, stems removed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano         
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Ingredients For the Focaccia Dough
4 1/2  cups unbleached bread flour
1 1/4  teaspoons instant yeast
2  teaspoons salt
2 1/4  cups cold water
2 tablespoons olive oil

Other Ingredients:
spray olive oil
2 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly and drained on paper towels
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano


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Directions For the  Pesto:
1 Pulse the basil and pine nuts together in a food processor for a few seconds. Add the garlic, and pulse a few more.
Add the olive oil and process for a few minutes--you would like the pesto to remain a bit chunky and not be pureed smooth. Add the grated cheese, salt and pepper and pulse until just blended.

Directions For the Dough:
The day before, put all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment on slow speed for a couple of minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Mix for two more minutes.  The dough will be soft and shaggy. Use a spatula or bowl scraper dipped in water to scrape the wet dough in an oiled bowl that is more than twice as tall as the level of the dough. Cover the top with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator.

The next day, take the dough out about 3 1/2 hours before you want to bake the bread. (The dough can be in the refrigerator 12 - 18 hours.) The dough will have doubled overnight. Spray a large baking sheet with olive oil. Scrape the dough onto the baking sheet using moistened tools and gently spread into a rectangular shape. Spray a bit of olive oil on your fingers and on the top of the dough. and dimple the bread--start in the middle and press your fingers into the dough, then pull them out a bit to the side. In this way, you will stretch out the dough in the pan as you dimple it. Don't' worry yet if it is not fitting in the pan exactly or is not symmetrical--further steps will start to even it out. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

Once again go through the dimpling process again, starting in the middle and moving outwards. Let rest 20 minutes and repeat. During the dimpling process, even and shape the dough so it almost fills the pan and is rectangular. Let rise for 2 hours. During this time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees (375 with convection).

Bake the focaccia in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and dot chunks of pesto over it, then top with the tomato slices. (Do not put the pesto or tomatoes on at the beginning or they will burn.) Rotate the pan and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes until it is starting to be golden brown. Remove and sprinkle with the Parmesan, then bake until the cheese is melted, just a minute or two. Let cool a few minutes before slicing into squares.