This cherry tomato focaccia with rosemary and sea salt is easy-to-make and perfect as an accompanying bread for soup or stew!
Tomato season is raging strong here in California with all the heirloom tomatoes. I’ve been making easy baked ziti, my zucchini pasta summer vegetable medley, vegetarian breakfast tacos and queso dip like mad crazy. But after sharing my fig and honey focaccia here, I realized I have never shared a more traditional classic cherry tomato focaccia with rosemary and sea salt recipe. This is the focaccia that I’ve been making for the past 25 years (from before I even moved to San Francisco) after I discovered the magic of using a small boiled mashed potato in the dough from an old lost cookbook that I no longer can find. I make it all the time at home to go along with soups like my Summer minestrone or Leek and Beans soup.
What is focaccia?
Focaccia is an Italian flat bread that is often associated or confused with pizza. But focaccia dough is different than pizza dough, especially the recipe I am sharing here, which uses a mashed russet potato in the dough.
If you’ve never had a focaccia, think of it is a slab of herb bread, comparable to a thick crust or deep dish pizza, without the sauce or pizza toppings. Though focaccia can come in a variety of styles, from thin to thick, most focaccia is more bread than topping, without any sauce on top. One of the most simple types of focaccia is often topped just with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and some rosemary. This version has the addition of cherry tomatoes to the top, which is also very common.
Though most focaccia is savory, focaccia can also sometimes veer into the sweet side, like my fig, honey and lemon focaccia!
How do you make this focaccia?
To make this focaccia, a small baking potato is peeled, quartered and simmered in water until soft. The potato is then mashed, and the remaining potato water is mixed with yeast.
Knead the mashed potatoes together with flour, olive oil, honey, and salt until a nice soft dough is formed. You can do this with a dough hook and stand mixer or by hand.
Cover and let the dough rise until double, then dump it into a well-oiled 10-inch springform pan. Press the dough out to cover the bottom of the pan with your fingers. Let the dough rise again until double and puffy.
Once the dough is puffy, press the cherry tomatoes into the dough and sprinkle the top with fresh rosemary and salt. Bake and serve!
Why do you use potato in the focaccia bread?
There are plenty of focaccia bread recipes out there without potato in the dough, but the addition of the potato creates a wonderful soft dough that will rise higher. It’s a traditional method that is used in the Puglia region of Italy.
Adding potato to the dough lowers the gluten content, meaning the dough will be more soft, tender and less chewy. The potato is high in starch, which swells when it is cooked. This starch also holds onto water, which leads to a moister bread.
The potato itself also adds additional flavor because it ferments faster than regular flour while the sugars in the potato don’t get consumed as fast by the yeast, leading to a slightly sweeter, more complex-flavored focaccia.
Can I substitute regular tomatoes for the cherry tomatoes?
Yes! Just cut the regular tomatoes into bite size pieces, roughly 1-inch in size, or the size of a cherry tomato. Or, if the tomatoes are smaller, you can slice them into rounds and use that. You want roughly 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups of cut or sliced tomatoes, which can be anywhere from 2 small Roma or Early Girl tomatoes to 1 large heirloom or Beefsteak tomato.
Can I use dried rosemary instead of fresh rosemary?
I don’t recommend dried rosemary leaves for this recipe, as they tend to be woody and tough in texture. If all you have dried rosemary, try grinding it up in a mortar and pestle, or in a spice grinder and then mixing it with the salt to make rosemary salt. Use this to sprinkle over the focaccia dough before baking.
What other herbs and spices work on focaccia?
When I’m making focaccia as a side dish for a soup or stew, I tend to keep the topping simple. But feel free to add more fresh or dried herbs, spices and aromatic vegetables to the topping! Here’s a few suggestions that would be great on this focaccia include:
- Italian (flat leaf) parsley, fresh or dried
- Oregano, fresh or dried
- Thyme, fresh or dried
- Marjoram, fresh or dried
- Basil, chopped fresh or dried
- Lemon zest, fresh
- Fennel seeds
- Minced garlic, or garlic powder
- Chopped red or yellow onions
- Chopped green onions
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! You can substitute instant or rapid rise yeast. Just use the same amount as the active dry yeast, but keep in mind that the dough will rise faster than if you had used the active dry yeast.
If you use instant yeast, you do not have to dissolve the yeast in the potato water. You can directly add the yeast in when you add the flour and other dry ingredients.
Focaccia keeps for about 2 days. Just store it in an airtight container or resealable Ziploc bag at room temperature. Refresh it in the toaster oven or regular oven at 325°F for 5 minutes.
Yes, you can totally freeze this bread! When I bake up a big batch of focaccia, I usually can’t eat it all. I freeze any remaining leftovers in a heavy duty resealable Ziploc bag for up to 3 months. Just thaw it out at room temperature, or in the toaster oven or regular oven at 325°F for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Keep in mind that freezing, and the subsequent thawing of the focaccia will also make the tomatoes very watery so don’t be alarmed when you warm up the leftover focaccia.
Yes! The instructions in the recipe are for using a stand mixer, but you can hand knead the dough if you wish. Just mix the dough ingredients in a large bowl using a wooden spoon. When a rough dough forms, dump the dough and any dry loose bits onto a clean surface. Knead the dough with the heel of your hand for about 5 to 7 minutes until smooth and elastic. Then proceed with the recipe.
If you like this focaccia recipe, check out some other bread recipes:
- Parker House Rolls
- Potato Rolls
- Homemade Rye Soft Pretzels
- Soft Beer Pretzel Twist
- Homemade English Muffins with Brown Butter
- Pretzel Buns
Tomato Focaccia with Rosemary and Sea Salt
- 10-inch springform pan
- 1 small russet potato 4 to 5 ounces or 115 to 140 g
- 2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 to 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 280 to 315 g
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary from 2 medium sprigs, plus more for garnish
- 1 teaspoon quality flaky salt like Maldon, sel de gris or Diamond Brand kosher salt
- Peel and cut the potato into quarters. Place the potato quarters in a medium-sized sauce pan and cover with water, making sure the water is about an inch above the potatoes. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook the potato for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a fork easily inserts into the potato.Set aside for the potatoes and water to cool to a lukewarm temperature, then scoop the potatoes out of the water with a fork or a slotted spoon and measure out 1/2 cup of the potato water, discarding the rest. If you don’t have enough water, add additional warm water from the tap until you do.Mash the potatoes into the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a hook attachment.
- Sprinkle the yeast over the warm potato water and stir to dissolve. Add yeasted water to the mashed potatoes.Add 2 cups (280 g) of flour, olive oil and salt to the bowl, and then stir slowly with dough hook, increasing speed as the flour is absorbed into the wet ingredients. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Increase the speed once the dough has started to form and knead the dough for 3 to 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. The dough should be tacky but not overly sticky. If it is too wet, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time up, kneading it in, up to 4 tablespoons.
- Spray or oil a large bowl with olive oil. Pull the dough into a ball by stretching the sides of the dough until one side is smooth. Place the rough side down into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until double in size, about 60 to 90 minutes.
- Once the dough has doubled, place a 10-inch springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil into the pan, making sure to brush the oil all over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. If you springform pan doesn’t seal tightly, cover the bottom with aluminum foil.
- Dump the dough directly into the oiled springform pan and press down with your fingertips to push the dough out and to the sides, making sure the dough is evenly distributed in the pan. If the dough is sticking to your fingers, wet your hand slightly and use the damp fingers to press the dough out.Cover again with the plastic wrap and let rise until puffy and double in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Once the dough is ready, preheat an oven to 400°F. Press the cherry tomatoes deep into the focaccia dough all over. Then drizzle the olive oil all over the top of the focaccia. Sprinkle the rosemary leaves and salt all the top as well.
- Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. If you have an instant read thermometer, the inside of the focaccia should read 200°F.Immediately run a thin knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the focaccia from the sides. Then let the focaccia cool for 15 minute before releasing the sides of the pan and removing it. Sprinkle with additional fresh rosemary leaves and salt if desired.Serve warm or at room temperature.
Arthur in the Garden! says
Jill Silverman Hough says
Hi Irvin! Do you think sweetpotatoes would have the same effect as potatoes in the focaccia? Hope you’re well!
That’s a good question! I’m not sure. I’ve definitely seen sweet potato dinner rolls and such, so I imagine it would work, but one of the reasons I use regular russet potatoes is the starch content in the dough. It leads to a fluffy soft dough with a tinge of sweetness. I imagine the sweet potato has a less of that starch so the resulting dough might be more heavy and less fluffy. Not sure though. If you try it, let me know! I’m super curious. I might have to experiment as well and find out…
Irvin, I keep potato flakes on hand for occasional use in bread baking. Do you think I could substitute the potato flakes for the cooked russet potato? If so, how much potato flakes do you think would be equivalent?