This olive and onion focaccia is crispy on the edges, yet soft in the middle, and topped lavishly with olive oil, onions, and fresh herbs. The recipe is from the famous Breads Bakery cookbook. Moreover the onions, olives, sea salt, and olive oil sit on the dough for an hour before baking, and as a result, their flavor is deeply absorbed into the bread. Try drizzling it with zaatar and crumbling feta on top for a truly delicious meal.
We love olives
Olives are a staple part of our diet here in Israel. Consequently, kids grow up eating them on a daily basis. In every Middle Eastern style restaurant or hummus joint, the minute you sit down you are greeted with a bowl of olives. Olives add color and flavor to Israeli salad, potato salad, pasta, rice, and countless other dishes. Once a week I take my toddler for a walk in her stroller to do our food shopping. Firstly, we go to the bakery, the spice store, the dry goods store, and last but not least we get a big container of olives for her to munch on, all the way home.
In the Israeli Autumn, the landscape is dotted with trees, heavy with olives ready to be gathered. If you squeeze one between your fingers, the oil will begin to drip out, a sign that it is ready to be picked. Traditionally, people would spread big cloths or tarps under the trees and then shake the branches. As a result, the olives would fall onto the cloths and were easily gathered up.
Perhaps the best thing about the vast quantities of olives found everywhere is the olive oil. It is such an integral part of Mediterranean food. Mediterranean cuisine relies mostly on fresh vegetables, lemon, and olive oil for its flavor. Italian, Turkish, Greek, and other Mediterranean kitchens, use lots of fresh herbs, tomatoes and garlic. In contrast, they use much fewer spices than their Asian and North African contemporaries. The good quality olive oil brings the flavor to their dishes. For example, check out our Turkish lemon rice which uses olive oil to create a creaminess almost similar to risotto.
Olive and Onion Focaccia
We prepared this delicious focaccia to eat at our picnic in the olive grove. The flavor of olive oil and onions is what makes it unique. The recipe was taken from a breadmaking book by the talented Uri Scheft from Breads Bakery. Certainly anyone living in Tel Aviv or New York will know Breads Bakery as the best place to buy mouthwatering chocolate babka and challah bread. He wrote the wonderful book “Breaking Breads” that has been translated into English, but this one can currently be found only in Hebrew. Here is a link to the Hebrew cookbook for you Hebrew speakers and here’s his English book Breaking Breads.
This olive and onion focaccia is crispy on the edges and soft in the middle. It is relatively easy to prepare and decorated lavishly with olive oil, onions, olives, and herbs. Most importantly the onions sit on the dough for an hour before baking and it’s amazing how it soaks up their divine flavor.
We changed the recipe very slightly to use spelt flour and added olives and herbs on top. I also altered the baking conditions a bit to make it softer, my personal preference. To top it off, feel free to drizzle it with zaatar and crumble some feta cheese on top. Please devour it while still warm. It’s just that much better.
Olive and Onion Focaccia
- 600 grams flour (4½ cups) sifted We used half whole spelt flour and half white spelt flour and it came out great.
- 320 grams lukewarm water (1¼ cups)
- 30 grams fresh yeast (3 tablespoons)
- 20 grams salt (1¼ tablespoons)
- 10 grams sugar (1 teaspoon)
- 35 grams olive oil (2 tablespoons)
- 4 medium sized onions
- sea salt, olive oil, olives, and herbs to spread on top
- Pour the water into a big bowl and crumble the fresh yeast into it.
- Mix in the flour, then the salt, then the sugar, and lastly the olive oil.
- Either using a stand mixer or your hands, slowly mix the ingredients for 3 minutes until they form a cohesive and firm dough. If the dough is more soft than firm, then add 2 more tablespoons of flour.
- If using a stand mixer then mix for 5 more minutes on medium speed. If working by hand, then put the dough on a lightly floured surface and kneed for 5 minutes.
- Roll into a ball and place the dough into a bowl that has been dusted with flour. Cover with a clean towel and let it rise for 30 minutes. The dough will almost double in size.
- Slice the risen dough ball into two halves. Roll each half into a log shape and press down on them with your hands, to form two rectangles. Cover the rectangles with a towel and let them rise for another 30 minutes on a floured surface.
- While waiting for the dough to rise, slice the onions into thin rings and place them into a bowl. Mix with olive oil and some sea salt, so that they are all coated. Pit the olives and prepare any herbs that you are planning to use. We enjoyed oregano and thyme leaves.
- Roll out the two rectangles using a rolling pin, until they are about 1/3 of an inch or a bit less than a centimeter thick.
- Line two baking trays with baking paper. Coat each baking paper generously with olive oil, and place each focaccia on a tray.
- Spread the onion rings, olives, and herbs evenly on top of both focaccias. If they aren't covered with olive oil then sprinkle some more on top. Use your fingers to create little indents on the top of both focaccias.
- Now the focaccias need to rise for 60 minutes. Make sure to preheat your oven after to 225 C after 45 minutes of rising time.
- Once risen, put the first focaccia in the oven and bake for 15 minutes until it is golden brown around the edges but nice and soft in the middle, turning midway if needed. Remove from the oven and bake your second focaccia. The focaccias are baked one at a time to benefit from the full heat of the oven.
- Eat warm and serve with zaatar and feta or with any spreads or cheeses that you love, such as pesto or mozzarella.