I recently spent a week in Puglia with 7 mates and 1 boyfriend. We cooked, ate and drank a lot in between lying around talking about cooking, eating and drinking. Before we left I’d read up on the food and came across what is apparently a classic recipe for focaccia with tomatoes pressed into the top. We didn’t find any there so I thought I’d have a bash myself; the ricotta is my own twist.
As the bread rises, the tomatoes roast and sweeten (after eating tomatoes in Puglia I’m not sure I could eat a raw one in this country ever again). The ricotta didn’t have quite enough time to disintegrate into little white heaps as it usually does but that didn’t matter at all. It was like a giant, fluffy, highly savoury pizza with bursts of juice from the tomatoes and creamy, crumbly patches of cheese. Make sure to sprinkle liberally with flaky sea salt crystals – if there’s one thing the people of Puglia aren’t scared of using, it’s salt.
Focaccia Pugliese with Ricotta
1 1/4 teaspoons fast action dried yeast
375ml warm water
400g strong white bread flour
1 teaspoons salt
For the topping
1 teaspoon dried oregano
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
Sea salt for sprinkling
Olive oil, for sprinkling
Boil, drain and mash the potatoes. While they are boiling, mix the yeast with the warm water in a large mixing bowl and set aside to activate (you will know when this has happened because the top will be slightly frothy).
Mix the flour, salt and potatoes together. When the yeast-water mix is ready, add the potato-flour mix to it, in two halves. Combine everything, turn it out and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Set the dough aside in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and wait until doubled in size. Divide the dough in half then shape into 2 balls. Put each on a lightly oiled baking tray (the one you will be using to cook it) and stretch it out into a rectangle. There is no need to stretch it thinly, just make a rectangle shape and leave it for 10 minutes. After this time stretch it a little further. Let rise until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200c/Gas6/400F. Press the tomatoes lightly into the top of each focaccia, sprinkle with the oregano and sea salt. Use your fingers to sprinkle all over with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven, dollop with the ricotta and bake for another 5. Allow to cool on a wire rack.