Quick and fluffy garden focaccia bread recipe with a light airy center and crisp edges topped with your choice of jammy caramelized onion and heirloom tomatoes or thinly sliced potatoes and mushrooms. Easy, vegan Italian comfort food at its finest!
Fluffy Garden Focaccia Recipe
If you love the idea of a thick garden focaccia bread but struggling to get that airy soft and fluffy center from your dough, this fail proof recipe is for you. The secret lies in using a very special but common ingredient when making the dough: mashed potatoes! Once you try this tested homemade method you will never use another recipe again.
This really is the very best Italian quick bread, although I know the Romans didn’t make it exactly this way and that’s ok, this is better! If you are feeling extra creative by all means practice your focaccia art here, let your inner Van Gough or Salvador Dali come through. For me it’s all about checking the flavor box, cloudy texture and letting nature show off with this one.
- The Flour – For the fluffiest result make sure to use an organic unbleached all purpose flour. Any whole grain flour combinations would yield into a denser nuttier loaf which although delicious it’s not what we are after with this recipe.
- Yeast – Using instant yeast makes it a quick rise and everything happens faster. However, if desired the dough can certainly be refrigerated for overnight proofing for extra flavor, although it really isn’t necessary at all. If all that’s available is an active dry yeast then use that, just consider that things will take longer to get going and rise, so it’s a much slower process especially in a cold climate. This type of yeast works best for a slow overnight rise.
- Mashed Potatoes – Any cold leftovers will work just fine here, or you can simply boil a couple of gold potatoes and mash them until creamy.
- How do I make the dough light and fluffy? – For best results keep the dough simple and pack your garden bounty on the top. You could mix in some chopped rosemary and even a handful of olives, but keep the bulk of things on the top, just like a pizza. If you think about it, this is nothing but a divine deep dish pizza after all, so you can really go wild here! Alternatively you can spread it thin in a large baking sheet and bake as pizza.
- Can this bread be used for sandwiches? – Absolutely, this truly is the perfect thickness and texture to make an amazing sandwich. You can even use it for this divine smashed chickpea salad sandwich!
- Why do we dimple the dough? – Same concept as scoring bread, it’s important to prevent the dough from bubbling and collapsing during baking. Also those little dimples are great for the classic olive oil drizzle to pool into resulting in an even golden color surface. They are also nice for any toppings to nest into and prevent them from sliding around to the center or the sides.
About the Toppings
- Caramelized Onion – I love a focaccia bread covered in jammy caramelized onions and a layer of either heirloom tomatoes or thinly sliced potatoes. The order of things here is very important with the onions needing some shelter from the high oven temperatures to prevent charring. So make sure the onions go on first then tomatoes or potato slices. Make sure to prep your onions in advance as they take some time to become their perfect self. Start with 3 or 4 large and sweet Vidalia onions and slowly sautee in a tiny drizzle of olive oil or water until totally collapsed and jammy sweet with a gorgeous amber hue. Stir often and have patience, that’s all there is to it. A caramelized leek could be used in lieu of the onions to pair with a potato topping and a sprinkling of rosemary. Because leeks and potatoes in any form are truly a match made in flavor heaven, make sure to also try our mashed potato salad + this dreamy creamy potato leek soup.
- Heirloom Tomatoes or Potatoes – My advice here is to choose one or the other and layer over the caramelized onion. Tomatoes can go in thick slices but the potatoes must be sliced paper thin so they cook well just like potato chips. Another great flavor combination would be a mix of sautéed mushrooms + caramelized onions.
- When do I add the toppings? – It’s important to wait until after the second rise, dimple the dough first then and only then you can add the toppings just before baking. This way they won’t get soft or weight down the dough.
The Baking Dish
For a thick style focaccia bread I love using a 9 inch round springform pan lined with these pre-cut parchment paper rounds and the sides lightly oiled. This makes it super easy to remove from the pan while getting those light crisp sides as if it were cooked in a skillet.
Storage + Reheating
Best stored at room temperature for up to three days. I keep it uncovered for the first day then wrap in parchment paper or place in a container with a lid overnight. It’s nice reheated the next day in the toaster oven or under the broiler, or just enjoyed at room temperature.
Focaccia Roll Variation
Yes it’ true, this is the perfect dough to shape and bake the ultimate garden focaccia rolls as well. Simply divide the dough into 8 or 10 pieces and shape into rolls. Place them in individual silicone muffin cups or use a muffin tin lined with parchment paper cups. Top each one with some of the caramelized onion, a slice of tomato or any favorite veggies before baking, I love riffing on our fan favorite tomato tart here.
Easy Vegan Recipes
- Vegan Crusty Bread
- Heirloom Tomato Tart
- Best Pizza Dough
- Skillet Focaccia
- Best Walnut Meat
- Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta
- Dairy Free Mozzarella
- Crispy Roasted Broccoli
- Vegan Potato Soup.
how to make fluffy garden focaccia bread
Fluffy Garden Focaccia
- In a large bowl whisk together the flour, salt and instant yeast until combined.2.5 cups all purpose flour, 1.5 tsp sea salt, 2 tsp instant dry yeast
- Add the mashed potatoes and using your hand give everything a good mix .1 cup mashed potatoes
- Pour in the the water and combine until a shaggy sticky dough forms. Drizzle a little olive oil around the sides of the bowl to prevent sticking.1.25 cups warm water
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or parchment paper and a tea towel then place in a draft free area between 75 - 78”F degrees for a couple of hours until almost doubled in size. (A cold oven is a great place for this). (If you like you can also place it in the fridge overnight for a slow rise to develop more flavor then bring to room temperature for 1 or 2 hours before baking).
- Prepare a 9 inch spring form pan lined with parchment paper. Lightly oil the sides of the dish then place it on a baking sheet.
- Dump the focaccia dough into the spring form pan. Use your hand and with oiled fingers press the top of the dough to deflate it and create dimples (don’t push all the way through the bottom). The dough will be sticky, just roll with it! Drizzle with olive oil. Cover again and allow it to rise a second time for about 45 minutes to one hour; again timing is forgiving, I just want the dough to spring back and get super FLUFFY.
- Preheat your oven to 400”F
- Top the focaccia with the caramelized onions then cover nicely with thin slices of heirloom tomatoes in different colors. Finish with a light drizzle of olive oil and a good sprinkling of sea salt flakes. (Make sure that the onions are mostly covered by the tomatoes to prevent them from burning).olive oil as needed, 4 Vidalia onions, 1 lb heirloom tomatoes
- Sprinkle the top with a good pinch of sea salt flakes and place in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes until golden on top.sea salt flakes
- Transfer the bread to a cooling rack for a good 15 minutes. Run a butter knife alongside the spring form pan to release any dough that might have stuck to the sides. Open the spring form pan and remove. (The sides of the focaccia should look beautifully golden with a perfect crispness while the center is fluffy and moist).
- Cut into wedges using a serrated bread knife and serve garnished with fresh basil.fresh basil
Caramelized Onion Topping
- Make ahead or during the dough rising process. Start with 3 or 4 large and sweet Vidalia onions. Peel and slice into thin slices. It might seem like a lot but once wilted they will turn into a handful. Trust the process - More is better!4 Vidalia onions
- Preheat your largest heavy bottom skillet over medium heat. Add a light drizzle of olive oil or a splash of water then add the sliced onions. Season with a pinch of sea salt and give everything a good toss around.
- Cook the onions low and slow for a good hour until completely collapsed and caramelized with a golden amber hue. Take good care not to allow the onions to burn, stir often and adjust the heat if needed, but resist the temptation to add any extra oil or sweeteners of any sort. Patience is all there is to making perfect caramelized onions.
- Scrub and rinse a golden potato and using a mandoline slicer (with a hand guard) thinly slice the potato on the thinnest paper thin setting, so thin you can read the morning paper through it. Place the slices in a bowl and cover with cold water.gold potato
- Transfer the potato slices to a lint free tea towel and dry as much of the moisture as possible but don’t stress too much about it.
- Place the slices of potatoes on top of the focaccia dough overlapping each other. Optional to sprinkle with some fresh rosemary leaves, freshly cracked black pepper (a pinch of red chili flakes if you fancy some heat) and drizzle generously with olive oil. Finish with a good pinch of sea salt flakes and place in the preheated oven 35 minutes until golden brown on top.
Focaccia Rolls Variation
- Mix the dough according to recipe and split it into 10 pieces. Fold each piece onto itself and place it inside a parchment paper muffin cup on top of a large baking sheet or inside a muffin pan. Cover and allow to rise for a couple of hours until almost doubled in size.
- Oil your fingers and press the top of each roll to create dimples. Cover again and allow to rise a second time while the oven is heating up, a good 30 to 45 minutes.
- Drizzle each focaccia roll with some olive oil then top top with some caramelized onions and cover with a slice of heirloom tomato. Bake @400 for 20 to 25 min.
- When do I add the toppings? - It's important to wait until after the second rise, dimple the dough first then and only then you can add the toppings just before baking. This way they won't get soft or weight down the dough.
- About the Yeast - Using instant yeast makes it a quick rise and everything happens faster. However, if desired the dough can certainly be refrigerated for overnight proofing for extra flavor, although it really isn't necessary at all. If all that's available is an active dry yeast then use that, just consider that things will take longer to get going and rise, so it's a much slower process especially in a cold climate. This type of yeast works best for a slow overnight rise.