Focaccia with Red Onion and Rosemary

This focaccia with red onion and rosemary has that iconic crunchy, perfectly salted surface and a tender texture beneath. It’s topped with caramelized onions and fragrant rosemary and makes a worthy distraction—both the making and the devouring.

A baked loaf of focaccia with red onion and rosemary with two wedges cut from it.

This impressively light and airy Italian focaccia bread has a tender, chewy crumb, thanks to extensive kneading and an overnight rest in the refrigerator. And, natch, it boasts the requisite crunchy surface speckled with coarse salt. It takes a little—actually, a lotta—extra character from the tamed sharpness of red onion and the herbaceousness of rosemary.–Angie Zoobkoff

Why is focaccia dough so sticky and wet?

According to the author of this recipe, “Ninety per cent hydration means this dough is wild and wet. This helps to contribute to a damp, soft, open crumb that is bouncy in texture. Wetter is always better for focaccia, so it is worth taking your time when it comes to kneading this dough. You want to build up the gluten as much as possible to form a brilliantly elastic dough—the result will be all the chewier for it.”

Focaccia with Red Onion and Rosemary

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 18 H
  • Serves 6 to 8
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In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, weigh out the flour, 1 2/3 cups water (400 g), salt, yeast, and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil.

Mix on slow speed for 4 minutes, then turn the mixer up and mix on high speed for 6 minutes. Let the dough rest in the mixer for 15 minutes.

Tester tip: The dough is very wet and sticky, so you’ll definitely want to let your stand mixer do the kneading as it’s quite difficult to do so by hand. (Don’t ask us how those Italian nonnas did it back in the day.)

Restart the mixer on slow, add the remaining water, and mix for 4 minutes more.

Transfer the dough to a container, preferably plastic and with a lid, that’s large enough for the dough to at least double and let rise at warm room temperature, using a spatula to fold the dough (in the container, if you can, without turning it onto a work surface every 15 minutes. Let it rise for about 1 hour, until approximately doubled in size.

Cover the container and refrigerate overnight.

Two hours before baking, tip the dough into a lightly oiled 8-by-12-inch or 9-by-13-inch (20- by 30-cm or 23- by 33-cm) baking or sheet pan, and with wet hands stretch out the dough to fit the pan. Let it rest at room temperature for 2 hours, giving the dough a stretch every 30 minutes or so if it begins to shrink back from the sides of the pan.

Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450ºF (230°C).

Sprinkle the top with salt and scatter with the onions and rosemary. Bake until cooked through and golden on the bottom when you lift a corner and peek, 17 to 20 minutes. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.

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    Alternate Focaccia Toppings

    • If you’re a purist, you can opt to for a simple sprinkling of salt and perhaps a scattering of rosemary (or you could swap that out for thyme). A handful of Sungold cherry tomatoes and/or olives would hold true to the Italian theme. Whereas black sesame seeds could make quite a startling statement. Why limit yourself to convention? We do that enough in our everyday lives.

      A piece of red onion and rosemary focaccia on a white plate with a knife beside it.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    This is a tale of two loaves, not the best or the worst of loaves, but the good and the better of loaves (apologies to Dickens). I was drawn to the recipe because I do bake bread at least once a week. I've never made focaccia, so this seemed like an ideal time to try this recipe. Spoiler alert: the end results were good and then amazing, but the road there was not easy. At the end of the day, it was worth tweaking and doing twice. Between my husband, myself and my daughter, we almost demolished the entire pan.

    Focaccia Version 1
    I used SAF Instant Yeast, King Arthur Bread Flour, and Sofine Fine Italian Sea Salt. I topped it with sun gold cherry tomatoes, sea salt, and rosemary.

    After the final mix, the dough must proof for an hour with stretching very 15 minutes. The recipe is not clear if the dough should remain in the mixing bowl or be left on work surface. I chose to put it on a silicone mat and attempt to stretch and fold based on the instructions. I just used my regular stretching technique.

    The dough did rise but it was hard to measure. After the hour of proofing, I placed it in a plastic container. As it was very warm, I noticed it started rising quickly so I put it in a larger bowl in order to avoid disaster and placed it in the fridge as directed. The next day, the dough had risen quite a lot. The subsequent stretching instructions should be a little clearer as you are really more coaxing the dough into the corners of the pan than stretching. I used a 13-by-9-by-2-inch cake pan to bake.

    I baked at 450 degrees as directed. At this temp, in my oven, took a little longer to get brown on top. The recipe calls for the bread to be brown on the bottom, but it is somewhat hard to see in the cake pan.

    The end result was a good but somewhat too thick loaf of focaccia. If did not brown particularly well on the bake setting. That being said, it was very flavorful and my family made short work of the pan.

    NOTE After making this, I pulled out the manual for my Kitchen Aid and read the bread making section. (circa 1982) There are a couple of really important things that need to be clarified for anyone likely to use a Kitchen Aid to make bread. The first being use the dough hook from the beginning. This seems obvious, but I had a vague recollection of changing to the dough hook mid recipe when making another yeast bread. I was wrong. According to Kitchen Aid, the dry ingredients should be placed in the bowl with the exception of 1or 2 cups of flour. The wet ingredients should be added slowly with the mixer on low speed. There is a caution that if the wet ingredients are add too quickly they will pool in the bottom of the bowl and then slow down the mixing. Additionally the dough should be mixed at a slow speed not on high, as suggested in the recipe, that is unless you want to burn your motor out. I am guessing that new model Kitchen Aids have similar instructions.

    Focaccia Version 2
    I wanted to take a second crack at this with a few modifications. The recipe mentions that this is a 90% hydration loaf and hard to knead by hand. I wanted to challenge that assumption, at least on the initial mixing of the ingredients. I make sourdough with various hydrations percentages and mix by hand on a regular basis. If the dough is sticky, just use wet hands to knead.

    In my second try, I used King Arthur Bread Flour and SAF Instant Yeast. I topped with rosemary, thyme, cherry tomatoes, and fleur de sel.

    Here and the modifications I made to the recipe
    For the proofing, I left the dough in the mixing bowl and did a simple stretch and fold every 15 minutes as directed. At the end of the hour, I had a much lighter and more pillowy dough. I left the dough in the mixing bowl for its overnight in the fridge.

    I used a quarter sheet pan. The dough was much moister and easier to stretch. I used the convection bake setting on my oven. I cooked it at 425°F on the third rack.

    The end result was far superior to the first attempt. Baking in the quarter sheet pan on the convection setting allowed for the bread to brown. It was also much moister than the first version. Still a big hit with my family and very little left after tasting.

    I would definitely make this focaccia again.

    This focaccia bread is perfect. Perfect crumb, perfect moisture, perfect flavor. The dough was definitely very sticky and wet and not at all conducive to handling, but it rose beautifully and the finished loaf had plenty of airy pockets. I topped it with rosemary and sea salt (not red onions) and served it warm. Everyone loved it and I managed to get my kids out of bed before 11 the next day by threatening to eat all the leftovers myself!

    The dough was very wet, but mixed up well. The next day, it had risen more in the container, and I tipped it into the oiled baking pan. The recipe says to stretch it every 30 minutes, but after the initial gentle stretch to fit the pan, it didn't shrink back or need to be stretched. I baked mine in a 9-by-13-inch pan and this worked perfectly.


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      1. Good question, Betsy. We’d love to tell you that there’s an easy way to make this without a stand mixer, unfortunately, this is one of those recipes that will be difficult to make without a mixer. The dough is exceptionally wet and sticky, making mixing by hand awkward. If you want to try stirring it by hand, mimicking the timing and motion of the mixer, I’d suggest using a silicone spatula, and be prepared for an arm workout.

    1. I plan to make this tomorrow-but read through the recipe twice and I’m still not sure when the chopped rosemary is added. And the directions about folding -every 15 minutes for an hour, but the dough will still double? Just wasn’t very clear to me.

      1. Maureen, thanks very much for your careful reading. Yes, the dough will still double (or come very close to it). It’s just a very gentle turning over of the dough. It’s a unique technique, one we obviously don’t do with many of our breads here in the states. Focaccia requires a wetter dough than we’re accustomed to, so we handle it a little differently. And thanks, the rosemary gets added in the very last step, which we just clarified. Hope you love this as much as we do…

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