This spicy tomato focaccia by Great British Bake-Off contestant Chetna Makan, is an Indian-inspired riff on the classic Italian bread. A tomato and chile masala is piled atop tender focaccia dough and baked until puffed and golden.
Adapted from Chetna Makan | Chetna’s Easy Baking | Hamlyn, 2022
This spicy tomato focaccia bread drizzled with olive oil is good enough to enjoy on its own. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like focaccia, and as it’s so versatile, this is one bread we should all make at home.
Here I have given the bread a bit of a kick with some spicy masala to wake it from its olive oil bath. Tear it into pieces and enjoy little bursts of flavour with every bite.–Chetna Makan
Spicy Tomato Focaccia FAQs
Can I use all-purpose flour instead of bread flour?
You can, but keep in mind that AP flour has a lower protein content, which could affect the texture and moisture content of your dough. Curious about other flour substitutions? Check out What’s the Difference Among Flours for more info.
What is a birds’ eye green chile pepper?
Bird’s eye peppers are a medium to hot pepper used in many Thai dishes. These peppers can be found in a variety of colors, ripening from green to red, and each shade with its own flavor characteristics and level of spiciness. If you’re unable to locate green bird’s eye peppers, red will work in this recipe as well, although the flavor will vary slightly. Fun fact: in the Thai language, these peppers are called “prik kee nu,” which translates to “mouse poop chili.”
What can I substitute for birds’ eye peppers?
If you’re unable to source the peppers called for in the recipe, feel free to substitute cayenne, serrano, jalapeño, habanero, or scotch bonnet peppers, which should all give you a similar level of heat and flavor.
☞ Like focaccia recipes? Try these:
Spicy Tomato Focaccia
For the focaccia
- 3 1/2 cups (18 oz) white bread flour
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt (1 tablespoon)
- 3 teaspoons fast-acting dried yeast
- 1 2/3 to 1 3/4 cups water
- Scant 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the spicy tomato topping
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 2 medium (10 oz total) onions finely chopped
- 1 bird’s eye green chile finely chopped
- 1 inch piece ginger finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 2 medium (8 oz total) tomatoes finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of sea salt flakes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Make the focaccia
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, salt, and yeast and slowly add 1 2/3 cups (380 ml) of water. Knead it until the dough is stretchy, smooth, and sticky, 8 to 10 minutes, adding more water if needed to ensure a slightly sticky dough.
- Pour 5 tablespoons (80 ml) of the olive oil into a deep plastic container or bowl and swirl it all around to spread it evenly, making sure the whole container is well oiled so the dough doesn’t stick. Now transfer the dough to the oily container, cover and let it prove until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
Make the spicy tomato masala topping
- In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the sunflower oil. Add the onions and cook until deep golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the chile, ginger, and garlic and cook for one minute more.
- Add the tomatoes and cook until they have softened, and the masala has reduced and come together nicely, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle in the chile powder and salt, mix well, then set aside to cool.
- Pour the remaining 4 teaspoons (20 ml) of olive oil into a 12-by 8-inch (30- by 20-cm) baking dish. Brush the oil around the whole dish.
- Carefully transfer the dough into the prepared baking dish. Using your fingers, gently stretch the dough so it covers the whole dish. Cover the dough and let it prove until puffy, about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Use your fingers to press into the dough, making hollows all over. Spoon the cooled masala into the holes, then sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
☞TESTER TIP: You may not use all of your spicy tomato topping, and that’s ok. Save any leftover for dipping or for whipping up a tasty omelet the next day.
- Drizzle 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on top and let the focaccia sit in the baking dish for a few minutes before serving.
- The masala focaccia is best eaten on the day it’s made but will keep for 2 to 3 days.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is a nice tomato focaccia recipe that comes together simply with the help of your stand mixer. The recipe instructions are clear and easy to follow.
What makes this focaccia is the spicy masala topping, which you may want to use for other things, as the flavor is delicious and interesting. (To make this even easier, you could use your food processor, chopping the onions first, then while they are caramelizing, you can do the chile, ginger and garlic, and lastly, pulse the tomato until it is finely chopped.)
It seemed like a little too much topping for the focaccia, and I would personally prefer that some of it was deeper in the bread. When I make it again, I will add some of the masala to the bowl of dough after the first rise, folding the dough over it, and then press it into my pan for the second rise.
It isn’t always possible to plan ahead and start bread the night before, so I am always interested in a good one-day focaccia recipe. This one is delicious, and while it doesn’t have the giant holes that you would get with a poolish, it is still very good.
The masala topping was tasty but probably the most time-consuming part of the whole recipe, so if you want a quick and delicious focaccia, you can easily omit the topping.
We ate the spicy tomato focaccia bread with salad and also made turkey sandwiches out of it; the toppings really complimented the turkey.
This spicy tomato focaccia recipe is as simple as it can get. Mix the dough and let rise for 2 hours with no kneading or folding during the fermentation period. The bread flour provides a nice chewy texture so the focaccia can be enjoyed by itself or mopping up any number of savory sauces.
The spicy chile topping is delicious with a fresh tomato base and just the right amount of heat provided by the ginger and pepper. I had to substitute a Serrano pepper for the bird’s eye green chile, due to (non)availability at my market but the Serrano filled in nicely with just the right amount of heat (I did discard the seeds).
I only used a bit more than half of the topping on my bread which I found to be just right. I want to be eating bread with a touch of chile topping with each bite without letting the chile topping steal the show completely.
I used the extra chile topping the next morning in an omelet, and it worked really well to help kick start my morning!
If anyone was feeling feverish in our house, this focaccia was a surprising yet delicious way to sweat it out. The spice from the chile powder combined with the heat of the serrano pepper made every bite a little zippy while still maintaining the classic olive oil and sea salt flavours that are trademarks of the famous Italian bread.
While this was my first ever attempt at making any sort of bread, I would have to say that I was impressed with how simple this recipe made what I have always believed to be a highly overcomplicated process.
If anything, I would tweak the quantity of the masala mixture, primarily with the texture of the bread in mind. With too much liquid from the tomatoes, the top of the focaccia gets slightly soggy and requires broiling to make it more appealing.
It turned out lovely in the end, with perfectly crispy edges and a soft centre, good for pairing with honey lime chicken and fresh garden salad.
Originally published September 30, 2022
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Homemade bread is always a crowd pleaser, and this one is extra special. The spicy masala topping has just enough bite from the chile, and the onions cook down sweetly. This is a great way to use seasonal gifts from your garden!
The bread itself rises very high even without sugar or honey in the mix. I did set the covered bowl outside for the first rise and it took only an hour.
The author is correct to say the bread gets an olive oil bath, but the result is not oily or soggy. When baked, the bottom of the bread is like a crunchy crust on the bottom with a springy pillowy yeasty soft crumb.
I will definitely use this bread recipe for a deep-dish pizza, pushing the dough a little thinner on a half sheet tray or large cast iron skillet.
We just had to eat this when it was warm as a noon snack with cheeses and pickled vegetables. Loosely covered it held well and was a perfect bread to serve with smoked ribs, green beans, and deviled eggs for a bbq. With minimal ingredients, this is a trusty recipe for beginners.