You might know by now that I love a good focaccia. It's a showstopper, always delicious, and looks harder than it is to make. Get started in the morning, give it generous time to rise, and you'll have a wonderful Caramelized Shallot Focaccia to enjoy with appetizers or dinner. This Caramelized Shallot Focaccia is a wonderful combination of the crusty bread with a fluffy interior, and then a salty-sweet combo of the caramelized shallots on top. Chef's kiss!
And if you'd like another focaccia option, check out this Black Pepper Focaccia!
As always, I do include a few affiliate links in this post for products I truly use and love. This just means that if you make a purchase after clicking one of those links, I'll earn a little money (at no cost to you) to keep the kitchen up and running, which I promise to use to create more fun content like this! One of those affiliates is with Amazon, which requires a very clear disclosure: as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you have any questions about affiliates, please reach out!
The key ingredient to making great focaccia is time. Other than that, there are just a few things you will need.
- Warm water: the key to making sure your yeast activates is to use warm water. This should be like very hot bath water (but not so hot that it is burning you).
- Active dry yeast: when added to the water, you'll let this sit for about 5 minutes until foamy. If the yeast does not foam (and you've made sure your water is warm), that means your yeast is dead. You'll need to start over with fresh yeast.
- Brown sugar: this will help feed the yeast and also add some of the caramelized sweetness to the shallots.
- All-purpose flour: this will be the base of your dough. If you use bread flour, you will have a more crusty bread.
- Olive oil: be generous with the olive oil with focaccia! It adds great flavor, but also makes sure the bread doesn't get stuck in the pan (or your fingers don't stick to the dough when dimpling!).
- Shallots: I like to use 3-4 large shallots, but this is one you can measure with your heart. Use more or less, depending on your flavor preferences!
- Flaky sea salt: an absolute must for topping. I like to use Maldon Sea Salt for its big crystals. Do not use regular table salt for the top of the bread - it will just melt into the focaccia.
- Fresh herbs (optional): this is optional, but you can top your focaccia with some fresh thyme or some fresh rosemary.
See full recipe below for detailed directions.
My favorite way to make focaccia is to start around 10am. This gives me plenty of time for rising (even if it's taking a little longer than expected), and will give you a finished, delicious focaccia ready for a late afternoon snack, appetizer before dinner, or for dinnertime as a side dish.
Mix your dough in the bowl of a stand mixer. Transfer to an oiled bowl and let rise 2-3 hours.
Gently fold the dough and transfer to an oiled 13x9in. baking pan. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for another 1 ½ - 2 hours until it fills the pan completely.
While the dough rises a second time, thinly slice the shallots and add to a small skillet with the olive oil and brown sugar.
Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the shallots are soft and starting to brown. You do not want them to get crispy. Set aside.
Drizzle the focaccia with olive oil, then the cooked shallots (make sure they're cool enough to touch).
Use your fingers to dimple the dough all over. Bake the focaccia for 25-35 minutes, then drizzle with additional olive oil.
If you want to, you can also add some fresh herbs such as fresh thyme or rosemary to the top of the focaccia. The shallots are delicious on their own, but a little fresh herb always adds a nice element!
Hint: The trick to the shallots is to not let them get crispy in the skillet, and then to keep them slightly warm so they're pliable while you're pressing them into the focaccia. If your shallots do get crispy, they'll still be good, but they'll be harder to spread onto and press into the dough.
How to caramelize shallots
Caramelizing the shallots appropriately is what gives this Caramelized Shallot Focaccia such an excellent flavor. There are a few key things to keep in mind:
- You do not want the shallots to get crispy in the skillet. They will cook more in the oven while the bread is baking and you want them to still be pliable while you're putting them on the dough. The key to doing this is to cover the shallots and let them steam a little bit in the skillet, stirring occasionally. If the skillet seems too dry, add more olive oil.
- Make sure to let them cool enough to touch them. After the second rise, you will drizzle the dough with olive oil, then add the caramelized shallots. The shallots should be soft and pliable so they easily press into the dough while you're dimpling (rather than hard and crispy). But they shouldn't be so hot that you burn yourself!
If they do get crispy in the skillet, it's not the end of the world! They'll still be delicious and you can absolutely still use them on the dough. No need to start over!
I like to use a stand mixer to make this dough (a KitchenAid 5-Quart Stand Mixer), but it's optional. You could also make this in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. You'll need a large bowl for the dough to rise in, and you'll also need a 13x9 inch baking pan (I like this baking pan from US Pan).
This Caramelized Shallot Focaccia is best fresh (and still slightly warm) out of the oven. If you plan to eat it within 1-2 days of baking, store at room temperature in an airtight container. If needed, reheat the bread in the microwave to make it warm and soft again before eating.
You can also freeze focaccia. Let the bread cool completely, then cut into squares and place in freezer-safe plastic bags. Freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat in the microwave for 30-60 seconds and drizzle with additional olive oil before serving.
Give this Caramelized Shallot Focaccia enough time to rise! You cannot rush dough that is rising. The time will also vary greatly depending on the temperature of your room. If it's warm, your rise time will be quicker; if it's cold, your rise time will be longer. I always try to err on the side of letting the dough rise longer, as that will give you a fluffier end result!
Focaccia is an oven-baked Italian flatbread, that can be served as a side dish, appetizer, or even used as a sandwich bread.
If your yeast doesn't foam in the first steps of the recipe, that means your yeast is dead (yes, it's a living thing!). You should discard the yeast and water mixture and start again with a fresh, new yeast.
Yes, fresh herbs would be great with this focaccia! I would recommend using thyme or rosemary, and adding them on top of the bread before baking. You could also mix some into the dough, if you prefer.
Focaccia is delicious cut into single-serving pieces, then dipped in olive oil. You can also serve it as a side dish with pasta that has a lot of sauce or oil that you would dip the bread into. Another option: slice it like sandwich bread and create an amazing sandwich!
Caramelized Shallot Focaccia
- 2 ½ cups warm water
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast about one envelope
- 3 teaspoons light brown sugar divided
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup olive oil divided
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3-4 shallots thinly sliced
- flaky sea salt for topping
- fresh thyme or rosemary, for topping (optional)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine warm water and 1 teaspoon brown sugar. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for 5 minutes, until foamy. If the yeast does not foam, it is dead and you will need to start over with fresh yeast.
- Add the flour, salt and black pepper and mix on low speed until combined. This will be a very shaggy dough. Transfer the dough to a large, oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 2-3 hours.
- Generously brush a 13x9 inch baking pan with 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil and set aside.
- Once the dough has risen, use a spatula to gently scrape around the outside of the bowl, deflating the dough. Transfer the dough to the center of the prepared baking pan. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise at room temperature until it again doubles in size and fills the pan completely, about 1 ½ - 2 hours.
- During the second rise, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add 1 Tablespoon butter and sliced shallots. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons brown sugar, stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until the shallots start to brown and are very soft. Set aside to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Remove the towel from the dough and drizzle the dough generously with 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil. Spread the caramelized shallots on the dough (and fresh herbs, if using), then use your fingers to push the shallots into the dough and create dimples all over the bread. Sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt.
- Bake 25-35 minutes until the focaccia is puffy, golden and crusty. Remove from the oven and drizzle with an additional 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool fully. Slice and enjoy!