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© 2014 mathewguiver

French onion focaccia (plus my tips on high altitude yeast baking)

My holiday present from my boyfriend David was a weekend trip to Breckenridge, Colorado. I’d never been before, and although I don’t ski or snowboard, David got me a massage at a local spa and also booked us a cute condo in town that had a great kitchen. He’s very supportive of my blogging and culinary adventures, and had figured I’d enjoy being able to do some cooking and blogging while we were on our trip. I know, David definitely spoils me.

Here’s a picture of us on a tubing lift in Keystone. Oh my Britney, tubing was so fun, I highly recommend.

Anyways, since we had a kitchen I wanted to make sure that we ate a majority of our meals in the condo. We did have a romantic dinner at a fondue place in Breckenridge one evening, but other than that I did most of the cooking for our trip.

As you can see from the sign that was hanging in our condo, the elevation at Breckenridge is 9,603 feet. The air was also really, really dry. Needless to say, baking and cooking was a bit different than I’m used to at home in San Francisco.

Before coming up with the recipe for my onion focaccia, I did a bit of research on baking yeast breads at high altitudes. Below are a few of the general tips I collected, which have been incorporated into my recipe.

  • Because of the lower air pressure at high altitudes yeast will rises significantly faster. Therefore you should use 25 to 40% less yeast then your recipe calls for.
  • Add a little extra salt to your dough, this will slow the growth of the yeast and expanding gases.
  • Don’t use too much flour when kneading. Your dough may be a bit sticky, but if you incorporate too much flour then the bread will be too dry.
  • Check the dough frequently when rising, and anticipate about half the rise time you’d expect at lower altitudes.
  • Make sure to oil your dough before letting it rise, and cover it with plastic wrap to prevent the dough from drying out.
  • Bake your bread at a slightly higher temperature (like 10 to 15 degrees).
  • Watch the bread closely while it bakes, it will likely need a few minutes less due to the higher temperature and low air pressure.

The recipe below has already been optimized for high altitude baking, so if you’re cooking at sea level then you should adjust accordingly.

Focaccia ingredients:

1 c and 1 Tbsp warm water
1 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp kosher salt (divided)
1 c bread flour
2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c olive oil (divided)
1 yellow onion
1/2 a red onion
Canola oil
Additional all purpose flour
Additional kosher salt


1. Start by cooking your onions. Dice a whole yellow, and half a red onion into small pieces, then sautee with a little canola oil and kosher salt over medium heat until they begin to brown. You don’t need them to get dark brown like you would with a French onion soup, since they’ll continue cooking in the oven when you bake the focaccia.

2. Set cooked onions aside and let them cool.

2. Measure out a cup and a Tablespoon of warm water. Add sugar and 1/2 Tbsp of kosher salt. Stir, then add your yeast and let sit until the water has become frothy, about 5 to 10 minutes.

3. In a large bowl combine remaining 1/2 Tbsp of kosher salt, bread and all purpose flours.

4. Add 1/4 c of olive oil to your frothy yeast water, stir, then slowly add liquid to dry ingredients. Mix with a fork, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 to 8 minutes.

5. Cover with saran wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

6. Prepare your focaccia pan by covering it with parchment paper, then spread the remaining 1/4 c of olive oil along the bottom of the pan.

7. Lay dough out on pan, then spread it out by poking holes into the dough with your fingers.

8. Spread cooked onions out along the top of the dough, and push them down into the dough with your hands. Drizzle the top with a little more olive oil, then let rise for about 20 minutes (depending on your altitude).

9. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees fahrenheit or utill the edges of the focaccia have browned.

10. Let cool on a cookie sheet for at least 30 minutes before eating.

Now, you could eat the focaccia as it is. See how great it looks in the pictures below…

But I actually prefer to toast my focaccia. After I’ll rip a few pieces, I put them into an oven set to broil for a couple of minutes until the top gets nicely toasted.


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  1. […] snowboard some of the time; he’d go in for more earthbound diversions – cooking/food blogging (baking at high-altitude was something he’d always been curious to try), plus some time at a local day spa where I’d […]

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