Sunday, September 18, 2011

Focaccia Bread + Tomato Confit = Love

The term “confit” usually describes a meat that has been slowly poached and preserved in its own fat. You have probably seen or heard of goose, pork, or the most common, duck confit. When this method is applied to meats, the result is melt-on-the-tongue tenderness. But this word can also be used to describe vegetables that are prepared and stored in oil in a similar way. Tomatoes are a perfect example.

Once quickly blanched and shocked to remove the skin, and the seeds are taken out, the tomatoes are laid out on a tray with seasonings and aromatics such as garlic and herbs, and then doused with olive oil. To balance the bitterness and acidity, a dusting of confectioners’ sugar is powdered over the top. As with meat confit, they are cooked low and slow until tender. The oil, which has been nicely infused from cooking, is then poured over the tomatoes to store under refrigeration, allowing them to marinate and become even better tasting over time.

I once read an article where confiting tomato was described as something like, “cooking the life out of it.” In a way, this is true, and I would never suggest applying this method to garden fresh summer tomatoes. But now that summer is coming to an end, it may just be the best way to make a not-so-great tomato taste amazing. Rather than sucking the being from a tomato, it incorporates new life, bringing flavor to what is otherwise lacking out of season.

Tomato confit (and its oil) can be used in a number of ways, either as the star ingredient or a base for something else. My favorite is baked on top of focaccia bread:

Having only a few basic ingredients and a short list of steps, both focaccia and tomato confit are incredibly simple—in essence. I’m not going to lie, they both take forever to make. Between having a total three hours rising time for the focaccia and the arduous peeling and seeding of the tomatoes for the confit, each requires a whole lot of patience and love. But in the end, I can promise you that your efforts will resonate in the taste.

I usually make this tomato confit focaccia for the holidays when there are already a ton of other things going on in the kitchen. All of the rising and confiting happens in the background between getting a bunch of other things done, and before you know it the bread is coming out of the oven. You can bake it in either a small sheet tray or a round pie pan; I prefer the round shape because you can slice it like a pizza and everyone gets a wedge or two. With all the right elements in place—tomato, garlic, olive oil and delicious bread—the taste is very similar to pizza as well.

You can use the tomato confit as an actual pizza topping, or for a great appetizer or snack, serve as is in a bowl with the oil and spoon it on top of fresh or toasted bread or crostini. As I mentioned earlier, it can also be a used as a base for soups, sauces, or vinaigrettes. To make a vinaigrette, puree about ¼ cup of the tomatoes in a food processor with a splash of sherry vinegar and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, then add the oil in a slow stream; season with salt and pepper.

Asparagus with tomato confit vinaigrette.
However you choose to enjoy your tomato confit, it is smart to always make a ton in advance, especially since it takes a while to make. It will keep for at least a couple of weeks in the fridge and the flavor will only get better over time—if it even lasts that long. Chances are you will go through this pretty quickly.

Here are the recipes for the confit and the focaccia. The yield for the confit is estimated and as for the focaccia, I apologize that my recipe is all in grams.

Tomato Confit:
Yield: about 2 cups
- 10 plum tomatoes, blanched and shocked
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- About 1-2 cups olive oil
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- Salt and pepper to taste
• Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Peel, quarter and seed tomatoes and lay them out flat on sheet tray(s). Sprinkle garlic slices and thyme leaves evenly over the tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Pour the olive oil over the tomatoes until they are all submerged. Dust confectionary sugar over top of the entire tray.
• Place the tray(s) into the oven carefully as not to spill any of the oil. Cook the tomatoes until they appear to be slightly shriveled or dried up, about 1 hour. *Keep an eye on them for the first 15 minutes or so. If the oil appears to be getting too hot, you may need to lower your oven, which will result in increased cooking time.
• Remove from the oven and cool. Spoon tomatoes into an airtight container and cover completely with the olive oil from the pan. Refrigerate. Serve as is with bread/crostini, or bake on top of foccacia bread.

Focaccia Bread:
Yield: 1 loaf
- 20 grams yeast
- 75 grams warm water (105-155 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 17 ½ grams sugar
- 112 ½ grams bread flour
• In a small bowl, whisk yeast with the warm water.
• In a stand mixer, mix flour and sugar on low speed until well incorporated. Add the yeast mixture until a pliable but sticky ball forms.
• Put the ball into a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly; let rest for 1 hour in a warm place until it doubles in size.
- 200 grams warm water (105-115 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 85 grams olive oil, plus extra for oiling the pan
- 42 ½ grams sugar
- 15 grams salt
- 227 ½ grams bread flour, plus extra if needed
• Oil 1 half sheet pan or a round cake pan.
• In the bowl of the stand mixer, add the warm water to the sponge with olive oil, sugar and salt; mix on low speed, slowly adding the flour in parts. Continue to add more flour if needed, until the dough is smooth and no longer sticks to the bowl.
• On a lightly floured table, roll the dough into a ball; cover with a lightly damp kitchen towel and let rest for 1 hour until doubled in size.
• Once the dough has doubled, slice an “X” into the top and spread it out into the prepared oiled sheet pan, lightly punching down the dough with the tips of your fingers as you go. Add toppings at this stage such as caramelized onions or tomato confit. Tightly wrap the pan with plastic and let rest in a warm place for 1 hour.
• Set the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the bread dough into the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 15-20 minutes.


Karen said...

Since I am the world's worst bread-maker, I love the confit vinaigrette idea. The bread looks amazing, but there is no way it would look like that coming out of my oven!!

RavieNomNoms said...

Oh I love this idea!! I have never seen tomato confit before, but I am positive I would love it!

Rosemary said...

I just read a recipe for a blueberry confit but was afraid to try it> Now that you've paved the way for me with the tomato confit, I just may do it. Tomatoes are so versatile, aren't they?