Tomato sauce can burn easily in a hot oven, so if the focaccia starts to darken too soon before it’s done, tent loosely with aluminum foil for the remainder of the bake. You can adjust the number of anchovies on top to your own preference.
- In a small bowl, combine 100 grams of the water with the yeast. Stir to dissolve and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, remaining water, and 30 grams of olive oil. Add the yeast mixture, and mix thoroughly with your hands until all the visible flour is incorporated and a shaggy dough forms, about 3 minutes.
- Cover the dough loosely in plastic wrap and set aside to autolyse for 30 minutes. This will help the flour to become fully hydrated, activating enzymes that will help the yeast to access its nutrients.
- Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix with your hands until fully incorporated. The dough should feel smooth and supple and a little taught.
- Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 1-2 hours to ferment. It should appear bubbly and nearly doubled in size. It's okay if it hasn't fully doubled by this point; it will continue to ferment in the fridge.
- Chill the covered dough for at least 8 hours, and up to 24. This lengthy fermentation will develop flavor and structure.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and allow the dough to warm slightly at room temperature, about 30 minutes.
- Apply 15g of olive oil to a 13x18" rimmed baking sheet and use a spatula to scrape the dough from the bowl onto the oiled sheet. Using oiled hands, gently stretch dough, pushing it into the corners of the pan. If it tenses up, let it rest for 5-10 minutes. This will allow the gluten to relax, making it easier to stretch.
- Using hands or a pastry brush, gently rub 15g of olive oil over the top of the dough. Cover gently in plastic wrap and allow to proof in a warm place for 1-2 hours, or until it's puffy and bubbly, and has grown to fill the tray. 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450°F.
- While the dough rises and the oven preheats, combine the salt, garlic cloves, and 4 of the anchovies on a cutting board. Roughly chop, and then run the edge of your knife across the mixture multiple times to create a coarse paste.
- In a small skillet or saucepan over medium, add the olive oil and heat until shimmery. Add the anchovy and garlic paste and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to brown the garlic.
- Add the tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes and cook until the flavors have melded and the mixture has reduced only slightly, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
- When the oven is preheated and the dough is puffy, use your fingers to press deep dimples across the entirety of the dough. Bubbles should rise to the surface, and the dough should spring back only slightly, leaving the dimples intact.
- Using the back of a spoon or a pastry brush, spread the tomato mixture across the top of the dough, sparsely covering it all the way to the edges of the pan. Cover the dough with the 16 remaining anchovies, arranging them in a diagonal pattern.
- Bake until the focaccia is crisp and golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. If the tomato mixture is coloring too quickly, cover the focaccia in a sheet of aluminum foil for the remainder of the bake.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, and shred pieces of the burrata on top. Use the back of a spoon to spread the creamy filling across the surface. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
Alex Testere is a writer, editor, and illustrator based in Brooklyn. He spends most of his time cooking and thinking about his houseplants.