Topping! Focaccia three ways

focaccia6b

Focaccia brings back bad memories of suburban sandwich shops: dry, flat squares of bread, topped with desiccated bits of herbs and with a dense crumb. Or dry, thick-bottomed things, smothered in greasy ‘Italianate’ toppings like ham and cheese.

Nancy Silverton’s quip about bad focaccia sums it up well:

Here in Los Angeles, those dense, cake-like squares of dry, flavorless bread, topped with rosemary if you were lucky, always seemed like a bad cliché — something Italian American restaurants offered for their bread service as a way to appear authentic or simply to stick with a theme.

Since then, I’ve encountered another kind of focaccia from real bakeries: thinner, simpler, with deeper uneven dents made by the baker’s fingers (or the apprentice’s).

I began this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) focaccia wondering which type of focaccia will come out of the oven. I needn’t have worried. This recipe and I are going to be good friends; actually, my friends and this recipe have become good friends.

After the initial kneading, and during the 36 hour rest, the dough ballooned and coyly promised fabulous thing. Fresh from the oven, it delivered on that promise: we inhaled lightly crusty, pillowy, chewy bread.

Since I can’t help tweaking recipes, I tried a few sweet and savoury toppings. Each one worked well and showed off the bread’s versatility.

focaccia4a

Doin’ your dough

There are almost as many variations for focaccia dough as there are toppings. This dough was different from recipes that use a starter dough or poolish (like Nancy Silverton’s), though the long proving time probably achieves a similar depth of flavour as bread made with a basic starter.

To make the dough, mix the yeast with a little warm water. Add flour, more warm water, salt, oil, and knead the mixture until you get a very pliable dough that forms a ‘window pane’ – when the dough can be pulled into a thin membrane that allows the light to come through (see photos here or here).

A few TWD bakers had trouble with the instructions for kneading the dough in a food mixer. It seems some KitchenAids are not designed to knead dough on a high setting or for 10 minutes at a time.

With these dire warnings in mind, I kneaded the dough by hand while watching TV. About halfway through an episode of Myth Busters, the dough was ready for proving. By bed time, the dough was ready to rest in the fridge. 36 hours later, on a Saturday morning, I was ready to pull freshly baked bread out of the oven for lunch guests.

focaccia2a

Toppings are tops

If hand kneading dough was the fun part, deciding on toppings was the creative part. With the following three sets of toppings, the focaccia (loaves? rounds?) became a filling Saturday lunch.

one: salt, rosemary, roasted garlic, onions, olive oil

focaccia3

This is the basic focaccia, or schiacciata (in Tuscan). I roasted single bulb garlic until caramelised, squeezed some garlic pulp onto the dough, alongside thinly sliced red onions, rosemary, Maldon salt crystals, and a generous drizzle of olive oil.

This was a set of toppings that add just enough flavours to show off the springy crusty bread.

two: baby tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, salt, brown sugar

focaccia7a

This was unexpected good.

I pushed some baby tomatoes deep into the dough after the final stages of proving, sprinkled some sea salt, a tiny pinch of sugar, thyme and rosemary, and also brushed with some olive oil. The tomatoes’ flavours intensified as a result of baking, and added a real piquancy that contrasted with the mild bread. (The focaccia could have had an extra 5 minutes in the oven to brown the crust, but this didn’t affect the general flavour)

three: caramel, apple, blueberries

focaccia5

The focaccia got a little fancy.

I wanted to make a caramel apple tart for the last TWD post. Since then, apple and caramel have been hovering on my mind, and prompted me to try a caramel, apple and blueberry topping (see ideas here and here). The salt, butter and sugar melted together to form a salty-caramel flavoured crust, while the apples and blueberries formed juice puddles of sweetness where they were pushed into the dough.

In the evening, I mixed some caramel with blueberries, and drizzled the sauce over the sweet focaccia. It was a fun and quick dessert. I think it will also make a great bread and butter pudding.

focaccia10b

Final notes and recipe links

I baked on a pizza stone rather than in a baking tray, and so had freeform, aka, rustic, focaccia. I love a crusty bread, but wasn’t willing to pour a large amount of oil into the baking pan as Nancy Silverton instructs. Instead, the pizza stone’s radiant heat produced a decent crust on the bottom of the focaccia.

As you can tell, I loved this bread. No flashbacks to those suburban sandwich shops!

For the recipe, go to Wandering Through. To see what other TWD bakers have done, go to Tuesdays with Dorie.

focaccia9a

Advertisements

Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

43 thoughts on “Topping! Focaccia three ways

  1. Sally 5 February 2013 at 11:58 pm Reply

    What an absolutely splendid post and thanks for the shout out. You’ve made me want to run back to my pizza stone and bake immediately. Gorgeous pics too.

    • saucygander 6 February 2013 at 9:16 pm Reply

      Thanks for giving me the topping ideas! We want to make this again, so many toppings, so little time.

  2. Elaine 6 February 2013 at 12:31 am Reply

    Your bread looks gorgeous! I love all your topping choices especially the roasted garlic. This was the most flavorful bread we’ve had in a long time.

    • saucygander 6 February 2013 at 9:21 pm Reply

      It was tasty, wasn’t it? The roast garlic was really good, sometimes the simplest things are the best.

  3. smarkies 6 February 2013 at 12:41 am Reply

    Those are some absolutely lovely photos and toppings! well done! Thanks for baking along.

    • saucygander 6 February 2013 at 9:23 pm Reply

      Thanks for liking the photos, I’m learning about our (point + shoot) camera, and got a bit carried away! 🙂

  4. Miette 6 February 2013 at 11:53 pm Reply

    thanks for the great pictures. Yours looked great. I wanted to try the sweet one but realized the recipe was different for the bread. I guess I should have tried it anyway.

    • saucygander 10 February 2013 at 8:05 am Reply

      Thanks! The caramel topping wasn’t too sweet, a very sweet topping would probably need a different dough.

  5. Liz 7 February 2013 at 12:28 am Reply

    Oh, wow, you outdid yourself with three spectacular versions! They all look amazing…but i’m especially intrigued by your blueberry caramel focaccia…sounds incredible!!!

    • saucygander 10 February 2013 at 8:08 am Reply

      I think the blueberries were the highlight, in terms of colour and their more intense flavour. I’m so glad you liked this!

  6. TheKitchenLioness 7 February 2013 at 2:46 am Reply

    You made three different delicious looking toppings, a bit traditional and a bit not so traditional – as I said, it is nice to experiment with different toppings for this wonderful Focaccia.

  7. oven chaos 7 February 2013 at 3:39 am Reply

    Looking at the three focaccias I am having trouble picking the one I liked the most. Maybe the roasted garlic will be the winner for me after all… Simply beautiful!

    • saucygander 10 February 2013 at 8:11 am Reply

      Oh yes, (day dreams about roast garlic…) The simplest things can be the best.

  8. SandraM 7 February 2013 at 8:37 am Reply

    Fantastic post! I love the look of all three of your focaccias. What a great idea to try different toppings!

    • saucygander 10 February 2013 at 8:13 am Reply

      It was so much fun. and a great way to serve a casual group lunch.

  9. Beth 7 February 2013 at 10:49 am Reply

    You had really great ideas for your different toppings and your bread has the lovely bubbles that I was not successful in obtaining! Must have been all that hand kneading! Nice job!

    • saucygander 10 February 2013 at 8:17 am Reply

      I think I even forgot to be bored by kneading because I was so caught up in the TV show!

  10. Krissy 7 February 2013 at 11:08 am Reply

    So beautiful…both the focaccia and the photos. Creative toppings and such a great look to your bubbly bread. But you made me remember, as soon as I saw your top photo…that I had purchased little tomatoes to top one focaccia…oh well, the tomatoes will get another use or I’ll bake this again…we loved this focaccia and I’m excited to try other things.

    • saucygander 10 February 2013 at 8:19 am Reply

      Thanks for your kind words! Those little tomatoes are great, I have them with so many things, pizza, pasta, as a side to a roast..

  11. gfcelebration 7 February 2013 at 3:27 pm Reply

    Beautiful photos, and loved reading your recollections about focaccia. This recipe was rather unique, and we loved it as well — certainly one to make again in the future. Lovely post.

    • saucygander 10 February 2013 at 9:09 am Reply

      Thank you, I hope to try your gf version soon.

  12. KitchenConundrum (@KitchConundrum) 7 February 2013 at 4:04 pm Reply

    Your photos are beautiful and I love the idea of using caramel, apples and blueberries. I’ve never really had a sweet version before. Will have to try it for certain. And what a great idea to use a pizza stone. Great post!

    • saucygander 10 February 2013 at 9:12 am Reply

      The caramel topping had a subtle caramel flavour, it was definitely worth trying. And I’m glad you liked this post, it was an interesting one for the TWD group.

  13. breaddivas 8 February 2013 at 6:38 am Reply

    What a wonderful post – lovely photos and lots of creative ideas for toppings. Congratulations on your successful breads!

  14. Mel 8 February 2013 at 6:41 am Reply

    Your foccacias look amazing!!! I love your topping ideas!!! Great job!!!
    To answer your question about the flour I used it’s a bread flour, in France we call it: T65.

    • saucygander 10 February 2013 at 9:14 am Reply

      Thanks, the flour is probably similar to bread flour here. Glad you liked the post!

  15. Amanda 8 February 2013 at 7:07 am Reply

    These all look amazing! I wish I was your neighbor! 🙂

    • saucygander 10 February 2013 at 9:16 am Reply

      Haha, my colleagues actually get more of my baking than our neighbours!

  16. Cathleen 8 February 2013 at 10:58 am Reply

    OMG! Absolutely beautiful! These have to be the most gorgeous loaves I’ve seen so far. I’m so jealous!!! 🙂

    • saucygander 10 February 2013 at 9:19 am Reply

      Wow, thanks so much! Maybe I was lucky, these turned out well for us.

  17. yummychunklet 8 February 2013 at 2:45 pm Reply

    How fantastic! I love all three versions!

    • saucygander 10 February 2013 at 9:20 am Reply

      Thanks! All three were tasty. 🙂

  18. galettista 9 February 2013 at 3:42 am Reply

    Your toppings look delicious. It’s great to get so much variety from one recipe.

  19. Cher 11 February 2013 at 3:56 am Reply

    Your variations all came out beautifully – love the blueberry one especially.

    • saucygander 14 February 2013 at 12:59 am Reply

      Thanks! can’t go wrong with blueberry!

  20. kevnkoi 13 February 2013 at 3:50 pm Reply

    Your focaccia looks so good. Love the variety!

    • saucygander 14 February 2013 at 1:00 am Reply

      Variety, the spice of life. 🙂

  21. Euan 26 February 2013 at 6:07 am Reply

    These are beautiful! I shall be trying the savoury ones. Good to see that my Salted Caramel topping idea is catching on 🙂 http://signorbiscotti.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/salted-caramel-focaccia/

    • saucygander 27 February 2013 at 6:37 am Reply

      That was an inspired idea, signor, salted caramel makes everything better.

  22. Jen Minkowitz 3 March 2013 at 2:18 am Reply

    perty photos 🙂

Penny for your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: