Traditional Italian focaccia is based on a centuries old Roman flat bread. It is usually flavored with olive oil and frequently has herbs either in the dough or sprinkled on top. It can also be topped with cheese, anything from the onion family, dried meats, or vegetables – in fact, anything the baker likes`. It is, however, classically done with only olive oil, rosemary, and a sprinkling of coarse salt over the top.
However, for some time I have had in my mind that I had to make fruit focaccia. I love the dried fruit focaccia at Balthazar Bakery on Spring Street in Manhattan
(www.balthazarbakery.com) but I had in mind to do a fresh fruit one, a soft, spongy slightly salty bread studded with sweet luscious Bing cherries or tiny juicy plums that grow wild in upstate New York. I was psyched.
So, I made the dough – my first try – but in my excitement I forgot to buy the necessary fruit at the farmers market and since we were in the country I didn’t feel like making the 45 minute trip to the supermarket so instead of fruit focaccia, I made a traditional one. (This will go down in the recipe log like my Chicken Fried Rice Without Chicken!) Using cherry tomatoes we had on hand and some rosemary from the pots outside the kitchen door, my first attempt came out so well that it was all eaten before Steve could photograph it. So, instead we give you our in-house artist Steve Kolyer’s rendition.
9 cups sifted bread flour
Two ¼ ounce packets active-dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
3 ¾ cups water
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil for greasing pans
Combine the bread flour with the yeast and salt in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the hook. Add the water and mix on low speed until blended.
Raise the speed to medium and continue to mix until the dough is smooth and shiny. Mix in the olive oil and beat until fully incorporated.
Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper. Lightly coat both sides of the paper with olive oil. Lightly flour a clean, flat work surface.
Scrape the dough onto the floured surface and then divide it into two equal pieces. Place a piece of dough into the center of each of the prepared sheet pans, gently rounding the edges. Cover with plastic film and set aside to ferment for 3 hours.
Working with one piece at a time, uncover and carefully stretch the dough out to cover the entire pan. Using your fingertips, gently dot the top of the dough with shallow holes (In professional bread making this is called dimpling and it serves to create little pockets to hold the olive oil and keep the bread moist and soft). Drizzle the top with extra virgin olive oil, coarse salt, herbs, or any thing you like, such as whole cherry tomatoes, anchovies, chopped onions, or garlic. Cover with plastic film and let rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Uncover the dough and transfer the pans to the preheated oven. Bake for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden-brown.
Remove from the oven and transfer to wire racks to cool.