Compared with other yeast breads, focaccia is relatively simple to prepare. But isn't always the simplest preparations that yield the the most pure, delicious results? On a recent trip to San Francisco, so impressed was I by the beautiful sheets of focaccia at Liguria Bakery in North Beach, that I was inspired to whip up a batch of my own creation. And just in time for this month's CLICK challenge, which calls for flour as the main culinary ingredient. CLICK is a monthly theme-based food photography event organized by Jugalbandi that gives food photographers, and not necessarily cooks, to highlight their work. March's theme is metal!
In addition to sprigs of fresh rosemary and slivers of local pears, I decided to pay homage to the beautifully-crafted cheeses of California. One of my top-pick fromageries from the West coast is Cypress Grove, a maker of fine goat's milk cheeses, ranging from fresh chèvres to aged, firm cheeses. My favorites include Humboldt Fog and the Lambchopper. For this focaccia, I chose a floral-flavored soft chèvre, Purple Haze. Rolled in lavender and fennel pollen, it's an extremely creamy goat cheese, both sweet and fragrant. I also like to eat this spread on a toast, with honey or marmalade.
The focaccia turned out beautifully, but could have risen a bit more. Next time, I will use more flour and yeast than was called for. Besides getting to eat the focaccia - another upside, the perfume of baking bread and rosemary permeated my tiny apartment.
Rosemary Focaccia with Pear and Chèvre
yields one 11"x17" sheet
The recipe for the focaccia base is from Rose Levy-Beranbaum's The Bread Bible, a good introduction for any wannabe artisan bread baker. Like I mentioned, I will make some changes to the recipe for next time- by adding 1/2 cup more flour, and probably 1/2 teaspoon more of yeast.
13.6 ounces (2 3/4 cups) unbleached all purpose flour
3/8 tsp instant yeast
2 cups minus 2 Tbsp water, 70F-90F
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp fresh rosemary needles
1 pear, cut into 1/4" slices
1/3 cup crumbled chevre
coarse sea salt
1. In a mixing bowl, combine flour and yeast. Gradually add the water until the dough comes together. It will be very soupy. Keep kneading, or beating with a mixer, until the dough is transformed into a smooth, shiny ball, about 20 minutes. Add the sugar and salt and beat until well incorporated, about 3 minutes.
2. Using a dough scraper, scrape the dough into a 1 1/2 quart bowl, lightly greased. Lightly oil the top of the dough. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise (at 75F to 80F) for about 4 hours or until it has at least doubled.
3. Coat a 11"x17" sheet pan with 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Pour the dough onto it- it will be thin enough to pour but very stretchy. Spread the dough out as thin as possible without tearing it. Let it relax for 10 minutes, then spread it to fill the entire sheet, trying to maintain the bubbles in the dough. Cover the pan with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise 1 1/2 times its original volume, about 1 hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 475F 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone on it before preheating.
5. Uncover the dough and drizzle the remaining olive oil evenly over it. Sprinkle evenly with rosemary, pears, chevre and sea salt. Place the pan directly on the hot stone and bake for 12-13 minutes or until the top is golden. Remove from the oven and drizzle on a little extra olive oil, if desired. Serve immediately.