This is another tasty recipe from Katie Quinn Davies new cookbook, What Katie Ate on the Weekend. I love making bread. I keep a container of instant dry yeast in my refrigerator at all times. Turning out loaves of wonderful bread is one of the easiest kitchen tasks that you can master. Mixing the dough in a stand mixer makes it even easier. The last few weeks have been kind of hard on me. David has been traveling. I have sprained my ankle and I’ve had to hire a dog walker. And now I am facing surgery. I have plates and pins in my right leg from a previous injury. It looks like they need to be removed. I’m not sure when this will happen, but plans with family and friends are on hold for a while. Lucky for you and me, I can still sit at my computer and connect with everyone. Also lucky for me is that my kitchen has turned out to be the best “handicapped” space I have ever been in. I can cook, I can clean and I can be creative.
While I was baking this bread one morning in my kitchen, I was reflecting on just how lucky I am. No matter what is going in our lives, we still must carry on with daily activities. We can choose to passively sit back and feel sorry for ourselves . . . or we can go into our kitchens and cook. I choose to cook. It is therapeutic . . . it connects us to each other . . . . and who could resist this crunchy bread. Drizzle it with a little more olive oil, dip it in balsamic vinegar and enjoy.
CARAMELIZED ONION, FENNEL AND TOMATO FOCACCIA
2 teaspoons active dried yeast
2 pinches of superfine sugar
1/3 cup olive oil, divided, plus extra for brushing
3 cups bread flour, plus extra for dusting
4 red onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 teaspoons fennel seeds
9 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
Combine the yeast, sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoon oil and 11 fl oz warm water in a bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), then set aside in a warm place for 5 minutes or until frothy.
Sift the flour into a bowl and add 1 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center, pour in the yeast mixture and stir to combine. If you are mixing in a stand mixer, add the flour to the mixing bowl and mix with the dough hook for about 5 minutes before you turn out onto the board and then kneed for just a few minutes on the floured board.
Turn out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in a large bowl that has been greased with a little olive oil and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a skillet over low-medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 12-15 minutes or until soft. Add the brown sugar and vinegar and cook, stirring, for 7-10 minutes or until the onion has caramelized and the vinegar has been absorbed. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
Punch down the dough with your fist. Turn out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead for 1-2 minutes. Spread the dough out to form a rough rectangle, then cover the surface evenly with the onion mixture. Scatter the fennel seeds on top, reserving a few to scatter over later. Carefully fold the dough over on itself a few times until most of the onion mixture is incorporated into the dough (this bit can get a little sticky so ensure your countertop is well-floured).
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and grease a baking sheet with olive oil.
Press the dough onto the prepared sheet, cove with a camp kitchen towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 20 minutes or until doubled in size.
Use your finger to press dimples into the dough, then carefully press the tomato halves into the dimples. Brush well with oil and sprinkle over the remaining fennel seeds, then season with a few good pinches of seal salt.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature.