Caramelized Onion, Fennel and Tomato Focaccia

May 4th, 2015

Caramelized onion Focaccia 1

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.  Caramelized onion Focaccia 3V   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.

Caramelized Red onion Focaccia 2 Close

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.


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
fine salt
4 red onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 teaspoons fennel seeds
9 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
sea salt

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. You can get restaurant wood table tops from here to get the best countertable tops.

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.

Printable Recipe

Harvest Focaccia

February 8th, 2015

Harvest Focaccia 1

Known as Schiacciata con l’uva in Tuscany, this grape harvest focaccia is showcased in the windows of bakeries all over the region during the Fall harvest season.  According to Angelo Ciardella, a retired restauranteur and cooking teacher, “In Italy we don’t have Thanksgiving.  It’s the time of the grapes.”  The bread appears only during September when the uva fragola or concord grapes are ripe.  The focaccia is studded with the grapes, raisins, and walnuts and sprinkled with rosemary.  In the version I made, the grapes were layered in the bread dough so that they were more evenly distributed.  The top was also sprinkled with coriander seeds and turbinado sugar to bring out the sweetness of the grapes.

You may be wondering why I would be posting about this recipe in February instead of September.  The reason is that we will be in Tuscany during September this year during the harvest season . I found this recipe while doing research.  Planning a trip is satisfying on so many levels.  Researching the food of the regions where you will be staying is one of the sensory delights.  Another is finding interesting places to stay.

Tuscany Kitchen

This is the kitchen of one of the villas we are considering in a small village near Lucca and Florence.

Tuscany Fireplace

The villa also has a beautiful open fireplace.  We are still working out the details of our trip.  What fun it would be to stay here for a few days.

Harvest Focaccia 2V

Because I didn’t have access to concord grapes I used seedless red grapes.  The flavor is not as intense as it would be with the wine grapes, but we had no complaints about this delicious bread.  This Schiacciata (skee-ah-chah-tah) con l’uva was the closest I could come to the authentic bread experience.  It will be interesting to taste the real thing.  What I loved about this recipe is that it had a stick of butter in it.  It gave the focaccia an almost cake-like consistency.

Harvest Focaccia 3

Buon Appetito!

HARVEST FOCACCIA (Food Network Magazine)

2 1/4-ounce packets active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 cups (about 1 pound) seedless red grapes
2/3 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, cracked with a heavy pan
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Put 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water, the yeast, 1/2 cup olive oil and 1 tablespoon each turbinado sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.  Mix on medium speed until the yeast and sugar dissolve, then let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.  Add both flours and mix on medium speed to make a smooth but stick dough, about 4 minutes.

Poke the butter pieces into the dough, spacing them evenly apart. (Do not mix.)  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside in a wam place until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Mix the dough with the dough hook on low speed just until there are streaks of butter throughout, about 1 minute.  Put the grapes and raisins in a microwave-safe bowl, cover loosely and microwave until juicy, about 10 minutes.  Let cool, the strain through a sieve, discarding the liquid.

Brush a 10 x 15-inch rimmed baking sheet with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Divide the dough in half and transfer one piece to the baking sheet, leaving the other in the bowl.  Cover both pieces of dough loosely with parchment paper; set aside until plump and airy, about 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Spread the dough on the baking sheet so it fills the pan, dimpling it with your fingertips.  Scatter half of the grape-raisin mixture evenly on top.  Put the remaining piece of dough on top and stretch and pat it to cover the bottom piece of dough. (Don’t worry if the dough tears.)  Scatter the walnuts and the remaining grape-raisin mixture on top. dimple the dough all over with your fingertips, poking the topping into the dough.  Cover loosely with parchment and set aside until the dough rises above the sides of the baking sheet by about 1/2-inch, 35 to 40 minutes.

Mix the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, the coriander, rosemary, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper; sprinkle over the dough.  Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake 10 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. and bake until the focaccia is golden and springs back when pressed 20 to 30 minutes.  Brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil; let cool in the pan 15 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.  Can be served warm or at room temperature.  Warning:  Be careful not to eat the bread piping hot or you can burn your lips or mouth on a grape.  This came from personal experience. 

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© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.