Posted on Jun 2, 2011 in All Recipe Posts, Fruit, Yeast Breads | 9 comments

I actually wasn’t going to post this recipe but it was so good, I thought I might as well, even though I really hadn’t prepared any decent photos for it.  Forgive the presentation, but I hope you enjoy the recipe!

Plus it’s a great chance to thank Simone Eyles at 365Cups again for her fabulous graphic design work for all things Chocolate Chilli Mango.  I’ve now updated the blog, twitter profile and the Facebook page.  I would love to get your feedback on the new look!  We kept it simple, cos that’s the kinda dudette I am.  I hope you like it.

This is my version of a schiacciata con l’uva, the traditional focaccia with grapes from Toscana.  I love to make this for breakfast or a mid-morning merenda (snack) with coffee.  I really love this as it can be served as either a sweet treat or as part of a savoury snack or meal.  Although it is a sweet focaccia, it’s not overly sweet so it’s also wonderful served with a sharp hard cheese like a Grana Padano, Reggiano or Montasio.  That said, it probably is quite lovely with soft cheeses too.   Leftovers are delicious toasted or warmed through in an oven.

Use whatever grapes are in season.  As June has just rolled around (ALREADY???), my favourite muscatels and fragolino grapes are no longer available so I used seedless crimson grapes.  They don’t break down as much as softer grape varieties which gave the focaccia a nice textural contrast with the slightly crunchy grapes and the soft focaccia.  Really lovely.

You can prepare the dough in a heavy-duty mixer.  I sometimes do this but prefer to start the dough off in my food processor and finish off the kneading by hand.  It’s quick and finishing off the kneading by hand gives you a good feel for when the dough is ready.  Plus, making bread is all about touch and a sensory experience.  It’s also more fun!  Another great baking tradition that doubles as therapy for the soul.

Makes 2 x 30 cm round focaccias

Ingredients
Sponge
20 grams fresh yeast
20 grams sugar
125 millilitres warm water (about 35-40°C)
100 grams unbleached plain flour or Italian type ’00’
Dough
500 grams unbleached plain flour or Italian type ’00’
1.5 teaspoons sea salt
60 grams sugar
grated zest of 1 large orange
1 quantity sponge, above
200 millilitres warm water (35°C)
40 millilitres fresh orange juice (about 1/2 large orange)
45 millilitres extra-virgin olive oil (3 tablespoons)
extra-virgin olive oil, extra
fresh grapes, according to what is in season
hail sugar (optional)

Instructions
For the sponge:  Crumble the yeast into the warm water and add the sugar.  Whisk together until dissolved.  Set aside, covered in a warm spot for 10 minutes to activate the yeast.  It will be a little foamy by this stage.  Add the flour to the yeast mixture and whisk until smooth and creamy.  Set aside, covered, in a warm spot, for about 45 minutes until doubled in size.

For the dough and first rise:  Place the flour, sea salt, sugar, and orange zest into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined.  Add the water, orange juice, and olive oil to the sponge and mix well.  With the processor running,  pour the sponge mixture into the flour mixture and process only until the dough is mixed.  This should take about 20 – 30 seconds.

Focaccia dough is softer and stickier than ordinary bread dough.  Turn the dough out on to a floured surface.  Sprinkle a little flour over the top and dust your hands lightly with flour too, to avoid excessive sticking.  Lightly knead the dough until it is smooth and shiny.  It will still be fairly soft and a little sticky.  Don’t be tempted to add copious amounts of flour or you will end up with a very dry focaccia.  This would not be good!!

Brush a large bowl generously with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl.  Brush a little olive oil on the surface of the dough to prevent it drying out.  Cover the bowl with cling film.  At this point, you can leave the dough in a draught-free, warm spot to rise for about 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.  I do this if pressed for time.  My preference, however, is to let the dough rise slowly for about 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.  The slow rise helps develop the flavour of the dough, but it’s not essential.  I also prefer to do this as I can whip up the dough in the evening and then bake it first thing in the morning to be eaten fresh that day.  Do as you prefer :)

If you have proofed the dough overnight in the refrigerator, take it out of the refrigerator about an hour before you shape it for the second rise to allow it to come back to room temperature.

About 30 – 45 minutes before you plan to bake the focaccias, set the oven to 225°C.

For the second rise:  Knock down the dough and shape into two 30 centimetre rounds.  Place on lined baking sheets sprinkled with a little cornmeal.  I used two pizza trays that are perforated.  You want the focaccias to be quite thin.  You can also shape the dough into smaller single-serve rounds if you like.  Cover loosely and set aside for about 30 minutes to rise.

When the dough is ready, brush the surface with olive oil.  Press the grapes generously into the dough.  Sprinkle liberally with hail sugar, if using.  Bake at 225°C for about 30 minutes until golden and cooked through.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on a wire rack.

Serve warm for breakfast or mid-morning with a coffee, or with cheese as part of a cheese-board.

It freezes well or can be stored, well wrapped, in the refrigerator, if you have a small amount of leftovers.