January 9, 2013

Focaccia with Grapes and Rosemary

So this is January, eh?

A hard month, but where would we be without it?  How different would our literature be if our favorite writers worked in warm sunny places? Imagine if Louise Erdrich (oh, do read the The Round House) or David Rhodes (Driftless is a must) wrote their books in L.A.?  Without these dismal days, I might not be reading anything at all. Or cooking, for that matter.

In this slow month, this cold month, I'm looking for ways to play, mostly with dough. It's cheap, it's easy.  Playing with dough, like finger painting and coloring, is good for the right side of the brain. When I'm stuck or frustrated a good thumping of dough whacks me out of my head, whirling me from the abstract, into the visceral and real, and ignites my appetite. Hunger fires the imagination.

The word "focaccia" is derived from the Latin term "focus" which also means "hearth" referring to a place for baking, the center of the house, the gathering place. So it makes sense that making focaccia brings my thoughts back into focus and helps lead me to my own metaphorical hearth, or the center of what it is I'm trying to figure out, while filling the kitchen with yeasty-toasty aromas of freshly baked bread.

Focaccia with Grapes and Rosemary
Serves 6
This twist on the Italian classic uses local concord grapes. You may substitute cranberries for the grapes when they’re in season. 
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
¾ cup lukewarm water
Sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1-1/2 cups grapes, seeded
In a large bowl, stir together ¼ cup of the flour, the yeast and ¼ cup of the water. Let stand until bubbles form, about 20 minutes. Add ½ teaspoon of the salt, the sugar and the remaining ½ cup of the water. Stir in the remaining 1-3/4 cups flour. Turn onto a lightly floured counter and knead until smooth, about 5 to 10 minute, adding just enough flour to keep from sticking. Place in a well-oiled bowl and turn the dough to oil the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
            Punch the dough down and turn out onto a floured surface. Roll out a large oval about ½-inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet. Make shallow, evenly placed indentations in the surface. Brush with the olive oil. Press the grapes into the indentations and sprinkle with the remaining salt. Bake until golden and crisp.

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