……….. I know, I know, if you’re a regular reader or a friend, you might be thinking, “what else is new?”………. “what in the world is she up to now?” ……. well, I decided to take my favorite focaccia bread recipe and give it a new twist.
One evening last week we planned an early evening bike ride with my son and his wife, with a picnic dinner along the way. A delicious sandwich along with a salad packed in little jars sounded like the perfect portable meal.
I had some wonderful roasted chicken and knew it would make a delightful (and easily transported) sandwich on focaccia bread……… this is where the “crazy” part comes in – looking through my pantry, I spied a bag dried cherries and thought it might be a nice addition to the focaccia along with some fresh rosemary………. then I got the idea for a sprinkle of toasted pecans over the top. A bit strange? Yes. But don’t they say “no guts, no glory”?
I have to admit that my “concoction” results are not always so stellar, but this one is a winner! I’ve made it three times since our picnic dinner and have trouble keeping it in the house. Besides making fabulous sandwiches, this focaccia is wonderful with soups, salads or as a fun and interesting dinner bread along with some yummy olive oil for dipping. The bread freezes well and, if you have a heavy duty mixer or bread machine, it requires no hand-kneading. Why not try something “crazy”? Make a picnic, a brunch, even an average dinner super special with this Focaccia with Dried Cherries, Rosemary & Toasted Pecans.
Focaccia with Dried Cherries, Rosemary & Toasted Pecans
½ cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
1 ½ cups milk, 2% or whole milk, not skim
¼ cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 ½ tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus extra for the top
1 ¼ cups dried cherries
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt, to taste
small rosemary sprigs
½ cup chopped roughly chopped, toasted pecans (I usually toast them for 5-10 minutes while I’m preheating the oven)
1. Warm the milk and water to 110 to 115˚F. (I do this in the microwave. I put it in for 2 minutes and then check the temperature. If it’s not warm enough, continue to heat for 15 seconds at a time, checking the temperature after each cycle.) Once the liquid is the right temperature, add the brown sugar and stir to combine. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm mixture, stir again and let stand until bubbly*, about 5 minutes. Add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
2. Using the dough hook on a stand mixer**, mix the flour, salt, and chopped rosemary. Add the yeast mixture and mix until a soft dough forms, about 2 minutes. Continue to mix with dough hook for 10 minutes.
3. Oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn it once to coat the top or just move the dough to one side of the mixer bowl, drizzle a bit of olive oil into empty side of bowl and then turn the dough until lightly greased. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
4. Oil 2 or 3*** 9-inch cake pans. (I use about 2 teaspoons of olive oil per pan.) On a generously floured work surface, punch down the dough, divide in 2 or 3 equal pieces, pat each piece into a circle approximately the size of your cake pans. Transfer to the prepared pans, and continue to flatten the dough with your hands to cover the bottoms of the pans completely. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise again in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
5. Preheat oven to 425°F.
6. Using your fingertips, press down firmly into the dough to make dimples about 1 inch apart and 1 inch deep. Lightly brush the entire surface with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with the sea salt, rosemary and toasted pecans.
7. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Check after 15 minutes, if bread is getting too brown, cover loosely with foil and bake at least 5 more minutes. Slide the focaccias onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut into wedges to serve. Serves 8-10.