I’ve wanted to make this recipe for a long time. So very intriguing – the familiar texture of focaccia, moist with olive oil – yet dense with raisins. Sweet, when savory is expected.
Focaccia always confuses me, in the way that regional variations of Italian foods do. Focaccia as we know it is originally (I believe) Ligurian, and then Tuscany has schiaciatta, which is exactly like focaccia. The Pugliese make a potato focaccia, (the best we had was in Ceglie Massapica, at our beloved Cibus), although in Lecce, focaccia was also a savory tart, made of dry and dense olive oil pastry, filled with onions, capers and the like. Confusing! That said, a really good focaccia is a splendid thing to eat – tender, bubbly, dripping with olive oil. Even more intriguing than an unusual sweet focaccia is the traditional grape focaccia, made in the Fall with table or wine grapes. Which I’ll have to try when the season is right.
But we are still in Winter here in San Francisco. I adapted this recipe from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and while it’s very, very simple to make, it does require time. If you find yeast breads troubling, both in the mixing and complicated kneading and risings, this recipe is for you. Hardly any effort is needed to mix the dough (and using a mixer is just fine), and only a few short risings are required. And the next day, a few hour’s rising at room temperature takes place wholly unsupervised. All that’s then required is to dimple the room-temperature dough – to achieve the signature focaccia texture – wash it in olive oil and dust generously with coarse Turbinado sugar.
While olive oil and raisins might not seems to be natural flavor friends, let me assure you that they are! And the result is far, far better – in my opinion – than ordinary, cinnamon-y, American-style raisin bread. It has an Italian accent, after all!
Recipe: Raisin Focaccia, adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
makes 1 16 x 11 focaccia
5 cups/22 oz. bread flour
2 1/2 Tsp. active dry yeast
6 Tbs. olive oil
2 cups water, at room temperature
3 cups raisins or currants
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Turbinado or coarse sugar
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, salt and yeast. Mix together the smaller amount of olive oil with water, and add to the flour. Beat with the dough hook on medium speed for about ten minutes – the resulting dough should be smooth but still sticky, and clean the sides of the bowl. The grains of yeast should also have dissolved. Slowly add the raisins and mix at low speed until well combined.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and let rest for 5 minutes. Then stretch the dough, fold it in thirds like you would a letter, and let rest, covered, for 30 minutes. Repeat this one more time, letting the dough then rest for an hour. Return it to the mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit in the fridge overnight.
The next day, remove the dough about four hours before you plan to bake it. Generously oil a 16 x 11 half-sheet baking pan, and place in the chilled dough. Let the dough proof for about three hours, or until it has reached room temperature. Then shape it by gently encouraging it to fill most of the pan – use your fingertips in an up-and-down motion to dimple and spread but do not push or tear. Don’t force the dough, especially into the corners. Pour over the remaining olive oil, and let it rise until it reaches about 1″ in thickness (about 1 hour). Sprinkle over the coarse sugar (mixed with a little Maldon salt if you like), and bake at 450º for 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the oven, as the oil encourages browning, and it’s easy to overcook. Remove from the pan and let cool on a rack. T says you should tear the focaccia to serve – I say it’s delicious however you serve it, torn or sliced.