Sunday, October 16, 2011

Grape Focaccia

Time sure flies when you're not baking bread. I could not believe the last date on a blog entry--it couldn't possibly have been nearly two months since I made the Pan Cubano! And this bread had been on my radar ever since I saw the recipe in the New York Times on September 28, 2011. I picked some wild grapes in anticipation of baking this focaccia from a friend's vacation house, but they withered away in the refrigerator. Then I picked some Concord grapes from the same neighbor's city yard, and they too wrinkled and dried. Finally, I bought some red grapes from the grocery and made the bread the same day.

Really, there's no excuse not to. You're likely to have almost everything you need on hand: olive oil, yeast, flour, cornmeal, and sugar. You may, if you're lucky, have pine nuts in your freezer and fresh rosemary in your herb garden. If not, pick them up when you buy your grapes (or snitch your neighbor's grapes, if you're more organized than I am and you pilfer them at the appropriate time).

First, you gently heat some fresh rosemary in 72 grams (about 6 tablespoons) of olive oil. If you absolutely have to, you could use dried rosemary, but it won't be the same.

Then you simply mix everything but the toppings in a mixing bowl and knead for about five minutes, using the dough hook. Feel free to knead by hand if it makes you happy, but it's easier to knead this wet dough with a hook. You can take it out of the bowl and do the last minute or so of kneading by hand, making sure that you don't add too much flour.

Let it double in size. If you use all the yeast (two teaspoons) and let it rise in a warm place, it takes only about an hour. You can decrease the yeast and let it rise longer, or even let it rise twice. You'll get more flavor from the dough with less yeast and longer rising times, but it doesn't matter much in this focaccia, which has a lot of strong flavors--not just the grapes and rosemary, but also the cornmeal and sugar add different elements not usually in a flatbread.

Shape into a rectangle. No need to measure--this is supposed to be rustic.

And make sure you've dimpled the dough! Don't actually make holes in the dough--you don't want to break the bottom layer. Then scatter on the grapes, pine nuts, the reserved rosemary, a little sugar (I used turbinado), and sea salt. Then drizzle with olive oil (don't be chintzy with the oil), and bake on a parchment-lined pan. Hopefully you've remembered to put a baking stone in the oven and to preheat the oven to 400.

This bread didn't match Rose's rosemary focaccia, the gold standard of focaccia-ness. It was quicker and easier, though, and had a nice sweet/savory balance. The cornmeal was a good addition, and the big grains of sugar and salt made a fascinating mouth crunch, giving out big hits of sweet and salty in the same bite. I started making the bread at 3:15, and took it out of the oven at 5:20, just minutes before people started arriving for a Friday afternoon TGIF gathering. Cheetos and beer for one half of the block; wine and grape focaccia for the other. Who says we can't all get along?