I’ve been up to my eyeballs in ingredients for a big project; packages of stuff are heaped on my dining room table and every time I open the refrigerator I stand back, just a bit, to avoid things that inevitably fly out. I’m packed to the gills – again – and with an inordinate amount of cheese this time. Earlier in the week while I was developing this round of recipes, I somehow overbought and ended up with too much goat cheese. First world problems, I know. But I had an idea; I hadn’t made focaccia in a while. It was time.
Originally, I was thinking of using fat, juicy grapes, pressed down into the dough and baked until they caramelized and popped but then I ended up using them all for something else so I turned my attention to a basket a fresh figs. Figs and goat cheese are a classic pairing and would be wonderful together in my focaccia. Let me tell you, they certainly were.
I made a batch of my potato focaccia dough, increasing the recipe because I wanted more dough in the pan for a taller, fluffier bread. I added some fresh rosemary and a good shot of pepper to the dough and let it rise. Then came my secret to really good focaccia – before putting the dough in the pan, add a boatload of olive oil. Really, an amount that borders on obnoxious. I call it the “Pizza Hut effect” and talk about it in my original focaccia post but what that does is essentially fry the bottom of the dough. It’s fantastic.
I decided to put the goat cheese on first, even though it gets a little dark in places during baking. I’ve tried adding it halfway through baking and to be frank, I don’t really like it done that way. Putting it on first incorporates the cheese better overall even if it does get a little crispy in spots. Then I gently push in the figs and drizzle them with a little honey. A good drizzle of olive oil over the whole thing and a few healthy pinches of flaky salt and into the oven it goes. 25 minutes later, out emerges a golden brown, bubbling sheet of wonder.
Yeah, this is a little over the top and that is exactly the point. It makes a fantastic snack, is god damn delicious warm and just as delicious room temperature. If you’re in the mood for a baking project, this is it. If you’re in the mood to make something a little fancier than a plain focaccia, this is it. Basically, this is it.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: CARBO LOAD THANKYOUVERYMUCH. I don’t much prescribe to the carb free lifestyle. But you probably knew that. Everything in moderation is more my motto and I think people who voluntarily give up carbohydrates are cranky as hell. Eat the damn bread. I also don’t think there’s much more rewarding, or relaxing, than making bread. Seeing the dough rise, from just a little yeast and time, is such a great feeling. And the delicious scent that fills your home simply cannot be beat. Fresh bread makes people happy. Just eat the damn bread.
Seven years ago: Galette de Gayon – Fig, Walnut & Honey Galette, Candied Yellow Tomatoes, Chilled Cavillion Melon Soup
Six years ago: Peach Sorbetto
Five years ago: Cold Melon Soup
Four years ago: Bastille Day Lunch – Figgy BBQ Sauce
Three years ago: Bloody Mary Vinaigrette
Two years ago: Deep Dish Plum Almond Tart, Gateau Breton
Last year: Blackberry Lime Pie, Taking Advantage of the Last Bits of Summer, Last of the Tomatoes – Fresh Tomato Sauce with Crispy Parmesan Breadcrumbs & Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette
FIG AND GOAT CHEESE FOCCACIA
Makes ½ sheet pan, so what’s that … something like eighteen 3”x3” pieces?
For the sponge:
1 ¾ teaspoon active dry yeast
2/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2/3 warm water (about 100°F or warm to the touch)
for the dough:
1 ¾ cups mashed potato (from a russet potato, about 12 ounces raw)
4 1/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
¾ cup warm water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
1 Tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
for the pan:
scant ½ cup olive oil
for the topping:
8 ounces fresh figs, halved
1 cup crumbled goat cheese (about 12 ounces)
about 2 Tablespoons honey
about 2 Tablespoons olive oil
flaky salt, such as Maldon
- For the sponge: in a mixing bowl, combine the yeast, flour and water and stir to combine.
- Let sit, uncovered, until puffy and bubbly – about 15-30 minutes.
- For the dough: to the sponge, add the remaining ingredients – mashed potatoes, remaining flour, water, olive oil, salt, rosemary and pepper.
- Fit a standing mixer with the dough hook and mix on low until the dough comes together.
- Once the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium or medium-high until you have a smooth dough, about 4-5 minutes. (You can absolutely do this by hand too – add all the ingredients and begin to bring together with your hands, turning out on a work surface to knead. Knead until smooth.)
- Turn the dough out and give a few kneads on a lightly floured work surface.
- First rise: Spray the same bowl with cooking spray, place the dough back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
- Place in a warm, comfy spot and allow to rise until doubled – about 45-60 minutes.
- Shaping: pour about ½ cup olive oil into a ½ sheet pan and swirl to coat evenly. Set aside until needed.
- Place the dough in the oiled pan, stretching gently to fill out the pan. Sometimes, if the dough isn’t too sticky, I will stretch it on a lightly floured counted top and transfer to the oiled pan. If the dough springs back when you try to stretch it, let it relax a bit and try again. If you still can’t get it to completely fill the pan, do not fret. Get it as close as you can and the next rise will fill in the empty spots.
- Spray the top of the dough with cooking spray (to prevent sticking) and lightly cover with plastic wrap.
- Second rise: again, place in a warm, comfy spot and allow to rise until doubled and puffy, reaching the top of the pan – about 45-60 minutes.
- 15 minutes before the final rise is complete, place a rack in the lowest oven position and preheat to 425°F.
- Remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese over the top.
- Gently press the figs, cut side up, over the dough.
- Drizzle a little honey over each fig, about 2 Tablespoons total.
- Drizzle the entire dough surface with olive oil, about 2 Tablespoons.
- Sprinkle a few good pinches of flaky salt, like Maldon, over the entire surface.
- Bake: until golden brown and the figs start to caramelize, about 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Check the bottom, it should be nice and golden brown. If the top gets too brown during baking, cover with foil and continue to bake.
- Let cool (if you can) then slice and enjoy. Best enjoyed the day it’s made but if there are any leftovers, wrap tightly and store at room temperature.