Monday, January 20, 2014

Sourdough Focaccia with Za'atar, Onions, Olives & Cheese




Focaccia and I are old friends and share a casual, anything-goes relationship over ingredient add-ins and toppings. Minty Focaccia with Lemon and Pine Nuts remains my favorite to date, but topping choices do tend to vary from one batch to the next. When SourdoughSurprises selected focaccia as this month's feature, I thought "Easy peasy, been there, done that." Hah! what a surprise to find I had no 100% sourdough focaccia recipes in my files. Zero... zippo... nada... none! Why not? because I usually add sourdough starter to the commercial yeast called for in conventional bread or pizza recipes for a faster, no-need-to-plan-days-ahead process. Okay, this was the perfect opportunity to dive right in and let the sourdough starter perform its magic.

A stroke of luck and A Google search led me to Sara's blog, Heartland Renaissance, and the recipe I worked with this month. Visit her site to check out the recipe and the directions. The two focaccia stories Sara includes in her post are worth reading even if you don't want the recipe. 

My starter was refreshed and ready to work but I wasn't, I procrastinated until late evening. So much for planning ahead! That extra time encouraged me to play with the recipe a tiny bit, adding a heaping teaspoon of Za'atar to the dough. A 9:30pm start meant either a thru-the-night baking session or inserting a delay in the process. I went for the delay, splitting the first rise into two portions; 1 hour in my 67 F kitchen, followed by a gentle folding of the dough and an 8-hour overnight stay at 40 F on a shelf in the garage. Back inside the warm kitchen the next morning the dough warmed up, was stretched in the pan and sat through it's second rise. Dimpled and topped with lightly caramelized onions, kalamata olives, shredded fresh Parmesan, more Za'atar and some coarse sea salt, this focaccia was ready to hit the oven.


Photo: Focaccia with toppings, ready to bake.
Photo: Just-baked Focaccia Cooling on Bakers Rack
The results: 
The crisp golden brown crust provided a satisfying crunch and the interior of the loaf was soft and chewy, though with a tighter crumb and less oven spring than expected. The loaf rose more than crackers or flatbread, but I had hoped for more loft. Hmmm, did that overnight delay impact the rise? did I forget the honey? was there a flour issue? did I stretch the dough too thin? I'll have to sort all that out next time, when I actually do plan ahead properly.


Photo: A Square of Onion & Olive Topped, Herb-flavored Focaccia 
While this focaccia loaf was a bit low-rise its sourdough tang came through beautifully, not too assertively sour but definitely there. RL nibbled on two squares, commented that he had eaten this before and would rather have real sourdough bread. Hmmm, that's an apples and oranges comparison with his favorite loaf. I enthusiastically ate more than two squares, at more than one sitting - just to do a thorough evaluation, you understand. 

Photo: Stacks of Focaccia Squares
     *Plain: the salty, flavorful toppings were so taste-forward the bread was overshadowed.
     *Split and buttered: not recommended, and this comes from someone who loves butter.
     *Dipped in olive oil: yes! and next time add some balsamic vinegar to the EVOO.
     *Split and spread with Fig Preserves: my absolute favorite bite, and I will definitely enjoy this combo again.
     *Split and used to hold a soppresata & cheese sandwich: delicious, of course! 

Photo: Focaccia with Fig Preserves

Isn't it amazing what flour, water, olive oil, honey and salt can produce when combined with sourdough yeasties?! Now I can't wait to enjoy more focaccia recipes from other Sourdough Surprises bakers.
  

23 comments:

  1. It looks divine! I'm definitely going to try your toppings!

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  2. So yummy! I have never before heard of za'atar!

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    1. I love za'atar in Greek salads, Fattoush, hummus,.. so many things!

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  3. Wow another great airy bread. Everyone's focaccias have worked so well; clearly sourdough starters are the way to go for focaccia :)

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    1. I agree, the focaccia recipe collection is impressive.

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  4. Oh my gosh, I totally want a taste of that with the fig preserves. Nom nom nom!! Very well done!!

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  5. Yum! I love your choice of toppings and the fig preserves...wonderful!! Lynn @ Turnips 2 Tangerines

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    1. I love fig preserves with bread... cheese... pears...

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  6. Oh, what awesome focaccia! It not only looks great, but I love the combo of toppings you used! Perfection!

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  7. Yeah, I need to go read about za'atar. Looks great!

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    1. You'll find that za'atar blends vary in ingredients and ratios, but I mix mine from sumac, thyme, sesame seeds and sea salt (and tweak it occasionally to suit the recipe or my mood).

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  8. Truly stunning!
    I love za'atar, olvies and onion, what a perfect match.
    Thank you for the link to Sara's bog :)
    Lou

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    1. Thanks for the positives! and you're welcome,

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  9. Gorgeous focaccia! I could make a meal out of that topping!

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    1. I'll confess to eating a considerable amount before it topped the bread.

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  10. Your focaccia looks gorgeous! My mouth is watering just looking at it.

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    1. It's hard to resist sourdough bread in any form.

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  11. That topping is gorgeous, in fact I have all of those things stashed somewhere so I think that'll be my next focaccia. Thanks for the idea!

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    1. Plain focaccia works, but it IS fun to play with toppings.

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  12. Oh my! Your focaccia looks divine! What a great choice for toppings.

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