I have to admit, I am not much of a baker. Sure, I took all the required baking classes in culinary school, and as a chef I have done my fair share of baking and pastries, but it is not a skill that I particularly enjoyed and thus didn’t really work on developing. I was always more about the rush and the instant gratification of line work as opposed to the more methodical, slower pace of the bakery. Recently though, I have had a desire to flex those old, rusty baking skills. Some experiments have turned out great, some….well….let’s just say I’m beginning to believe in the old adage, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” Well, I have not lost it, more like just misplaced it temporarily. One of my more recent successes has been with the focaccia recipe from “Baking with Julia.” I’ve taken her ingredients but have altered her technique a little to suit my tastes. Her recipe creates a focaccia that is just a little too thin for my tastes, but I knew I also didn’t want one of those 3 inch thick sponges that grace the shelves of supermarkets across America. Taking Julia’s recipe and tweaking it gave me something in between and exactly what I was looking for. I hope you feel the same way also. As for the toppings, I really like this onion and sage topping but feel free to top it however you like. I imagine I will change up the toppings quite regularly.
Onion Sage Focaccia
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups Water, slightly warm
2 Tbsp. Dry Active Yeast
1/4 cup Olive Oil
6 1/2 cups All-purpose Flour (unbleached if possible)
4 tsp. Salt
1/3 cup +1 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 small Onion, peeled and thinly julienned
2-3 Tbsp. Fresh Sage, chiffonade (fine julienne)
Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
In the mixing bowl of a mixer combine 1/2 cup of the warm water and the yeast. Allow 5 minutes for the yeast to active then add the remaining water and olive oil. Stir to combine. Mix together the salt and flour then add to the liquid. Stir just to combine. Place mixing bowl on mixer and, using the dough hook, mix the ingredients on medium speed. Turn speed to high and knead for 10 minutes or until dough can pass the window pane test (when you can stretch a small amount of dough to the point where you can almost see through it). Place dough in a bowl rubbed with olive oil and coat dough completely with a light coat of oil. Cover and allow to rise until double (1-1 1/2 hours). Gently punch down and allow to double in size again. Punch down again, cover bowl tightly and place in refrigerator for 24-36 hours.
The next day pull dough out 1 1/2 hours before you want to bake it. Preheat oven to 425. Place 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a saute pan, over medium heat and add the onions. Cook without coloring until onions are half done. Add the fresh sage, toss until wilted then remove from heat. Allow to cool to room temp. Pour 1/2 of the remaining 1/3 cup of olive oil into a 12×17 baking pan or jelly roll pan. Add dough, coat both sides with the oil and gently spread the dough out. Be gentle as you don’t want to knock out all the bubbles you created overnight. You probably won’t be able to completely stretch it all at once, so allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes then finish stretching it to almost fill the pan. Allow another 10 minute rest then dimple the surface of the dough with your fingers. Sprinkle on the onion-sage mixture, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and finally sprinkle with the sea or kosher salt. Place in the oven and bake for 18-25 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking tray so that it can absorb all the olive oil around the edges.