Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ham, Cheese and Spinach Focaccia

 This recipe is adapted from one called "Cheese Focaccia from Recco" found in Savory Baking from the Mediterranean by Anissa Helou. Her recipe called for a cheese focaccia made with taleggio cheese (an Italian take on brie)... I added a few bonuses and substituted fontina cheese (another soft, cow's milk cheese).

I was totally dazzled by how few ingredients go into making the bread. There is an element of "mix it, walk away, knead it, take the dog for a walk, knead it, take a nap" ... So I thought it was perfect for making on a laid back Saturday :)

  • 1 1/3 c unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for working with the dough
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil for the dough
  • extra olive oil for brushing the pan
  • 9 oz soft cow's milk cheese (Fontina, Taleggio, Brie, Mozzarella... you pick)
  • 1/2 c finely diced ham
  • 1/2 c chopped spinach

1. Combine flour and fine salt in a large mixing bowl with a well shaped into the center. Add the EVOO into the well and incorporate into flour with your fingertips. Slowly add 1/3 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon warm water. Knead briefly to make a rough ball of dough.

2. Knead the dough for 1-2 minutes on a floured work surface. Turn the bowl over and cover the dough on the countertop for 15 minutes. (It's really amazing how much the dough "relaxes" during it's 15 minute cat-nap!!)

3. Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes until it's smooth. Shape into a ball and place in a lightly floured bowl, covered with plastic wrap. Let it sit in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour.

4. Fold the dough. Cover again. Put it back in it's happy place for another hour. The dough will have expanded some during this rest period.

5. On your floured work surface, cut the dough in half and shape each half into a ball. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rest 15 minutes.

6. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. On your floured work surface, roll out one piece of dough to be quite thin and about 12 inches in diameter. Liberally brush a non-stick baking sheet with olive oil and place the dough round on it. Add thinly sliced cheese, ham, and spinach to the center of the dough.

7. Roll out the other dough ball to just slightly bigger than the first piece. Just barely dampen the edges, and flip it over so that it covers the dough/toppings. Seal the edges by pressing with your fingers. Optional: I added some finely shredded fontina to the top of the focaccia (because it felt very "Panera") and it turned out crispy and visually enhanced the look of the bread.

8. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown all over. Let sit 5 minutes, then slice and serve while cheese is still warm.

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