The grape harvest is an exciting time of year in northern California so I am once again revisiting Tuscany for another culinary inspiration. I found this dish, grape focaccia, while perusing Nigel Slater’s new book, Ripe, which horrified me from the first few pages: pheasant with apples, blood sausage with apples, guinea fowl with sausage and apple… let’s just say that it took a few chapters before I was convinced Nigel was capable of writing recipes for the vegetarian in me. Don’t get me wrong, I think meat tastes great, but I don’t eat it so after 310 pages, I was glad to have found this focaccia recipe, and it’s a great one.
The best part about this classic harvest bread is that it can be subtly adjusted for a more savory flavor. Here, Nigel uses sugar to make a sweet caramelized grape crust, but I have also seen grape focaccia with rosemary and fennel toppings. I’m sure they are all amazing.
My first focaccia attempt earlier this summer was a recipe from a lovely book, which I have otherwise found many treasures… but a whole grain focaccia as a basal effort? I should know better than to start running before I learn to crawl. Working focaccia dough is like quicksand, the more you struggle, the more you sink. This was a hard lesson for me after some sticky, disastrous attempts until I tried the stretch and fold method for kneading bread. Don’t get me wrong, I love kneading bread and all of its glorious exercises but sometimes, it’s worth abandoning for the sake of sanity.
Schiacciata con l’uva (grape focaccia) inspired by Nigel Slater’s Recipe
3 1/4 c. white bread flour
1 package of yeast ~2 ts.
1 ts. sea salt
1 tB sugar
1 1/2 c. warm water
14 oz black seedless grapes
2 TB olive oil
2 TB raw sugar
confectioner’s sugar for dusting
+ Mix yeast and sugar in warm water (115°F) and allow to sit for five minutes until it begins to bubble a bit. In a large bowl, mix salt and flour together and stir in yeast water once yeast is finished activating.
+ Once the dough has been mixed in very well, allow to sit for five minutes and dump the dough onto a floured surface and stretch dough out using this method: The stretch and fold technique from Peter Reinhart.
+ Allow folded dough to sit for 45 minutes and repeat stretch and fold. Allow to sit another 45 minutes, but on the last dough stretch, fold in half of the grapes and allow dough to rise until doubled in size.
+ Preheat oven to 425°F. Top dough with olive oil, the remaining grapes, and place into the oven to bake for about 35 minutes. Once finished, dust the top of the focaccia with powdered sugar. Serve with butter.