The good news about baking when it’s over 90F out is that there are lots of great places in your house to let the dough rise and cold beer goes down really well. I need not mention the bad news since I didn’t let it stop me. With cherries from the market in the fridge and plums fresh off of our neighbor’s tree, I decided it was high time to make a recipe that had caught my eye months ago in Australian Vogue Entertaining & Travel (Vol. 31, No. 2).
The actual recipe was in the section on cooking with maple syrup, and featured a beautiful round of focaccia dotted with caramelized grapes. While the grapes looked good, my head decided that the recipe would be better with cherries and the maple syrup should be honey. I’ve been tasting it now in my mind for ages. The bite-sized just-picked plums were a late addition, so I made a double dough recipe to try them both out.
Sprinkled with rosemary and a bit of sea salt, each bite brought a complex contrast of simple flavors… buttery sweetness balanced by the tang of salt, the juiciness of the fruit countering the crisp crust of the bread. Both fruits were equally delicious. I knew it was going to be good… but I really didn’t expect it to be this good.
As with most things that are so delicious fresh, the little slices didn’t keep particularly well. While I tried one the next morning, the bread had none of the bounce of the night before. However, toasted up with a bit more salt and olive oil, these made particularly delicious croutons for any type of salad that can do with a hint of sweetness.
Honey & Fruit Focaccia
Makes 4 5 inch rounds
1 1/2 t active dry yeast
1 T sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups flour
1 t salt
2 cups smooth skinned fruit, such as cherries, grapes or plums, halved with any stones removed
Honey for brushing
course sea salt
Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water. Give a quick stir and set aside for about 5 minutes to proof.
Move to the bowl of a mixer, and mix in the oil and salt. Mix in the flour one cup at a time. When all the flour has been added, switch to a dough hook if you have one, or remove from the mixer bowl and start kneading by hand. Continue until the dough is shiny and firm (about 3 minutes in the mixer or about 12 minutes by hand). Then, knead by hand, adding more flour if the dough is sticky, for another 5 minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl, and place dough in turning once, covering with plastic or a wet towel, and set in a warm place to rise for at least 1 hour. The dough should approximately double in size.
Punch down the dough, and divide into 4 pieces. On a floured surface, flatten the dough and roll out to about a 4 inch round. Flip the dough over, and press it lightly all over with your finger tips to make little dimples in the dough. Flip the dough and repeat. Do this two or three more times. Then, place on a baking tray. Repeat with the other 3 pieces of dough.
Cover each piece of dough with the fruit halves, skin side up, gently pushing each piece into the dough a touch, being careful not to crush it. Sprinkle the dough with a little bit of salt and the rosemary. Gently push these into the top of the dough as well. Cover with plastic again, and let sit in a warm place for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400F. If you have a pizza stone, use it for a crispier crust.
Remove the plastic, and bake on the center rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, and drizzle well with honey, using a pastry brush to cover the crust edges. Then, return to the oven and bake for about 5 more minutes or until the crust is a light golden brown. Remove from oven, and drizzle with a bit more honey and let cool for about 10 minutes before slicing.