I’m afraid this one isn’t vegan friendly. Every imaginable kind of dairy-fat is included in this recipe. The end product however, is delicious and it disappears within minutes of making it to the kitchen table.
The original recipe was given to me by a girl I shared my office with. She printed an extra copy and rather than throw it away, she recycled it to me. I tried the bread recipe soon after and it was excellent so it was safely filed into my cooking book. The original recipe calls for blue cheese, pine-nuts and onion but I’ve made some modifications here to suit my taste (I’m a blue cheese wuss though my partner likes it). The dough for this bread is really soft and elastic and a lot of fun to work with. Don’t worry if the shape of the bread isn’t great or some of the filling oozes out as the end result is always fantastic.
Ingredients (Yields approximately 16 slices, each 1.5 cm thick):
2 cups strong flour (super-fine flour that is usually used to bake bread)
1 teaspoon of dry active yeast (5-7 gms or half a sachet)
3 teaspoons of honey
2 tablespoons of olive oil
40 gms of unsalted butter, softened
50-70 gms of strong blue cheese (Stilton, Roquefort, Gorgonzola. If you are a blue-cheese wussy like me, Bleu d’Auvergne might be more up your alley)
50-70 gms of soft goat’s cheese (like chevre)
2 tablespoons toasted pinenuts
2 tablespoons toasted hazelnuts, skinned and chopped
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 large pear, halved and thinly sliced (see pictures 8 & 9)
2 teaspoons of sugar
1. In a small bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon of honey in warm water. Add 1/3 cup or 50gms of flour, yeast and mix well. Allow to froth for 15-30 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, add the remaining flour. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture in once it has frothed. Mix with your hands until the dough comes together.
3. Flip the contents of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. The test for this is if you pinch a bit of dough between your thumb and pointing finger and pull, the dough should spring back to where it came from.
4.Wash, dry and oil the bowl you used originally and place the dough back in it. Cover the dough with a clean tea towel and allow to rise until it doubles in size (picture 1). If it is winter or a cold day, turn the oven onto 50ºC while you are kneading the dough. Then turn the oven off and place the kneaded, covered dough in the oven to rise. Works like a charm every time.
5. In the time that the dough is rising, prepare the filling and topping.
6a. Sauté the onions in a teaspoon of oil. As the onions collapse and get all shiny, add the 2 teaspoons of sugar and mix in (picture 4). Optionally, add a teaspoon of caraway seeds that give the onions a sweet smell as well as taste. If you don’t know what they are or dislike them, best to stay away.
6b. Melt the remaining 2 teaspoons of honey in a small bowl and toss the pear slices in to lightly coat them with honey.
7. For the filling – take two small bowls and divide the softened butter between them. In one, add the toasted, chopped hazelnuts and blue cheese and in the other, add the goats cheese and pinenuts. Mix each lot until it looks uniform.
8. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and roll it into a smooth ball (picture 5). Divide the ball into two smaller balls and roll them until they are smooth.
9. Using a rolling pin, flatten each ball and try and coax it into a somewhat rectangular shape (picture 6). You can see how I haven’t been super successful with mine but as I said, it will work in the end.
10. Add your filling on one half of the flattened dough, 2cms from the remaining edges. This is to give you enough dough to fold over the filling.
11. Folding :
a. Bring the half of the dough that doesn’t have any filling over the half that does have the filling.
b. Imagine that you are closing the cover of a book over it. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly aligned.
c. Now that the book is closed, fold the ragged edges in towards the centre and press down with your hands.
d. This is to seal the filling in and make the bread more rectangular. It will mean that the edges are slightly thicker than the centre but that’s OK.
e. Finally, flip the bread onto it’s tidier side where you cannot see any of the not-so-pretty folding.
f. With a sharp knife, make angular slashes on top of the dough to let out any steam that might build up during the baking process.
g. The end product will look like picture7.
h. Repeat steps 10 and 11 for the other filling and the other half of the dough.
12. Preheat your oven to 200ºC. Place the foccacias on a flat baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 8-10 minutes until slightly golden brown (picture 8).
13. Add the toppings – either the caramelised onion or honeyed pears and bake for a further 5 minutes until you see the edges go golden brown (picture 9).
14. Cut the bread into this slices and serve while they are warm and just out of the oven.
15. The two “loaves” give us enough for dinner and lunch the next day as we eat it as a main rather than a side.
16. The goat’s cheese one was my favourite!
1. The hazelnut and blue cheese wasn’t the greatest combination. Hazelnuts were too crunchy for the dish. I would stick to the softer pinenuts for both variations.
2. The pears weren’t naturally very sweet and didn’t do a very good job of cutting through the salty blue cheese despite the extra honey. Do taste your pears before you add them to this dish.