Grape & Goat Cheese Focaccia

Hey, guys ... big news!

I'm getting my blog redesigned!

It's gonna be a hotter, cuter version of itself but it'll still be the blog you know and love on the inside.

I was gonna hold off on posting till the new design went live (around the end of October) but I just couldn't do it!

I've been cooking a lot and I've been really happy with some of the recipes so I just decided to share them here cuz ain't nobody got time to wait for a new design.

This recipe is a twist on the classic grape focaccia from the Italian region of Abruzzo.

I remember the first grape focaccia I had, it was in culinary school and I tried to hide my bitch face as a student from the pastry section (there's a great divide between the pastry and culinary students) offered me her freshly baked, steaming grape focaccia. "It has grapes in it," she said. "Grapes," I murmured as I shoved a piece into my mouth. The crunchy sea salt and olive oil were familiar and comforting flavors, but the pop of sweetness from the grapes were an unexpected delight. "Damn," I say, my eyes lighting up. "Let me get another piece," I grab it before she says, "Sure!" I walked away with focaccia crumbs around my mouth and on my chef's coat, feeling inspired.

Fast forward to a week ago at Whole Foods when I decided I wanted to make bread from scratch at around the same time I saw the prettiest grapes and I remembered that girl from culinary school and her grape focaccia.

I remembered the salty sweet flavors and the pillowy focaccia and decided I was gonna make my version of grape focaccia.

What goes with bread andfruit?,I thought to myself.

Cheese!

What kind of cheese?, I wondered.

Goat kind!

And so it began.

I hurried home full of excitement and this is what happened.

I needed flaky salt and an herb, and so I decided to use thyme and some Pinot Noir salt because wine and grapes go together, right?

Try this salt.

Just try it.

Google it.

Then buy it.

Ok, so the first thing you need to do is activate the dry yeast.

You do this by mixing the yeast with a liquid between 105-115F and some sugar to feed the yeast and activate the beast.

I used water with some milk for richness.

Once the mixture is at the right temperature, let it it proof in a warm place for about 15 minutes then put it in a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook attachment. (If you don't have a stand mixer use a bowl and spoon to combine and I will show you the manual kneading process a bit later.)

With the mixer going on low speed, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and add that to the yeast mixture.

Make sure your husband and husky are slow dancing in the background.

Do not skip this step.

Once the flour is incorporated the dough will be dry and crumbly, olive oil to the rescue!

Knead this dough on medium speed for about 6 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Like this:

Here is the manual way to knead the dough:

First, place the dough on a floured surface and using the heel of your palm, push the dough forward, fold it over on itself, turn it a little clockwise and repeat.

Do this for about 7-10 minutes or until your arms fall off.

Once you're done, your dough should look like this:

Smooth, shiny and elastic.

Like my butt.

Except it's not really that smooth.

Shout out to all the cellulite.

Now place the dough in a bowl, coat with olive oil and cover. Allow it to proof and rise for about 45 minutes, it should almost double in size.

Once proofed, punch it down and place the dough in a liberally oiled baking sheet.

Now you want to play the piano on your dough to create holes and grooves and crevices and stuff.

(Disclaimer: The image above is from my first trial of this recipe, that's why you see little flecks of black pepper in there, I forgot to have pictures taken of this part the second time around but it's the same exact process.)

Once your dough has been thoroughly poked and prodded, add your toppings and allow it to proof again for about 15 minutes (optional). Then bake it to golden brown perfection.

Don't be stingy with the toppings. I did that the first time I tested this recipe and it was a really sad time.

Load it up, like this:

It looks like too much but when you bake it the bread's volume increases and the ratio of bread to topping is altered.

See:

It looks like less toppings when it's baked.

Also, don't cut into the bread right away, let it cool a bit.

I know it's hard but trust me here.

Look at the fluffy focaccia.

Eat the fluffy focaccia.

Focaccia is life.

RECIPE:

1 cup water 3/4 cup milk 1 T sugar 1 T salt 1 package dry active yeast 5 cups of flour 1/2 cup evoo, plus more as needed 1 bunch of grapes 1 log of goat cheese a few sprigs of thyme pinot noir salt (optional, use any flake/sea salt instead)

Combine milk, water and yeast and heat until 105F -115F. Add the sugar and set aside in a warm area for about 10 - 15 minutes. Once the yeast has had time to activate, combine the salt, flour, yeast and olive oil in a mixing bowl with the dough hook attachment and beat on medium speed for 6 minutes to knead it until smooth and elastic. Dust with flour on a board and knead a few times more until the dough is coated with enough flour not to feel sticky anymore. Coat with oil, place in a bowl and cover to proof in a warm place for about an hour. Once proofed, punch down and place in a evoo lined baking dish/sheet and make holes/indents in the dough as if you are playing the piano (see photos). Be liberal with the oil here, this is important. Now add whatever toppings you like, in this case, goat cheese, grapes, thyme and pinot noir salt (yum!). Proof in the pan again for about 15 mins and preheat the oven to 425F. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Try to wait a bit before tearing into the dough (it's not easy, I know). Enjoy with a glass of Pinot Noir!