Focaccia with caramelised shallots

A basic focaccia with the addition of shallots, slowly caramelised in sugar and fig and date balsamic vinegar with rock salt and rosemary.

This is a Daring Bakers challenge recipe for April 2015, brought by Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise blogs.

Focaccia

Focaccia is a quintessential Italian bread and is reputedly thousands of years old, earlier than the Romans. It is traditionally round, although now you’ll see oval and square focaccia and would originally have been a flat bread. The true traditional focaccia is supposed to be thinner than most of us would expect it to be, and what we know as focaccia is more like a pavé bread (similar just more risen). The name is derived from the Latin panis focacius or hearth bread as it would have cooked on the floor of the fireplace. Focaccia led to the French fougasse and fogassa breads. It’s a simple and delicious bread to make and should be a regular feature of any baker’s repertoire.

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Large plastic bag, cling film or tea towel to cover
  • Mixer with dough hook, if you are not making by hand
  • Round tray or stoneware dish (I use a 32cm/14″ stoneware flan dish for focaccia)
  • Saucepan

Ingredients

  • Strong white flour, 500g
  • Dried powered fast acting yeast, 5g
  • Salt, fine table, 10g
  • Olive oil, 10ml / 1 tablespoon plus a bit more for drizzling
  • Water, tepid, 325ml
  • Shallots, 5 small or 2 large
  • Sugar, 15g / 1 1/2 tablespoons
  • Balsamic vinegar, a drizzle (I actually use a gig and date balsamic vinegar*, but a traditional plain one will be fine). If you don’t have balsamic, a dash of Worcestershire sauce can work too
  • Rosemary, 2 sprigs each about 5 cm/ 2″ long – snip the leaves off the sprigs
  • Rock salt, large pinch

* I got mine from the Gourmet Spice Co at http://www.tastespice.co.uk – they visit lots of UK food fairs too

Method

  1. Put the flour, salt, yeast and water in a bowl and stir until a sticky mess, leave for a few minutes
  2. Add the oil and then either mix with a dough hook in your mixer or knead by hand for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and shiny
  3. Shape into a round and put back into the bowl and cover it
  4. Leave to rise until twice the size – this will depend on your room temperature and could be an hour or more
  5. Generously oil the bottom of the dish or tin you are using
  6. Tip out and press into the round dish or pan
  7. Cover and leave again to rise – it won’t be quite doubled – for about another hour
  8. While the bread is rising make the caramelised shallots:
  • Finely slice the shallots length ways
  • Put a glug of olive oil n a sauce pan and put over a low to medium heat
  • Gently fry the shallots until they turn clear – you do not want them to brown yet, this will be about 5 minutes
  • Turn up the heat to medium and sprinkle over the sugar, stir the shallots until they turn light brown and start to crisp up
  • Put a large dash of the balsamic vinegar in and fry for a further couple of minutes
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool
  1. Turn your oven on to 200 C
  2. When the dough has risen again (it should look puffy and spring back when touched lightly) push your fingertips into the dough all over to make indentations
  3. Drizzle some extra oil over the dough – it should pool in the dips you’ve created, plus the shallots
  4. Arrange the rosemary leaves into the dips
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes until slightly golden and the bread sounds hollow when tapped
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