April 12, 2013

Wheat Focaccia with Caramelized Onions

whole wheat, vegan, onion

I recently experienced a burst of inspiration to to bake bread, bread, and more bread. I have spent the past few weeks scheduling my days around fermenting, kneading, proofing, and baking. Indeed, having an affair with bread baking is an all consuming passion. I have made pizzas, focaccias, and sourdough based varieties from olive and herb to whole grain. Most of us don't have time for such fuss over something so laborious when artisanal breads can be procured so readily in grocery stores today, and that us includes me. Nonetheless, there is something very satisfying about the tactile nature of the bread making experience, the delightful smells, and the true gratification you reap from tasting the fruits of your labors.

If you have always wanted to give bread making a try, but don't want to sacrifice the time, try making focaccia. On one of those lazy weekend days that you plan on chilling out at home watching a game, reading, or just hanging out, set aside a little time to make this simple bread. You will be thrilled with the results and your home will smell divine while it is baking.

If you don't have whole wheat flour or don't like wheat based breads, feel free to just use all-purpose flour or replace the whole wheat flour with spelt flour. I hate to admit it, as I consistently strive to make recipes healthier, but this recipe is quite delicious made with white flour only.

Wheat Focaccia with Caramelized Onions

Makes one 12 x 18 inch focaccia.

For all ingredients, please consider using those that are grown organically.

 1 red onion, thinly sliced
 2 teaspoons olive oil
 12 ounces whole wheat flour
 6 ounces all purpose flour
 1 package yeast
 1 tablespoon sugar
 12 ounces purified water, preferably warm
 2 teaspoons sea salt
 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, fresh is good too
 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  olive oil
  corn meal

Warm 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onions to the pan. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and saute, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until they are translucent and beginning to caramelize. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

Add the yeast and sugar to the warm water. Stir to blend the ingredients and allow 3-5 minutes for the yeast to proof. Active yeast will begin to bubble.

Combine the flours, salt, pepper, rosemary, and basil in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook.

While the machine is running, add the proofed yeast mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed for a minute or two or until the mixture begins to form a dough. 

*You can also make the focaccia by hand or in a food processor fitted with the plastic blade. If using a food processor, knead the dough for a few minutes less.

Add the onions to the dough and knead on medium-low speed for 10 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bowl, form it into a ball, and put onto a lightly floured surface. The dough should be smooth to the touch, but still a little sticky and loose (see photo below). If it is too sticky and still gets completely stuck in your fingers, knead in a bit more flour. Add only a little at a time as you do not want the dough to get too stiff.

Put the dough into a mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap and top with a towel. Put the bowl into a warm dark place and allow to rise for 45-60 minutes.

When the dough is proofed, it will have nearly doubled in size. When you punch it down through the center with your fist, the indentation will not spring back.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil onto a sheet pan. Use a pastry brush or your fingers to spread the oil to cover the surface of the pan. Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of cornmeal onto the oiled pan.

Lay the dough onto the prepared pan, and use your hands to stretch and press it out to be about 1/2 inch thick. If you prefer for the focaccia to be a little thicker, only press it out to be about 1 inch in thickness. 

Set the pan aside and allow the pressed dough to rise for another 60-75 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

The dough will have risen by about a third. Do not allow it to rise for longer than 90 minutes. Over-proofed dough will result in a cake like texture to the crumb which is great for cakes, but less than ideal for breads.

Use your fingers to gently press indentations into the focaccia. Put the pan into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown.

Remove from the oven, slide the focaccia onto a cutting board, and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes. If desired, brush the top of the focaccia with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Slice into squares or any shape you prefer and serve.

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Categories: Breads & Pizzas, Kids in the Kitchen, Snacks, Nibbles & Finger Food

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