Home cooks rejoice! Renowned natural food pioneers The Moosewood Collective have a new cookbook out that will quickly become one of your favorites (as reliably happens with their phenomenal volumes). This focaccia Pugliese is a warm, satisfying way to bake at home.
Moosewood Collective member David Hirsch’s partner John Campione, grew up with his family’s version of this nicely textured flat bread, moist yet crusty. His grandfather, Frank Rotolo, a native of Puglia in Southern Italy, was a baker who followed the regional tradition of adding mashed potatoes to the yeasted dough for focaccia. The result is worth the extra effort — yeasty and spongy with a delicious tenderness and crusty edge.
- Add minced fresh rosemary, oregano, or thyme or sautéed garlic to the mashed potatoes.
- Use minced fresh herbs in addition to, or instead of, the tomatoes, onions and olives.
- 2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
- 1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole wheat bread flour
- 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached white all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup pitted and halved Kalamata, jumbo green, Sicilian oil-cured, or similar olives
For the focaccia
In a small saucepan, cook the potatoes with water to cover until very tender. Drain, reserving the liquid. In a small bowl, combine ½ cup of the potato-cooking liquid with ½ cup cool water to yield 1 cup liquid between 105°F and 115°F. Stir in the yeast and set aside.
In a large bowl, mash the potatoes with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and the salt until smooth and creamy. Stir in the yeast mixture. Add the whole wheat flour, ½ cup at a time, mixing well after each addition, and then add enough white flour, ½ cup at a time, to make a smooth dough; a large wooden spoon works well here.
Place the dough on a floured board and knead with floured hands for 7 to 8 minutes, adding more flour as needed. The finished dough should be soft and just a little bit sticky.
Place the kneaded dough in an oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a moist kitchen towel. Set in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours. (While the dough is rising, prepare the toppings and set them aside.)
When the dough has doubled, punch it down in the bowl. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly oil a 10 x 15-inch baking sheet or a 14-inch round pan.
Spread the dough over the prepared baking pan, using oiled fingers to gently stretch it to the pan edges. Arrange the onion slices, tomatoes (cut side down), and olives on top. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over all. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the focaccia is browned and firm.
Remove from the oven and let the focaccia sit in the pan for a couple of minutes, and then slide it onto a wire rack. Cool until warm or room temperature.