Recently, as part of a 4-day cooking class led by Deborah Madison at Rancho La Puerta, “Discovering and Rediscovering the Kitchen”, I had the great good fortune to teach no-knead bread and variations each day. I won’t disclose just how much bread we ate but once Deborah taught compound butters (softened butter mashed with flavorings such as herbs, lemon zest, and juice), we were really off and running.
Several times we were caught toward the end of class without time to let our dough proof and bake. Necessity, once again, became the mother of invention: we created no-knead focaccia. We simply dusted baking sheets with cornmeal, prodded the dough until it filled the sheet, sloshed olive oil over it, sprinkled it with herbs and coarse salt, and baked it. Sometimes without even letting it rest. We never made a bread we left unfinished.
Once I returned home to San Francisco, I wanted to try focaccia again. And then read a recipe in the local paper that used grapes as part of a relish for pork. That reminded me of the harvest focaccia Michael Chiarello created for our Flavored Olive Oil book. It makes a great snack bread or serve it with cheese or in smaller pieces as an hors d’oeuvre.
To make the focaccia: I used a mix of 6 ounces whole-wheat flour, 14 ounces unbleached white bread flour (to come to a total of 20 ounces), .3 ounces kosher salt, 1 ounce sourdough starter, and 15 to 16 ounces or so water. If you like, you can mix a tablespoon finely chopped rosemary into the dough along with grated lemon zest. Follow the usual no-knead method to ferment the dough. For the topping—Mix together in a bowl 1 tablespoon or more to taste very finely chopped rosemary; freshly grated zest of 1 lemon; 1 large shallot, very finely chopped; a large handful golden raisins, plumped first in water or wine and then drained; about 2 cups halved seedless grapes such as large flame grapes; 1/4 to 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil. To shape the focaccia, when the dough has fully fermented, pour it out onto a floured counter, flour the top, and let rest about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sheet pan with parchment paper and oil it lightly. Pick up the dough and place it on the oiled parchment, stretching it a bit lengthwise and widthwise. Then, with stiff fingers spread slightly apart, poke the bread, pushing and prodding it with your fingertips out toward the edges of the pan. When it springs back and won’t stretch more, let it rest for a few minutes, and then dimple the dough again. Repeat until it reaches the edges of the pan. Then scatter the topping all over the bread. Bake in a preheated 475° oven until browned and crisp around the edges, about 30 minutes. Rotate the pan front to back after 15 minutes. Cool on a rack and cut into pieces to serve.