The very first time I had this particular combination focaccia was at Whole Foods in Boulder when I was running errands one day. The Whole Foods on Pearl St in Boulder is a thing of beauty. It is one of their bigger stores with a huge food court and bakery.
Shopping at this store, you are inevitably going to get hungry and want to nibble on something; it’s impossible to resist. There is every kind of food stall in their food court and you can get disoriented going round and round because of your inability to decide between pizza, sushi, Indian, Mexican and so on.
My choice was made a little easier because I just wanted a snack and as I wandered around the food court, I found myself at the bakery. Whole Foods’ bakery is pretty awesome, just incase you haven’t tried them before. For a grocery chain bakery, they do a great job cranking out artisanal breads that are free of the undesired preservatives and conditioners.
Right as I was walking up to see what they had as a snack type bite, the guy behind the bakery counter was putting out a tray of this Fig, Brie and Caramelised Onion Focaccia. At the time I had no clue what was on it, only that it looked amazing, all ooey and gooey. Upon further interrogation, I found out what it was and requested a nice snack size portion to take with me.
I made a couple of mistakes here when I dove into this delicious bread; not enough napkins and eating it in my car. Since I still had errands to run, I gobbled this up in my car, or tried to. The olive oil from the caramelised onions ran down my chin, my arms and dripped all over my pants. It was so insanely good though. The sweet from the fig preserves and the onions against the saltiness of the Brie with the golden crunch of the focaccia is perfect harmony.
Unfortunately, this focaccia is only available at the bigger stores with the larger bakeries. Since we live in Colorado, there’s a Whole Foods at every corner! Even though the Boulder store is only a few minutes from me, I will cross two other Whole Foods to get to that one. It just seems silly.
I decided to just recreate this deliciousness at home because it’s really quite simple and much cheaper.
The true way to make focaccia is to use the biga or starter method. This is the way you get the perfectly airy and chewy inside and the crispy outside. It does take time and you do have to plan ahead. Great thing is, it can also be low maintenance because you can stick it in the fridge for slow rises and deal with it when you have time. Between the short days where we lose light to photograph and my hectic kids schedule, I think it took four days for me to make this! The dough sat happily in the fridge till I was ready for it.
However, if you’re not worried about light for photography, then it will take you a few minutes one afternoon and then a few hours the next day. It can be ready for dinner, but if you want it for breakfast or brunch, you might have to give yourself an extra day and maybe park it in the fridge for the rises. You need to let the starters rest for 14 hours and then the actual focaccia dough has 2 short initial rises and then one last rise that takes 3 hours or so. So, plan accordingly!
Is it worth the trouble? Like I said, it’s low maintenance and if you’re not on a time crunch, yes it’s definitely worth the time and trouble. You will be rewarded with some amazingly airy, chewy and crunchy focaccia. You can use this base focaccia to create your own versions with fresh fruit or cheese and tomatoes. This focaccia dough recipe is adapted a little bit from the one I found at King Arthur Flour.
Serving size: 10
- 2 large onions, sliced thinly
- ¼ cup/60ml olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter, unsalted
- 12 oz jar good quality fig preserves
- Brie, small wheel, thickly sliced
- a 2-3 sprigs of thyme or 1 rosemary, optional
- Focaccia dough
- ½ cup/118ml cool water
- 1/16 teaspoon instant yeast or 1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 cup/150g all purpose/plain flour
- all of the starter
- ¼cup/60ml lukewarm water
- ¼ cup/60ml milk, warm
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast or 2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 cups/300gall purpose/plain flour
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons, olive oil
- Caramelise the onions by heating the oil and butter in a large heavy sauté pan on medium heat.
- Add the sliced onions and stir to coat with the oil and butter.
- Decrease the heat to medium low and cook the onions until soft and gold.
- This will take some time.
- Stir occasionally to make sure onions are browning uniformly and not burning.
- Add the sprigs of rosemary or thyme, if using.
- It took me about 30-35 minutes to caramelise the onions.
- I cooked them a day ahead and refrigerated them and warmed them up a little before using.
- Mix the water and yeast, then add the flour, stirring till the flour is incorporated.
- Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; the starter will be bubbly.
- Combine the starter, water, milk and yeast. Stirring to combine.
- Add the remaining dough ingredients, and mix and knead into a soft dough.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 1 hour.
- Gently deflate it, and allow it to rise for another hour; it should have doubled in size from its original volume.
- Lightly grease an 18" x 13" rimmed baking sheet (or two 9" x 13" pans) with non-stick vegetable oil spray. Drizzle olive oil atop the spray; the spray keeps the bread from sticking, while the olive oil gives the bottom crust great crunch.
- If you’re using the baking sheet, gently pull and shape the dough into a rough rectangle, and pat it into the pan.
- As soon as it begins to fight you and shrink back, stop patting.
- Let it rest a few minutes and shape it into the corners of the pan.
- Divide the dough in half if you're using smaller pans.
- Cover the pan and allow the dough to rise for 2 to 3 hours, till it’s very puffy, almost billowy.
- Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Gently dimple the dough at irregular intervals with your fingers, pressing down firmly but not harshly, you don’t want to deflate it too much.
- Spritz heavily with warm water, and drizzle with olive oil from the caramelised onions.
- Bake the focaccia for about 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and spread the top with the fig preserve, add the caramelised onions and place the Brie slices over the top.
- Return to the oven until the Brie is melted and bubbling, another 10 minutes.
- Allow to cool a little before cutting and serving.
Well, the big game is tomorrow and Denver is psyched! We are hoping for an orange win because I think we deserve it! Nothing special on the food front, though I’m making it a bit special because it is our team playing.
I hope those of you who watch The Super Bowl have your desired outcome, though I hope you’re all rooting for The Broncos! Have a great Super Bowl Sunday! Go Broncos!