It was quite an experience the first time I had a back massage. My masseuse was a sturdy 35-year old woman with tattoos scattered on her arms, shoulder-length dreadlocks and a silver ring pierced through her nose. Her meaty hands pounded my tight muscles into submission as I thought to myself, “pain is beauty…pain is beauty.” I ended up leaving the experience realizing I should have baked bread instead.
There’s something soothing and relaxing about baking any kind of bread. I love how the warm dough feels between my fingers as I press and turn it against the floured surface. One of my favorite breads to make is the classic Italian favorite of focaccia. Once I mastered the base recipe, it opened a whole new world of flavor combinations that packed a real punch.
Words cannot describe how amazingly delicious this bread turned out. As I was photographing the pieces, I would take a bite of a corner or two. Before I knew it, half of the pan was gone.
Pear, Gorgonzola & Caramelized Onion Focaccia
1 ½ cups of warm water, between 110 – 120 degrees
1 quick rise yeast packet
½ tsp. honey
2 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil + more for pan
3 ½ cups flour + more for kneading
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup (1 lrg.) thinly sliced red onion
1 Tbl. soy sauce
1 Tbl. butter, melted
½ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1 Bosc pear, cored & sliced
½ tsp. dry oregano
salt and pepper for seasoning
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Toss together the sliced onions, soy sauce and butter in a small cast iron pot. Cover and cook onions in the oven for 1 hour during the first rise. Stir occasionally to check the caramel color of the onions. Return to the oven and continue to cook until soft and very brown, but not burned. Remove the onions from the oven and let cool until ready to top the bread.
Meanwhile, combine the water, yeast and honey in a medium measuring cup. Stir until the yeast dissolves and let sit for 5 – 8 minutes until small bubbles appear around the edges. Add the olive oil to the wet mixture. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Slowly pour the wet mixture into the flour while stirring at the same time. Continue to stir just until the dough forms into a ball.
Lightly dust a board with flour. Knead the dough roughly 10 times while adding flour with each turn. The dough should be wet, but not overly sticky. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a clean large mixing bowl. Add the dough to be bottom and flip to completely cover the ball with olive oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until double in volume.
Coat the bottom of a half sheet pan with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. You can use a 9” X 13” cake pan if you want. Just be sure to oil the sides. Lightly punch down the dough and turn it out onto the oiled pan. Pat the dough evenly into the pan. While using the tips of your fingers, punch small holes in the dough. This will create dimples during the second rise. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until doubled in volume.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the top of the dough with 2 tablespoons with olive oil. Sprinkle the top with the pears, onions, and cheese. Season the bread with oregano, salt and pepper.
Bake the focaccia at 400 degrees for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden. Lightly tap the bread. It will have a hollow sound when it’s fully baked.
Authors Note: Also check out my Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke Focaccia recipe if you are looking for something different.