This simple onion Focaccia bread is Umbria’s best flat bread. A crispy and light yeasted crust is topped with tender onions and flavored with olive oil and sage.
I have always been one for slow things. My husband makes fun of me because when he tells me a joke I laugh 5 minutes later.
Years ago I have embraced the Slow Travel movement. It was 2003 and we had just opened our B&B. I discovered this group of Italy lovers who wanted to convince the world that sipping a cappuccino on a terrace overlooking some rolling hills was better than sitting in a crammed bus herded towards the 10th museum stop of the day. Eccentrics.
Of course I do a lot of slow cooking. This does not necessarily mean that all my food needs 3 hours to be ready. Actually most of my recipes are ready in 10 to 30 minutes, but I do love to simmer sauces over very low heat, with a lid on, so flavor does not evaporate while boiling. Feels slow even if it is fast.
Recently I have discovered slow-raising dough. Characteristically, I have been slow at discovering it. The whole world has been making Lahey’s no knead bread or Hertzberg’s artisan bread for years.
Those lovely golden crusts and airy crumbs are obtained with minimal amounts of yeast and a wet dough. The result is a less acidic, lighter and more digestible product. I wanted it for my pizza , I made a few experiments, I am quite happy with the results.
- 1 gr. (1/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast
- 250-300 ml (1 to 1 1/3 cup) water, at room temperature
- 450 gr. (4 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 large onions, halved and sliced
- 2 tablespoon evo oil
- 2-3 leaves sage or a sprig of rosemary
- 200 gr/ 7 oz fresh mozzarella, diced
The dough recipe above is the exact copy of my pizza recipe but uses 1/4 of the original amount of yeast. The recipe has been divided in two steps which are implemented in two subsequent days.
Day 1. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let it stand 1 minute, or until the yeast is creamy. Stir until the yeast dissolves. In a food processor, combine flour, olive oil and salt. Mix briefly. Add the yeast mixture and mix at maximum speed until a soft dough forms. Alternatively mix ingredients by hand in a large bowl, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly until smooth and elastic. Depending on the gluten content of the flour you use, you might need up to 1/2 cup more water than what stated in the recipe list. You need to make the dough as wet as possible but still firm enough to obtain a soft ball. Transfer the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place it in a draft free area of your kitchen, covered by a tea towel.
Day 2. In a covered pan, slowly soften the onion slices in a couple of tablespoon of evo oil until translucent. Do not caramelize or they will burn in the oven. For the focaccia in the photo above I have used red onion, but you can use any color or even mix different varieties for effect.
Preheat the oven at maximum temperature. Allow enough time for the oven to stay at maximum temperature for at least 15 min before cooking the focaccia.
About one hour before serving, transfer the dough into an oiled pizza pan and stretch it with the tips of your fingers into a 1/2 inch thick pie. I generally lightly coat the pan with ½ olive oil and ½ sunflower oil. Again, place the pan in a draft-free place, cover with a tea towel and let it rise an additional 1/2 an hour.
Distribute the mozzarella, onions and chopped sage leaves over the focaccia dough. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons evo oil , season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bake until golden below and around the sides, 8 to 12 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on your oven, the hotter the better.
For my daughter, who likes everything plain, I make mini focacce (pizzette) sprinkled with olive oil, rosemary and salt. Once cooked, I freeze them in individual bags so they are handy to bring to school for a mid morning snack.