Sunday, 5 February 2012

Sweet Focaccia with Peaches and Thyme

My love of the oil enriched bread goes right through the spectrum from savoury to sweet. I've come across many recipes in Italian cookery books for schiacciata con l'uva, a sweetened focaccia with grapes. In Anna del Conte's Book of Italian Food she writes how she and her schoolmates would have a still-warm slice at school lunchtimes, and it is so evocative, I must try making it sometime. But I felt like having a play around with flavours, and came up with this thyme-scented peach focaccia. Thyme might seem an unusual choice here, as it is usually reserved for savoury dishes, but I like the woodsy flavour it gives to the peaches. The earthiness works especially well if you're making this for a picnic. But if the weather is against you for outdoor eating, you'd do well to comfort yourself by having this warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream  alongside.

You could even make this for breakfast- for the first prove, leave it overnight in the fridge. It will still rise, but the coldness will make the yeast work much more slowly. The following morning, continue as normal. It will require a longer knead, just to make it pliable again. Any overnight guests you have will certainly love you for it.

400g strong white bread flour
1 sachet yeast
50g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
280ml warm water
50ml olive oil
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
4 peaches or nectarines
4 sprigs thyme, leaves only, chopped
15g butter

Put the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl, stir to combine. Pour in the olive oil and water, and mix to a sticky dough. Knead for about 5 minutes. If you need to add extra flour to handle it, do so, but it should be quite a soft mixture. Shape into a ball, and leave it to rise, covered, for about two hours or until doubled in size.
After the first prove, punch the dough down, and knead for another minute. Flour a baking tray. Using a rolling pin or your hands, shape the dough into a rectangle about 1/2cm thick. Place on the tray and dimple the surface all over with your fingertips.  Leave it to rest for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190 C.  Slice the peaches into eighths. When the proving time is up, top the dough with the fruit, thyme and zest. Cut the butter into tiny cubes, and dot all over the surface. Bake for around 30 minutes. It's best eaten warm, but can be revived in the microwave the following day.

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