There’s this sandwich spot in Vancouver that everyone seems to love called Meat & Bread. I’d love it too if I ate meat, but it has a tiny menu–too tiny for a vegetarian option. And that’s fine. I respect that. I still enjoy looking at the photos and reading about the new sandwiches they offer. (Is that weird if I won’t eat them? Maybe. But I also like perusing real estate listings in cities I’d never live in. So.) I like that the name is almost an equation–a lunch equation! Surely the best kind of math: meat + bread = lunch. = handheld meal. = satisfaction in the middle of the day.
So I was thumbing through a few of my cookbooks the other day and found this recipe for sweet focaccia (dolce, of course) in Jim Lahey’s My Bread. I know it’s not a sandwich and it’s not even really for lunch–it’s better as a snack or dessert or even (yes!) breakfast. But it’s my answer to the ____ + bread equation. Fruit + bread = comfort. Fruit baked into bread = balanced sweetness and crunch (courtesy of almonds). Simplicity of preparation meets complexity of flavour. Plus, there’s something about baking it on a sheet pan, all stretched out to the edges, that’s rustically charming. And, like all the breads in Lahey’s book, this is no-knead. All you need is time.
I realised when I was thinking about this post that I’m partial to the sweet versions of savoury classics. Okay, those who know me are rolling their eyes right now. How could I not know that about myself? But still: muscat rice pudding, nutella and banana pizza, and now this focaccia…I may have to do an internet search for sites dedicated to desserting up savoury fare.
Ahem. Excuse me. There’s a…thing I gotta do…
Adapted from Jim Lahey’s My Bread
80 grams dried apricots, chopped
80 grams raisins
80 grams dried sour cherries
3/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
400 g bread flour
75 g sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup room temperature water
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon honey
57 g very soft unsalted butter (1/4 cup)
Generous 1/2 cup apricot jam
150 g sliced untoasted almonds
Put all the dried fruits in a saucepan with the sherry or wine and simmer until the fruit is plump and has absorbed the liquid. Let cool.
Stir together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the water, eggs and honey. Add this mix to the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon (or with your hand) until a soft dough forms, about 30 seconds. You can do all this, and the following steps, in the bowl; no need to knead it on the counter. To incorporate the butter, I find it easiest to cut it into four small pieces and knead each piece of butter into the dough by hand. Once the dough is cohesive, knead in the soaked dried fruit. Lightly coat a second bowl with butter and place the dough in it. Cover and let it rise at room temperature for about 8 hours.
Butter a 13 by 18 inch rimmed baking sheet. Scrape the dough (it will still be very sticky) onto the sheet and gently stretch and pull it across the pan. If you create any holes, just mend them by pushing the dough back together. Flour your hands and press the dough evenly out to the edges. Use a spatula to spread the apricot jam over the dough. Scatter the sliced almonds over the jammy dough.
Let the dough rise in a warm spot for about 3 hours.
Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Bake the focaccia in the centre of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges start to turn golden brown. My oven runs hot, so I err on the early side, or else the focaccia is a little dry.