I am telling the truth when I say that I have been trying to find the time to write a few recipes involving figs and grapes for an entire passing of seasons. And yes I do mean it’s been more than a year. . .
The thing is, a long time ago I had a Saturday market stall in Haarlem where I sold handmade Italian-inspired fresh pasta, focaccia, bread, tart, biscotti and a myriad of vegetable-focused dishes. Two creations from way back then have been on my recipe-writing-to-do list, namely, a fig honey-cinnamon crostata and fresh fig and pepper and rosemary focaccia.
Fast forward to many years later and the recipe I am about to share. Food and cooking are ever changing, a reflection of life itself, after all. Always in search of learning opportunities through the words of historians and food writers, I discovered the inspired work of @emikodavies when reading her first book Florentine from front to back. This is where I first learned about the “schiacciata’all’uva”, the famous soft, pillowy Tuscan bread made with the purple grapes of the fall harvest.
I have made her beautiful recipe a number of times in a professional setting minus the Tuscan grapes, replacing them with local Dutch fruit instead. I’m happy to report the result has been well appreciated! Over time a personalized recipe has evolved, both a combination of my market day memories as well as inspiration from Emiko’s Florentine . . . a cookbook you simply must have in your collection!
Below, proof that I have finally put a recipe to rest in a wintery version of combined flavors and memories, where dried figs complement dark grapes and rosemary. Rather than sea salt, this particular focaccia involves a sugared topping!
Do try it to celebrate or or simply because it is delicious! Meanwhile, be well, be happy and enjoy the good life with your loved ones from the warmth of the kitchen table!
- 500 grams of fine wheat flour . preferably local and organic
- 4 grams dried yeast
- 375 ml warm water
- 25 ml extra virgin olive oil
- freshly chopped rosemary leaves
- from 2 full sprigs, roughly a full tablespoon
- 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon pink pepper corns
- 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
- the zest of one organic orange
- 200 grams dried figs, sliced
- 400 grams local purple grapes
For the topping
- 1-2 tablespoons local honey
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Measure tepid water in a canister and add the dried yeast. Stir the two ingredients with a whisk until the yeast dissolves. Set it aside for a half an hour. Meanwhile sift the flour into a bowl large enough to allow you to add and mix the water-yeast mixture easily. Wash the grapes and remove their stems. Slice the dried figs, removing their stem first. Pick the rosemary leaves and chop the leaves coarsely with a sharp knife, making sure not to bruise the leaves. Scrub the orange under warm running water. Grate the peel with a zester. Measure the black pepper, crushed pink pepper corns, sea salt flakes, finely chopped rosemary and orange zest. Add the ingredients to the flour.
Prepare a ceramic or stainless steel bowl large enough to contain the rising dough by rubbing in the sides and bottom with 25ml extra virgin olive oil and set aside.
Now pour 25ml extra virgin olive oil into the water-yeast mixture with a whisk. Make a well at the bottom of the bowl filled with flour. Then pour the water into the well in a steady stream, while stirring it with your fingers or with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir the ingredients about five minutes until a loose, smooth dough is formed, keeping in mind that at this stage, it will be fairly wet and sticky. As it rises, it will become very light and fluffy and when the bread bakes, it will be lovely and soft.
For now, coax the dough into the bowl rubbed in with olive oil. Cover it with a clean tea towel and let the dough rise 2-3 hours in a warm and cosy place. Meanwhile, prepare a flat oven tray by covering the bottom with parchment paper. Rub in the paper with some olive oil. Once the dough has had time to rise, preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Pour the dough onto the tray and spread it out evenly with both hands. Then press your fingers gently into the dough to create a dimpled pattern.
Arrange the sliced figs and purple grapes evenly over the top of the focaccia; then drizzle the surface with with 1-2 tablespoons of honey (or sugar) and an equal amount of extra virgin olive oil. Bake the focaccia 20-25 minutes, or until the grapes have burst open and the crust is golden. Remove the focaccia from the oven and allow it to cool a few minutes before digging in!
Serve this sweet and savory bread warm with a small dipping bowl of your best olive oil and sea salt flakes. I love to bring it to the table with a platter of blood orange wedges and crisp, raw fennel wedges.
This bread is delicious on its own. But it definitely pairs well with fresh cheeses like burrata, mozzarella, Taleggio or stracchino.