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 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, whether as a sign of celebration 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
- the leaves of 1-2 sprigs of rosemary
- 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. Measure the black pepper, pink pepper sea salt flakes and rosemary into a small bowl and set aside. Scrub the orange under warm running water. Grate the peel with a zester.
Prepare a second 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.
Add 25ml to extra virgin olive oil to the the water and yeast mixture with a whisk. Then, clear some space at the bottom of the bowl filled with flour. Pour the water with one hand while stirring it through the flour with the other, until the water and flour incorporate and a loose dough is formed. The result will be very sticky, but keep stirring and mixing it with one hand until any and all lumps have smoothed. Add the herbs, peppers, sea salt, rosemary and zest. Mix and stir all through the dough until these bursts of flavor are distributed through the mixture.Now coax the dough with your sticky hand into the bowl rubbed in with olive oil. Cover it with a clean tea towel and let the dough rise 4 hours in a warm and cosy place.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees after 3,5 hours or so. Prepare a flat oven tray by covering the bottom with parchment paper. Rub in the paper with some olive oil. Pour the dough onto the tray, Rub in your hands with olive oil then spread it evenly over the surface of the tray.
Arrange the sliced figs, followed by the grapes over the surface of the dough. Drizzle the surface of the dough with enough olive oil until it glistens. Sprinkle the top with fresh rosemary leaves and 1-2 spoons of honey.
Bake the focaccia 20 minutes or until the grapes have burst open and the crust is golden. Serve my foccaccia-ish sweet and savory bread warm with a small dipping bowl of your best olive oil and sea salt flakes. Cut some fennel paper thin and slice some blood oranges, and stuff it into a piece of this lovely bread!