We had an invitation to a July 4th party and it involved a bit of a drive. So what to take? It's hot here in Texas, so didn't want something that needed reheating. Yet also didn't want something that was going to need coddling on the drive. The host is a bit of a foodie too, so we also had to make sure that the dish was interesting enough. Enter Grape Harvest Focaccia – adapted a bit from Daniel Leader's wonderful book, "Local Breads". Who would have thought that grapes, bread, sea salt, olive oil and rosemary would be such a good combination? The juice from the grapes permeates the focaccia, dissolving some of the salt. The heat of the oven intensifies the sweetness of the grapes. A truly wonderful dish – and impressive looking too.
300 gm room temperature spring water
1.5t active dry yeast
500 gm AP Flour (plain flour – not bread flour)
60 gm (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil + extra for oiling pan and moistening fingers
10 gm (1 ½ t) kosher salt
250 gm seedless black grapes – washed and dried
10 gm (3t) fresh rosemary finely chopped
7gm (1 ½ t) coarse sea salt
Add the yeast to the water in a large bowl, and leave to stand while weighing the other ingredients. Add the flour, olive oil and kosher salt and stir with a plastic spatula until a shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and knead for about 15 minutes until the dough is very smooth and elastic. As usual, do not add extra flour to prevent sticking. While the dough will be a bit sticky at first, it eventually smooths out and the stickiness goes away.
Transfer to the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Leave in a warmish (75-80F) place to ferment and rise.
Towards the end of rising time, lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet (half sheet pan) with olive oil. When the bread has risen, transfer from the bowl to the lightly oiled pan. Leave to settle for about 5 minutes. Oil your fingers and flatten the dough in the pan, pushing it gently into the corners. You should have the pan completely covered with the dough. Dimple the surface with oiled fingers. Press the grapes into the dough at intervals of 1 ½ to 2 inches (4-5 cm). This doesn't have to be precise. Do arrange them neatly in rows though since you will be cutting pieces between the rows. Evenly sprinkle the dough/grapes with the rosemary and sea salt. Cover lightly with a towel or plastic wrap and leave to rise for 45 mins – 1hour.
About 15 minutes to go before baking, turn the oven to 375F. Place the upper rack in the middle. I always keep a baking stone in the oven, so the temperature is evened out a bit. It also causes the focaccia to bake a little more slowly.
Place the pan into the oven and bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes. Mine needed more – about 35 minutes, but the baking stone contributed to the extra time. When I have made this without it is nearer 30 minutes. This is all in a conventional (not convection) oven.
You can tell that it is cooked when the grapes have partially burst – there is juice staining the surface and the dough itself is puffed up and a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Transfer from the pan to the cutting board and cut (using a pizza wheel) into squares – 1 grape per square. For shipment to a party, transfer back into the pan and place in an insulated bag.
This is a very easy bread to make. It slips out of the pan, isn't particularly sensitive to exact times and quantities. You can certainly knead it in a stand mixer – or even using the knead cycle in a bread machine. You do need the whole 500 gm of flour though – it just covers the sheet pan nicely.