Lately we've been dealing with some of those hotter-than-Hades days, even though we're still riding the tail-end of Spring. I'm loathe to turn on the air conditioning so early, but the tiny beads of sweat trickling steadily down my back at the slightest movement have dictated otherwise. Fortunately, those days have been giving way to some cooler nights. Nights when I can throw open my windows and bask in the lightest whisper of a breeze.
So, it's times like this that I love waking up when the rest of the house is still quiet. Through the windows, there's a bit of fog hanging in the air. The kitchen has cooled off during the night, but there's still a reminder of yesterday's oppressive heat that even a dark sky couldn't shake. And there are some strawberries so ripe, so sweet, sitting in a bowl on the counter, that I can smell summer as the breeze sneaks through the window and lifts their scent as it snakes by.
An hour later, after giving the focaccia a good dusting of what looked like summer snow, I came away with with a chewy, sweet bread that was crisp on the edges, and had fragrant, juicy strawberries in every bite. Though it wasn't fried, the focaccia itself reminded me of a fried dough. It must have been the fruit and powdered sugar. With some iced coffee, and the family awake and enjoying the cooler morning air, we ate this outside with the morning sun on our shoulders. I snipped off a couple of big pieces and passed them over the fence to share with our neighbors who were also out tinkering in their yard.
It was a perfect moment.
Fast Focaccia w/ Strawberries
Prep Time: 15 minutes (active) + 60-90 minutes (unattended)
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Keywords: bake bread vegan dairy-free nut-free soy-free strawberries Italian spring summer
Ingredients (1 focaccia)
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water (110° F)
- 5 heaping tablespoons sugar
- 2 2/3 cups bread flour
- big pinch of sea salt
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound ripe strawberries
- confectioners'/powdered sugar, to serve
Combine the yeast, water, and 1 heaping tablespoon of the sugar in a large bowl until the yeast blooms (looks creamy). Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and salt until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times. The dough should be slightly sticky - flour your hands lightly to keep the dough from sticking to them, but don't let the dough become too stiff.
Flick a bit of water onto a 15"x10" (or thereabouts) rimmed baking sheet, and line it with wax paper. Pour the olive oil onto the wax paper and spread it around with your hands. Plop the dough onto the sheet, and use your hands to gently coax and stretch it into the shape of the pan. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the pan and let sit until the dough rises up just over the edges of the pan. This could take up to 1-1/2 hours, but in my kitchen on a warm summer morning, it could happen as quickly as 30-40 minutes. Keep an eye on it.
While the dough is rising, hull the strawberries. If they are particularly large, cut them in half, or even into thirds. Leave smaller ones whole. Place them into a bowl and toss them with 2-1/2 heaping tablespoons of the sugar. Cover and set aside at room temperature.
When the dough has almost finished rising, preheat the oven to 400° F.
When the dough is nice and puffed up, give the strawberries a gentle stir. Quickly, but gently (so as not to deflate the dough), place the strawberries all over the dough, keeping most of them upright (purely for looks); drizzle the gathered juices around, as you go.
Scatter the remaining 1-1/2 heaping tablespoons of sugar evenly over the top of the dough and strawberries, going right out to the edges.
Slide into preheated oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the focaccia is golden and a bit crisp on the edges and the strawberries look soft and juicy. Take care not to overcook, or the berries will break down into a jam. Remove from the oven, and very carefully slide the loaf, wax paper and all, onto a wire rack to cool.
Once the bread has cooled down to room temperature, sift some confectioners' sugar generously over the focaccia, cut off pieces with kitchen scissors; eat!
This focaccia is best eaten right away, but definitely the same day (otherwise it will get too wet from the berries).
slightly adapted from Recipes and Dreams from an Italian Life by Tessa Kiros
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