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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sweet Cherry Focaccia

I will be honest.  This bread is odd.  Odd good, though.  Unexpected, perhaps?  Most of you know that I am a huge fan of bread.  Many of you know that cherries are my favorite fruit.  Perhaps a few of you even know that I always keep vanilla sugar tucked away in my cupboard.  This focaccia is a very solid...savory...base.  The sweet comes only from the cherries that have been macerating in their own juices and sprinkling of sugar on top.  This isn't a dessert.  It's more of a warm breakfast or brunch offering.  Alongside coffee, fruit, and some savory offerings, it would be lovely.
Sweet Cherry Focaccia
adapted from Happy Days with the Naked Chef
yield: 1 loaf

just over 1 lb. bread flour + more as needed
just over 1 c. tepid water
14 grams active dry yeast
1 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. sea salt
17½ oz. sweet cherries, pitted & stemmed
~¼ c. vanilla sugar, divided
¼ c. butter, cut into small pieces
Guess what?  I let the bread machine do the mixing, kneading and first rise for me. Shocker, huh?  This is what I did.  You could always do a regular mixing method if you wanted to do it by hand or mixer.  

Add water, vanilla sugar, and salt to bread machine pan.  Scoop flour on top.  Add yeast last.  Set to dough cycle and press start.  If you're mixing by hand, knead until smooth and pliable and place in an oiled bowl.  Cover and let rise until doubled in size, ~1 hr.

With the imprecise measurements of "just over", you may need to add more water or flour.  If dough seems too dry, knead in a little more water at a time until it reaches the right consistency.  If it seems too wet, then sprinkle in a bit more flour as you need it.  Dough will be smooth, pliable and NOT sticky when it's "right".  It's simple and a dream to work with, actually.  A very good basic bread recipe.

Toss cherries with 1 Tbs. of the vanilla sugar and set aside.

After the first rise, punch the dough down, then using your fingers, press and pull it out into a large oval or rectangle.  I did this directly on an oiled sheet tray.  Alternately, you could flour it.  I could have gone rises so vigorously.  If using a half sheet tray (cookie sheet tray), go ahead and press it out all the way to the edges. Then press your cherries into the top of the dough, pushing down with your fingertips all over the top of the dough as you go.  Press 'em all the way down to the bottom, this dough is this for about 2 minutes.  Sprinkle with remaining vanilla sugar and dot with the butter.  Let rise for another 30 minutes, preheating the oven to 350° F during the last 15.

Slide the whole tray into the oven and bake for ~25-35 minutes or until slightly colored and cooked through.  Best served slightly warm.

Jamie suggested serving it with some milky I did (w/ vanilla sugar in there, as well).  Great breakfast or brunch bread.  Makes a huge loaf (and this was a halved can easily double it for a crowd...just use 2 sheet pans).  The loaf itself isn't sweet.  It's the cherries, the butter, and the sugar that provide a slight sweetness.
It's a POTLUCK at IHCC this week.  
*There's only about six more weeks of cooking with Jamie; next up is another female chef.  Time flies when you're having fun!*
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