Tuesday, 11 September 2012
For eons, (since 2009!) I’ve had Mimi’s (Delectable Tidbits) beautiful Grape and Blue Cheese Focaccia bookmarked. Every time I looked at Mimi’s grape focaccia, I drooled and swore I’d make it the next time we had some blue grapes. And at last, I did. Well, actually, I made fougasse rather than focaccia. And I will be making it again. And again…. It’s that good.
I’ve mentioned before that I volunteer from time to time for Not Far From the Tree. It’s a great way to meet new like-minded people and get “free” fruit as a bonus. Last Friday, four of us spent a happy morning in a tiny garden in the west end picking blue grapes galore. We picked over a hundred pounds and still there were grapes left on the vine!
I loaded my bike as best I could, taking only half of my share and came home with 4 big baskets of beautiful grapes. Sweet, yet with a hint of tartness. And the colour! A gorgeous blue.
We immediately juiced half of the grapes (remind me to rave about that juice!) and put the other half of the grapes into the fridge.
And thought about what we would do with the rest of them. Jelly? Jam? Pickles? (One woman had done this with the green grapes we picked a few weeks ago – she said they were fabulous) Clafouti?
And suddenly a lightbulb appeared over my head: Mimi’s focaccia!! Mmmmm, grapes and blue cheese….
I was going to make focaccia. Really, I was. I mixed focaccia dough. But then when it came time to shape it, I found myself shaping fougasse.
Well. I have too much time on my hands…. I painstakingly cut each grape in half and removed the seeds and painstakingly put the grapes back together again. And once the fougasse was shaped I painstakingly poked holes in it with my finger to nest each grape so it wouldn’t disintregrate when being pushed into the dough.
If it had been olives rather than grapes, would I have done this?? Probably not.
But I was so thrilled with myself. The shaped and decorated fougasse was covered and rising and I was humming happily, tidying up and… what’s this?? The blue cheese!!
I forgot to put on the blue cheese!!
Luckily, there was still time to rescue myself. Enough time that I didn’t even have to tell anyone that I forgot.
I just hoped that the salt that I decided to scatter on wouldn’t be too overwhelming. Blue cheese IS pretty salty.
Just before 8pm, we sat in the now cool, dark and quiet garden, listening to the rustling of the raccoons in the nearby trees and we grilled meat and baked the fougasse.
Flashlights are handy instruments, aren’t they?
And then we came inside to our dining room, lit the candles, toasted Not Far From the Tree with a clink of glasses of Sangiovese and feasted on grilled pork, steamed green beans, and wonderful, wonderful bread.
Here is how to make this most delicious bread:
Grape/Onion/Blue Cheese Fougasse
based on the Mimi’s (Delectable Tidbits) recipe for Grape and Blue Cheese Focaccia, the focaccia recipe in “The Italian Baker” by Carol Field and the fougasse recipe in “Tartine Bakery” by Chad Robertson
I’m a little casual about measuring so have included only volume measures, or no measures at all – you’ll have to wing it there.
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 340ml luke warm water ¹
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- pinch malt powder, optional
- 2½ c unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 c whole wheat flour
- ½ Tbsp kosher salt ²
- blue grapes ³
- olive oil
- sweet onion
- fresh rosemary
- coarse sea salt
- blue cheese
- Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, you can start this in the morning if it’s cool and in the early afternoon if it’s warm. Spoon the yeast into the bottom of a medium to large sized bowl. (I use a casserole dish). Pour the water over top and whisk until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture looks like diluted cream.
- Add the olive oil and dump the flours, malt and salt overtop. Using a wooden spoon, mix together until the mixture comes away from the side of the bowl.
- Turn the dough out onto an unfloured board.
- Wash and dry the mixing bowl (please do not be tempted to skip this step – it cleans the bowl AND washes your hands).
- Using a dough scraper as your friend and ally to keep the board clean, hand knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is soft and silky.
- Put the kneaded dough into the clean mixing bowl. Cover it with a plate and leave on the counter (out of drafts) until it doubles. If it doubles before you want to shape it, just gently deflate it by putting your hand against the side of the bowl and scooping from the bottom of the bowl and up to fold the dough in half. Turn the bowl a couple of times to fold all the dough.
- Topping Cut the onion in half and thinly slice it into half moons (I used about a quarter of a largish white onion). Pull the leaves off of clean dry rosemary. Chop coarsely if you want. Slice the garlic thinly. Cut each grape in half, not quite severing it in two, and remove the seeds. Put the grape halves back in place and store in a bowl. Set all aside until you have shaped the fougasse.
- Shaping: About an hour before baking the fougasse, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and press it out into an oval (or a rectangle; or a circle). Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is about 1 cm (.5 in) thick.
- Put a sheet of parchment paper on the peel – or an upside-down cookie sheet. Lay the shaped dough on the peel. Using a pizza wheel and “swift, decisive strokes” cut a design of a leaf or ladder into the dough. Take care not to cut through the outer edges. From the edges, pull the dough outwards to make sure the cuts are spaced. Cover with a clean tea towel followed by a plastic grocery bag and allow to rise. (If you wish, you can let the dough rise first and do the slashes at the last minute.) 4
- Put on the topping Use your finger tips to dimple the dough. Drizzle olive oil over top. Evenly scatter the onion, garlic and rosemary. Poke holes in the dough with your finger and lay the grapes into the holes. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Crumble (or cut) the blue cheese and scatter it overtop. Cover with a tea towel – bear in mind that it will get quite stained from the oil and grapes – followed by a large plastic bag and allow to rise for about an hour.
- Baking If the weather is fine or just too hot to be turning the oven on, fougasse can be baked in the barbecue. If it’s raining or just too cold and dark, of course the fougasse can be baked in a conventional oven.
- Baking in the Barbecue: Put a pizza stone 5 over the half of the barbecue you will turn on and preheat the barbecue to high. Transfer the fougasse to the pizza stone that is sitting over direct heat. Close the lid of the barbecue and bake for about 8 minutes, rotating the stone once or twice or thrice to account for uneven heat in the barbecue (Hot Spots!!!). Then move the stone over to cook with indirect heat (lid down again) until the fougasse is done (about another 8 minutes)… our gas barbecue can be turned off on one side. Watch for hotspots and move the fougasse around to keep it from burning on one side. Because of the heat from the bottom, we like to turn the fougasse over. Just make sure to wait until the top crust is relatively well-formed.
- Baking in the Oven: Put a pizza stone on the middle or top shelf of the oven and turn it to 400F (200C). Transfer the fougasse onto the hot stone and bake for about 15-20 minutes, turning it around at least once to account for uneven oven heat. The finished fougasse will be deep gold on the bottom and gold on the top.
- When the fougasse done, remove it from the heat and allow to cool on a well-ventilated rack. To serve, break it apart and dip it into good quality olive oil if you want.
1.) Water: Tap water is fine to use. Under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap. Heat the water in a kettle or microwave (to create lukewarm water, add cold water until it is the correct temperature – use the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist. Or… you can use a thermometer.) Please note that before the yeast is added, the water temperature should be BELOW 120F because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.
2.) Kosher Salt: We use “Diamond Crystal” Brand. I’ve raved about the problems of measuring salt before…. 1 tbsp. kosher salt (we use Diamond Crystal brand) weighs approximately 1/3 of an ounce [approximately 9.5gm]. -SAVEUR Magazine, re: Lane Cake in the BBQ Nation issue, SAVEUR Magazine (facebook) page
3.) Grapes: Of course, green grapes would probably work, but they wouldn’t look quite as pretty. And if you are lucky enough to get grapes that are seedless (Coronation grapes spring to mind), then by all means, use those so you can omit the labour intensive method of cutting each grape in half.
4.) Shaping and slashing: The traditional shaping for fougasse is in a leaf or ladder shape. But it can be shaped in any way you want.
Chad Robertson shapes his fougasse and allows it to rise (covered with a tea towel) for 2 to 3 hours. Patricia Wells shapes and slashes her shaped fougasse at the same time and allows the fougasse to rest for about 10 minutes before baking it. Rose Beranbaum also shapes and slashes at the same time, allows it to rest for about 15 minutes before baking and suggests using scissors (and gentle pulling with fingers) to open up any of the slashes that have closed during that time.
5.) Pizza Stone: Pizza stones are available at most kitchen supply stores in the larger cities (and possibly the smaller ones too?) in Canada. They cost about $10 and often come with a pizza wheel inserted in the box. They may be a little lighter weight and thinner than a conventional bread stone but the advantage is that they fit easily into a barbecue and they work pretty much as well to protect bottom crusts from burning to cinders.
This really was one of the best fougasses too! Each piece tasted like more.
Oh, yes… it wasn’t too salty. It was perfect.
“Not Far From the Tree” is a Toronto organization that includes a residential fruit-picking program to pick fruit (with permission, of course) that would otherwise go to waste.
There are lots and lots of fruit trees and vines in Toronto!! Bearing fruit that is eaten by birds, squirrels and raccoons. If you have such a thing in your garden and would like the animals to share the fruit with people, please do contact “Not Far From the Tree”. They will send a team of pickers to clean up your yard of fallen fruit and pick the good fruit that is still in the tree. The harvested fruit is divided evenly into 3 portions: one third going to the tree owners, one third going to the volunteer pickers and the final third going to food banks, shelters, and community kitchens.
For more information about NFFtT and how you can donate your time and/or share your fruit, please go to
Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:
Bake Your Own Bread (BYOB)
BYOB is a monthly event hosted by Heather (girlichef)
that encourages you to start (or continue) getting comfortable baking bread in your own kitchen. Anything from simple quick breads to conquering that fear of yeast to making and nurturing your own sourdough starter. All levels of bakers are welcome to participate.
edit 20 September 2012: Whoohoooo!! A partial mirror of this post is now at Not Far From the Tree! How cool is that?
- Grapes or Fougasse
» Red globe grapes
» grape pie revisited
» our pie grapes ARE “Coronation” grapes
» mmmmm… coronation grape pie
» blue grapes for pie and jam (real food)
» fougasse IS different from focaccia! (BBB October 2011)
» Give us this day our daily bread (WBD/WFD 2011) (poppy seed fougasse)
- Not Far From the Tree
» monkey see, monkey do: cheesecake revisited… (grapes)
» Freshly Picked Cherries!
» 2 Kinds of Chutney: Pear and Coconut
» Mmmmmm… pie and pear chutney….
» Let’s share, shall we?
» Pears galore (real food)