This focaccia is terribly, thoroughly, utterly devoid of whole wheat flour. It’s thus also chewy and springy and light, when sliced reveals an cobwebbed cavernous crumb, and tastes of delightfully unadulterated carbs.
I love the flavours of whole grain but there is a part of me – probably the part that remembers growing up on plain white rice and craving plain white bread (though only being given whole wheat bread) – that wants nothing more than plain white flour and salt and fat. And besides… there are some textures that I find hard to achieve once I start bringing in whole grains.
The dough, from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible, is a wonderful carb base for anything you so desire (even just salt and fat! maybe a fragrant olive oil fat). This time I topped the focaccia with sliced onions, brussels sprouts and gruyere. The flavours are more so in line with a flammekuchen/tarte flambée gratinée, but of course the dough gives it a distinctly focaccia-like bounce and spring.
I made this bread to use up some leftover brussels sprouts. Preboiling them ensures they are tender, and a toss with some olive oil makes sure the edges can crisp up in the oven.
I usually make this focaccia as a one-day affair which necessitates it as a weekend sort of thing – but then you have plenty of bread that can act as dinner and lunch and … well, everything in moderation, of course.
brussels sprouts & gruyere focaccia
Dough from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible. Makes one large focaccia that fits on a half sheet pan.
- 300g all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 240g water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 6 brussels sprouts (or more! I sliced mine into 4 slices lengthwise, but you could fit more if you just cut them in half instead)
- 1/2 onion
- 50g grated gruyere
- kosher or flaky salt
To make the dough, combine all the ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Once a rough dough is formed, cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 20 minutes.
Next, knead the dough – as it’s a very well hydrated and sticky dough, this is a perfect time to use the slap and fold method à la Richard Bertinet (Beranbaum describes a method to do with pinching the dough to elongate it but I expect it accomplishes the same thing). Pick up the dough in both hands and slap it down on the countertop. Pull the part of the dough you’re holding towards you to stretch the dough, then fold it in half. Pick up the dough again, but this time from a 90 degree angle so that when you slap it back down the dough is rotated 90 degrees. Repeat. Throughout the process the dough will be very sticky, but that’s okay! Relax, tell yourself it’s okay that my hands are coated in sticky dough, and try not to use any additional flour. I find the best way to keep myself motivated about kneading is to listen to music – this dough is a three-song knead (about 10 minutes). By the end, the dough should be supple and stretchy, and perhaps less sticky than it began.
Return the dough to the bowl, cover with the damp cloth, and let rest twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, scrape it out onto a lightly floured surface. Stretch out the dough into a square and fold into thirds like a letter in one direction, and fold into thirds again in the other direction. Return to the bowl, rest another 20 minutes and repeat the folding.
Let the dough rise until it appears about doubled, 2-3 hours. Scrape out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a rectangle which will comfortably fit onto a half sheet pan. Line the pan with parchment paper and drape the dough over top. Dust with flour and drape with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until bubbly and it appears somewhat doubled in height, another 2 hours.
Boil the brussels sprouts in salted water until they are just tender. Drain and cool, then slice lengthwise into four slices. Slice the onion into strips.
Preheat the oven to 450F.
Lightly brush off the excess flour from the dough. Use your fingers to dimple the dough by pushing them straight down into the dough to the bottom; move along the bread until it is dimpled throughout. Lightly brush with olive oil and sprinkle with some salt (not too much is needed as there will also be cheese). Sprinkle with the onions and about a third of the brussels sprouts. Sprinkle with the cheese, then arrange the remaining brussels spouts over top. If you have fresh thyme on hand, scattering picked thyme leaves over the top would also be lovely.
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the bread and cheese and browned and the edges of the brussels spouts are charred.