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two cheese & onion focaccia

November 3, 2009

I did not mean to disappear for so long. In fact, I didn’t intend to disappear at all – but oh! Life and all it brings has laid its heavy hand on me and so, to keep myself sane, I’ve been concentrating on enjoying the time I spend cooking and eating (and eating) instead of turning it into yet another thing on my long list of “items that have to be completed (and soon!)

And in amongst all of the hustle and bustle (some parts of which being far more pleasant than others) I’ve happened upon a little something – and, like most little-somethings in life, it’s popped up in the place I least expected it.

look at all  that goodness

look at all that goodness

Bread. Yeast. Turning a big ol’ bowl of the white stuff into a airy, dense, comforting, flavoursome slice of everything-is-going-to-be-just-fine.

It’s the kneading that does it. Bundle, punch, push. Turn, gather, shove. A rhythm that takes you up, up and away from the tiredness and the crankiness and the scrappy, grimy bits of the week that was and into a state of mellow – and fishes out the forgotten.

The little things that made you laugh. And grin like an idiot. And throw your hands up in exhilaration and fall asleep in an exhausted, smiley mess of thought and fragmented sentences – all of those things come back to the surface with every push and pull and the smoothing of dough. And the cranky is forgotten.

fresh goats curd from willowbrae

fresh goats curd from willowbrae

Then later, the dough puffs up and you push it down with your hands and toss the toppings on carelessly. A cup of tea and a quick conversation. It lands in the oven with a clatter and is pulled out not twenty minutes later to great exclamations and the relieved faces of six weary engineers-in-the-making.

And both they and I are pleased, because focaccia? It is therapy for all.

two cheese and onion focaccia

everybody likes a good onion

everybody likes a good onion

You will need:

(for the bread)
500g plain flour
1tsp salt
7g dried yeast
2tsp caster sugar
300ml warm water
Olive oil

(for the topping)
50g goats curd (I used Willowbrae’s Olive tapenade version)
6-7 baby bocconcini balls (or substitute a mozzarella)
3 onions
1 tsp seeded mustard
1 tsp sugar
dried chilli flakes (optional)

How to do it:

it's aliiive!

it’s aliiive!

1. Yeast first. Don’t be scared of the little critters. They won’t bite! They will, however, turn your boring old flour and water dough into light and fluffy bread, so it’s best to be as nice to them as you can. Tip your yeast into a bowl. Add the sugar to keep it well fed and tip the warm water over the top.

(“How warm?” you ask. Stick your finger into the water. If your skin is burning, it’s too hot. If your finger is feeling vaguely like it’s on holidays in the Bahamas, you’re good to go.)

onions sweating... phee-yew!

onions sweating… phee-yew!

2. While the yeast is having a bath, peel and halve your onions. Cut them into semi circles with about a 2mm width and then toss them into a heavy bottomed pot over a low heat. Onions. Low heat. No oil. Brilliant!

3. We’ll be working on the onions while we fix up the bread. Don’t think you have to stand there stirring the entire time – a couple of turns around the pot every couple of minutes will do nicely. If they start to catch, pour a splash of water in, stir vigourously for half a minute, and you’ll be fine to leave them alone again for a while.

that's one big shaggy ball

that’s one big shaggy ball

4. By now your yeast should be having a rightly good time and producing lots of little bubbles. Get a nice big mixing bowl and toss your flour and salt in. Make a well in the flour and pour the yeasty water into it, stirring with a fork as you go. Once it’s all in there and you’ve stirred around a bit, you’ll end up with a shaggy ball of dough.

5. Gloves off! It’s kneading time. Get your hands in there and knead the dough until it is nice and smooth and bounces back a bit when you prod it with your finger. (I did this with one hand due to an injury and it took me five minutes to get it to this stage – so unless you are similarly single handed, it will probably take you a little less time).

let the dough take it easy

let the dough take it easy

6. Put your dough into a clean, well oiled bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and let it take a nap in a warm spot for 20 minutes. Sadly, the Bean wasn’t available to cuddle the bowl on this particular occasion, so I stuck it next to the stovetop.

oh sweet, browned heaven!

oh sweet, browned heaven!

7. You’ll have a spot of time now to clean up all the mess you might have made and also to prepare a baking sheet for the focaccia to cook on. If you are using a normal oven tray, lightly grease and sprinkle flour all about to stop the sticking. Oh, and to stir your onions intermittently. You haven’t forgotten about them, have you?

8. Twenty minutes later and your dough will be twice its original size and looking lovely. Give it a big fat punch (because, really, how dare it look so lovely when you’re all scruffy and still in pyjamas) and then dump it on the baking sheet.

flatten the dough out & poke it all over

flatten the dough out & poke it all over

9. Spread it out into a rectangle-ish shape and leave it to sit for another 20 minutes. I know, I know. Resting time extraordinaire right? But it will be worth it. Oh, yes it will! At this point, you onions should be looking amazingly caramelised and smell delicious to boot. Take them off the heat, toss the sugar and mustard in and stir, stir, stir until the sugar is all dissolved. Let it cool down.

sprinkle the toppings on liberally

sprinkle the toppings on liberally

10. Stick your fingers in the dough all over to form cute little indents and then spread your onion, goat’s cheese and bocconcini all about. A crack of pepper, a sprinkle of salt and a flick of dried chilli flakes will bring the flavours out nicely.

11. Into a 220ËšC oven for 20 minutes and you’re good to go. Or to eat. Or to fall into a pile on the floor, full of yeasty goodness and no inclination at all to do the dishes.

perfect for a mid morning snack

perfect for a mid morning snack


  • #1
    November 3rd, 2009

    I sometimes find chopping soothing, esp in silence. Something about the methodical movements and the echoing sounds…

  • #2
    November 3rd, 2009

    Yummy! I love baking with dough, and yes there’s definitely something soothing about the kneading. The fresh goats curd sounds lovely 🙂

  • #3
    November 3rd, 2009

    i like the therapy. so much less harmful punching dough than the wall…

  • #4
    November 3rd, 2009

    “The little things that made you laugh. And grin like an idiot.” Hee hee so youuu but your not an idiot haha

    and you had me at the word cheese… mmm

  • #5
    November 3rd, 2009

    Glad to have you back Shez, and hope the unpleasantness is behind you. Kneading is definitely one of the best theraphies I know of when cranky 🙂

  • #6
    November 4th, 2009

    That’s just foccacia? Imagine the wonderful sandwiches you can make with that!!

    Bashing out dough is indeed very therapeutic. Shame you had a need for it but the results are amazing 🙂

  • #7
    November 4th, 2009

    welcome back! Top recipe to start off with. Goats curd is underated, good to see it being used!

  • #8
    November 4th, 2009

    There is nothing like the smell of fresh bread coming out of the oven. Well done on the focaccia. It looks amazing.

  • #9
    November 5th, 2009

    Foccacia from scratch!! Fantastico!

    I have finally put an end to my social life less job routine, and it feels too good.

  • #10
    November 12th, 2009

    mmm.. bread and cheese – you can’t go wrong. Love the photos.

  • #11
    November 20th, 2009

    Wow, that foccacia looks soo scrummy!

    nice blog 🙂

    Ladybird x

  • #12
    November 26th, 2009

    wow, another malaysian foodie blog in sydney, we malaysians sure know how to eat hey..haha

Shez