Whole Grain Focaccia
April 4, 2008
Well, it’s finally happened. It was inevitable. I hit a wall in my increasingly-unreasonable quest to bake all things carb-centric with whole grains. I’m sure my canister of all-purpose flour is smirking now or perhaps even laughing at me, from its back corner of the cupboard, where it languishes behind the canisters of whole-wheat flour (pastry and regular and white whole wheat), cornmeal, bran flour, old-fashioned oats, flaxseed meal, and … well, you get the picture.
As this site’s recipe index makes clear, I’ve ventured into loafs, rolls, biscuits, muffins, pancakes, pitas and, most recently, bagels—all in at least partially whole grain form. And, while the recipes haven’t appeared on this site (yet!), I’ve also dabbled in cookies and pastry crusts and pizza dough using whole grains as well. And, if I’m honest with myself, I knew that there would be a point when I would come up against a bread/baked good that was staunchly opposed to whole grains. Turns out, I was right. The focaccia you see here—based on Whole Foods’ Whole Grain Focaccia recipe—finally felled me.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
I selected the recipe because it used white whole wheat flour and the editorial section at the top of the recipe promised not to be “too grainy or dense.” Having allayed my whole grain-related fears, I plunged ahead and I came out with a pan of beautiful, dimpled, golden, rosemary-and-onion flecked focaccia. I chalked it up to another triumph as I began to slide it on to a baking rack to cool. But, as the loaf was sliding out of the pan, I noticed that it was pretty thin—not puffed, like I’d hoped. And as the loaf landed (actually, clattered) onto the rack, my heart sank as I realized it was crispy and rather leaden—not light and airy like I’d envisioned.
Before I trash the recipe too badly though I will say this: it was tasty. It just didn’t taste much like focaccia, in terms of flavor (the olive oil, for one, was subsumed by the heartiness of the whole wheat flour) or texture (it was more like a thick cracker than a traditional focaccia). And, also, I altered the recipe’s topping, and I’m wondering: had I loaded on the three pounds of caramelized onions as the original recipe instructed (rather than the mere 1/2 onion I used), might the onions have kept the focaccia from drying out and browning too quickly? If I had several more hours in my day, I would re-try this recipe in two ways: (1) following it to the letter and (2) using the topping I used here, but increasing the amount of olive oil I brushed on top (I only used a couple teaspoons and I think increasing it would boost the olive oil flavor and the moisture of the loaf) and decreasing the baking time (because I’m guessing that my loaf browned too quickly because it didn’t have the buffer of onions). But, since I live in a 24-hour-a-day world (sigh), I’ll probably just move along to my next whole grain recipe. And maybe find an irresistible traditional focaccia recipe to try in the meantime.
Here’s the original, un-modified recipe:
Whole Grain Onion Focaccia
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1 1/2 cups warm (105 to 115°F) water, divided
3 1/2 cups whole white-wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds sweet Spanish onions, cut in eighths and thickly sliced
In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup warm water with honey or maple syrup. Sprinkle with yeast and let it stand 5 minutes or until foamy.
Stir in all-purpose flour, 11/2 tsp salt, 1/4 cup olive oil, and remaining 1 cup warm water until well combined. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Transfer to a lightly oiled large bowl, turning the dough to coat. Cover and let stand 1 hour in a warm draft-free spot until doubled in bulk.
Meanwhile, in large skillet heat remaining oil over medium heat. Add onions and remaining 1 tsp salt and cook, reducing heat to medium-low to low, and stirring frequently, for 1 hour or until onions are very soft and golden brown. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Punch dough down, transfer to a lightly oiled jelly-roll pan or large cookie sheet and pat dough out to 15″ by 11″ rectangle. Cover and let stand 45 minutes or until puffed and well risen.
Spread the onions over the dough. Cover and let rise again for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°F. Uncover and bake on the lowest oven rack for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crisp. Cut into 20 pieces to serve.