Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Focaccia with Pear, Blue Cheese, Arugula and Corn

I made this focaccia for a potluck on Thursday night. And it was so good, I made it again the next day. And now I'm wondering why I don't make this all the time. I know there are those who knead together an eggy-rich braided challah bread to mark the sabbath every Friday night. But I would argue that a seasonal focaccia, bolstered with a bit of whole wheat flour and topped with an assortment of whatever vegetables (and heck, even fruit) happen to be in your refrigerator or farmer's market, is an even lovelier way to mark the time.

This focaccia has a lot going for it. It's easy (after a quick knead, the dough just rises by itself overnight), cheap (especially if you go with a similar refrigerator-cleaning mix of items), and is ridiculously delicious. The thin slices of pear (picked from a friend's tree!) add a bit of sweetness without being overpowering, and also contribute a bit of moisture, making it feel rich even with minimal cheese. The sweet corn, peppery arugula and piquant blue cheese all play off each other beautifully. And though I've already made it twice, I'm totally planning on making it yet again. Until the next seasonal focaccia comes to harvest.

Focaccia with Pear, Blue Cheese, Arugula and Corn

Inspired by this Woodberry Kitchen recipe in Bon Appetit, but tweaked beyond recognition
serves ~12 as an appetizer, ~6 as a more substantial meal element

As with any dough, a long, slow rise works beautifully (so don't be freaked out at the small amount of yeast). I do this as a two-day process: make dough at night, rise in the fridge, press out onto the tray in the morning, refrigerate again, top and bake before dinner. But you can tweak the timing to work with your schedule, skipping the second refrigeration if needed.

1 1/2 cups room-temperature water
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for coating the dough)
1 scant tablespoon coarse salt (plus more for topping)
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups bread flour

aleppo pepper (a richly flavored yet not-at-all hot pepper — seek it out if you want this delicious secret weapon in your pantry, omit otherwise)
1 pear, cored and thinly sliced
1/4 pound blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 bunch torn arugula (or several handfuls baby arugula), tossed with a drizzle of olive oil
1 ear corn, cut off the cob

To make the dough: Pour the water in the bowl of a mixer (or just a large bowl), and sprinkle the yeast over. Let sit a few minutes for the yeast to soften and bloom, then stir in the remaining ingredients until combined. Let sit, covered, for 15 minutes to hydrate, then knead with a dough hook (or stir with a spoon) for just a few minutes, until the dough comes together in a smooth mass (the dough should just clear the sides of the mixer — add more flour if needed, but it should still be somewhat soft and sticky). Oil a covered container, and transfer the dough. With wet or oiled hands, pull one end of the dough out until you can basically fold the dough in half, then rotate a quarter-turn and repeat with each side (this stretch-and-fold technique builds a little firmness into the dough without extra flour). When finished, flip the dough upside-down (so that the oiled bottom is now on top), cover, and refrigerate overnight.

To shape the focaccia: Remove from the refrigerator, and let warm to room temperature. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment, or coat it with a bit of oil, and turn the dough out onto it. With wet or oiled hands, try to pat-push the dough until it is evenly spread in a thin layer over the entire surface (if it resists you, step away for a few minutes to let the dough relax, then come back to it). When the dough has been spread out, cover with a thin film of oil, and refrigerate again (or, if you don't have the time, proceed with topping and baking).

To finish the focaccia: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees farenheit (you want a hot oven so you can let it preheat the full time the dough is doing its final rise).

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, if it's been chilling there. Sprinkle the oiled top of the focaccia with aleppo pepper, then top with the pear, blue cheese, arugula and corn. Give a thin brush of oil over the pears, and a sprinkling of salt over everything. Let rise until starting to get a bit puffy — this will take 20-30 minutes if the dough is at room temperature, longer if it's been refrigerated. Bake until the focaccia is browned and delicious-looking, about 20 minutes.


  1. I have long been intimidated by yeast dough, but this recipe is giving me confidence. And I'm dreaming about the multitude of topping possibilities...

  2. Makes me miss Oregon pears:( Woodberry Kitchen had just opened before we left Baltimore. Cool place. I hear they give their urban farmer-suppliers 50 percent discounts when they eat there.