Baked Sunday Mornings: Cheesy Focaccia with Carmelized Onions and Sautéed Spinach

This week's Baked Sunday Mornings recipe, Cheesy Focaccia with Carmelized Onions and Sautéed Spinach, is not difficult, but it's time consuming. Start to finish, it took me about three hours, which means it was not something I could just throw together after work, but a recipe I had to save for a weekend project.

You make the dough in a standing mixer. You combine all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, and salt, and mix in olive oil and warm water. When the dough comes together, you switch to a dough hook and you're supposed to mix until the dough starts to release from the sides of the bowl. My dough was very wet and wasn't releasing, so I followed the directions to add more all-purpose flour, two tablespoons at a time. It took another ten tablespoons of flour before the dough was stiff enough to release from the bowl, and even then, it was still quite soft and sticky.

I managed to stretch it out on a floured surface, fold it into thirds, and shape it into a ball that I put into an oiled bowl and covered with plastic wrap. After 25 minutes, I re-stretched the dough, repeated the process of folding it, forming it into a ball and putting it back into the bowl, and after another 25 minutes, I did the whole process a third time. Each time, the dough rose quite a bit in the bowl, and it was puffy and easy to stretch.

After the final rise in the bowl, I stretched out the dough in a pan lined with parchment and dusted with cornmeal. While I let the dough rest, I caramelized a red onion, and cooked a bag of baby spinach and squeezed it dry. Then I stretched the dough into the corners of the pan, brushed it with rosemary olive oil, and sprinkled on salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. I baked it for about 12 minutes in a hot oven with a pan of steaming water on the bottom rack. I took out the dough, topped it with grated cheese (Provolone and Pecorino Romano), the onions and spinach, and some red pepper flakes. I put the focaccia back in the oven for another 12 minutes, until the cheese was melted and browned.

I served the focaccia immediately while it was steaming hot, and it was delicious and full of flavor. The exterior of the bread was firm and crunchy, and the interior was soft and chewy. All of the cheese and toppings make the focaccia essentially seem like a pizza, and to be honest, I would have preferred it with less cheese. I know this recipe is in the "Cheese" chapter of the cookbook and all, but I thought the cheese made the focaccia heavy and didn't let the amazing bread shine; my favorite parts were the edges with exposed crust. (But I normally eat my pizza cheeseless, so this may just be my idiosyncratic personal preference.)

I had timed my focaccia baking so that it would come out of the oven just as my six-year old friend Alexander was finishing up baseball practice nearby. He ate his entire piece, although he did pick off a few pieces of spinach. I consider anything Alexander likes to eat a success.

I rarely make yeasted breads, and this is my first time making focaccia. But it's definitely not going to be my last! As the Baked boys point out, this focaccia is a basically a blank canvas that you can top with just about anything, and I'm looking forward to making other variations.

Recipe: "Cheesy Focaccia with Carmelized Onion and Sautéed Spinach" from Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.

Previous Post: "We're Crackers for Cheesy Bread!: Pane con Formaggio," January 12, 2010.


Susan said…
Wasn't this just amazing?!? It does take time, but so worth it. Yours looks just perfect.
Unknown said…
It looks soooo good! I may have to make it even tho there is no one here to eat it!
It really is an amazing recipe. And it is like a pizza. I am thinking of using it as a pizza base next time for my BBQ Chicken Pizza.
My husband was disappointed that I didn't leave some of the focaccia free of toppings, as he wanted to dip it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (but he loved it too)
Chelly said…
I agree with you on the cheese. I think it would have been lovely with less or without! Yours looks perfect!
Anonymous said…
It looks so good !
I will definitely give this one a shot at one (without the cheesee) :)
Maddie said…
It definitely took a lot of time to make! I loved it as well, though.
Anonymous said…
I am a cheese freak, so hopefully when mine is done it'll have the right amount! Yours looks SO good. :)
Kris' Kitchen said…
I agree. I already thinking about variations for the next baking of this great bread. Beautifully done!
Anonymous said…
Yours looks amazing!