Roasted onion, chorizo & Parmesan focaccia

I have posted several focaccia recipes on this blog, and while I make my roasted garlic focaccia many times more than any other flavour, I do like to play around a little. This time, I used ingredients lurking around in the fridge and the larder!

Slowly roasted onions or shallots, with their delicious sweetness, salty Parmesan and chunks of spicy chorizo make a wonderful focaccia, especially when time is allowed for the dough to rise very slowly. The juice that comes from the roasted onions gets worked into the dough itself, added flavour throughout the dough, in addition to the pieces of the other goodies that are suspended in the dough!

Some rosemary-flavoured extra-virgin olive oil spooned over the just-baked focaccia finished these perfectly.

I often make a sourdough version, replacing the yeast in the recipe with 200g active sourdough starter, using 400g flour and 300-350ml water. I make ot the same way, but give it longer for the rises.

Grab and slap!

While you can knead this dough traditionally, the very high water content (which is needed to get the type of aeration of the dough that is essential for focaccia), I find it much easier using a “grab and slap” method: with oiled hands, simply grab a large handful of the dough, pull it high out of the bowl and slap it back down into the bowl, repeating for about 5 minutes or so to help develop the gluten, rotating the bowl every now and then: the gluten will develop enough at this stage but it will develop further during the dough’s very slow prove in the fridge.

Alternatively, pop the dough in a food mixer with the dough hook attachment, and put on medium-high speed for about 15 minutes.

Thick or thin?

The recipe makes one large focaccia: the dough covers one of my baking trays that came with the oven that is almost the size of an oven shelf. This gives a wonderfully thin focaccia, which is my preference. Alternatively, split the dough into 2-3 portions for putting in smaller tins.

I sometimes bake focaccia in round sandwich cake tins, to give thicker focaccia: these ones are ideal sliced horizontally and filled with cheese and ham before being toasted or griddled.

Recipe for roasted onion, chorizo & Parmesan focaccia: makes one large focaccia or several smaller ones

For the dough:

  • 500g strong plain white flour (I used Allinson’s flour here)
  • 60ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for kneading
  • 400-450ml cold water (it is a lot but trust me………!)
  • 3g easy-blend dried yeast (it is deliberately not much, but it is enough for the slow chilled rise)
  • 10g salt

For flavouring the dough:

  • 60g Parmesan, cut into small cubes
  • 2 large onions, peeled and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 60g strong chorizo, cut into small cubes
  • a little fresh rosemary, roughly chopped

Rosemary-flavoured oil (optional):

  • a few stalks of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
  • about 100ml extra-virgin olive oil

(1) In a shallow over-proof dish, mix the onions, the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the roughly chopped rosemary together. Place a lid or cover with foil and roast gently for about an hour until the onions have softened: the gorgeous liquid from the onions will be used in the dough. Leave to cool. NB: you can cook them further in a pan on the hob to caramelise them if you prefer.

(2) If making the rosemary oil: heat the oil and rosemary stalks in a small pan just until a few bubbles appear. Remove from heat and leave to infuse. NB: this can be done a few weeks in advance if you want a more pronounced rosemary flavour, stored in an airtight jar. You can also add chopped garlic or other herbs to the oil at the heating stage.

(3) Mix the flour, salt and yeast together in a large bowl. Add the oil, the cooled juices from the onions and most of the water, mixing well to give a soft, sticky dough: don’t worry that it is very wet as the wetter this dough is, the better the hole structure of the focaccia. Add more of the water for the best hole structure.

(4)  With oiled hands, grab a large handful of the dough, pull it high out of the bowl and slap it back down into the bowl, repeating for about 5 minutes or so to help develop the gluten. Alternatively, knead the dough for 10-15 minutes on an oiled surface (and with oiled hands) or in the food mixer with the dough hook attachment until it becomes shiny and elastic.  NB: I favour the “grab and slap” approach with a very high hydration dough such as this – it honestly works perfectly.

(5) Add the cooled onions, the Parmesan and the chorizo and mix in well. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for several hours (overnight ideally) until well risen: the slower the rise, the better for the best flavour.

(6) Turn out the dough onto a large baking sheet that has been lined with greaseproof paper. Flatten it out over the baking sheet with the palms of your hands and your fingers. Drizzle over a little olive oil and leave for an hour or so, this time at room temperature, until well risen: it will have many tiny bubbles over the surface. Toward the end of the rise pre-heat the oven to 200C(fan). NB: you do not need to cover this dough as it rises as the oil will prevent the surface from drying out.

(7) Make dimples all over the surface with your fingers, going down to the greaseproof. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and sprinkle over a some sea salt and chopped rosemary. NB: the dimpling allows some of the oil to pool at the bottom of the hole, seeping into the dough as it bakes. It also pushes out the dough around the dimple to create more bubbles – acting like a ballon does when you squeeze it.

(8) Bake for 20-25 minutes until the focaccia is a deep golden brown colour. Remove from the oven and drizzle over some of the rosemary oil.

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