Saturday, January 1, 2011

Tomato and Eggplant Focaccia

Happy 2011 to everyone!  I always love to have a quiet, relaxing first day to the new year, doing warm, cozy things after a night of celebration.  One of my favorites?  Bread baking, and this focaccia felt like the perfect way to kick off the year.  Because of the topping, it actually felt more like a cross between a focaccia and a pizza.  Serve a few wedges with a big entree salad and a glass of (vegan) Italian red wine for a delicious meal.

For the dough:
  • 1 package dry yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 and 1/3 cups warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
For the tapenade:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 cup finely chopped and peeled eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 16 pitted and chopped kalamata olives
  • 5 thinly sliced plum tomatoes (about 1 pound total)
1. To make the dough, dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl.  Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Add 3 and 1/2 cups of the flour, 3 tablespoons basil, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt to the yeast mixture, stirring to form a dough.

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes - it should be smooth and elastic by the end.  For quick tips on how to knead your dough, see this link:

You can add enough of the remaining flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands, and it may also be useful to coat your hands with cooking spray as you work.  I found this dough to be wonderfully workable, however, and needed very little extra flour.

3. Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning so the top is coated in cooking spray, as well.  Cover and let rise for 1 hour - a great spot for rising is an unheated oven, which will be warm and free from drafts.  The dough should be doubled in size by the end.  Punch down and let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then divide in half.  Working with 1 portion at a time, roll each into a 10-inch circle on a baking sheet.  Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

4. To make the tapenade, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds.  Add the eggplant; cook for 8 minutes, until tender.  Place the eggplant mixture in a food processor, along with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons basil, the capers, 1/8 teaspoon salt, the black pepper, and the kalamata olives.  Pulse for 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the food processor with a spatula about half way through.

5. Spread 1/4 cup of the tapenade over each focaccia.  Divide the tomato slices evenly over the tapenade on each focaccia, then top evenly with any remaining tapenade.  Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes - the crust should be nicely golden brown by the end.

Nutrition Info:
2 focaccia, 8 servings per focaccia (1 wedge), Calories 149

Tasting Notes:
Yummy, but I would make a few changes to this recipe; first, the tomato slices made the top of the focaccia a tad soggy, so I would recommend draining the slices on several layers of paper towels before arranging on the dough.  I also felt that there was a little too much tomato and not quite enough tapenade, and would play around with the ratios to bring forward the flavor of the eggplant a bit more.  That said, the focaccia bread came out great - a crisp bottom crust, and a soft interior.


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