Of ghosts and grapes

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If I haven’t visited your blog in awhile, forgive me. I don’t like to read blogs in an RSS reader or on services like Food Buzz. Part of the enjoyment of reading your blogs is to see them in the natural habitat of their original design with all of the pretty colors and banners and ads. I keep a folder of links to blogs I like and I randomly visit when I feel like it. This kind of habit makes for some surprises and some disappointments. The disappointments are blogs that get abandoned for whatever reason. I don’t want to criticize. My blog went abandoned for six months, but I tend to call blogs that seem really abandoned dead blogs.

 Some dead blogs are like ghost ships, plying the waters of the vast Internet. They are there for all the world to see but for some reason, their masters are long gone. One such wonderful blog is the Trans Fatty Blog. This blog was all about real food. To give you a hint of why I liked this blog, just read the about page. He wrote the best about page I have seen. I found this blog through a shared love of sourdough and was so bummed out the blog was already a ghost by the time I found it.

 I used Trans Fatty’s focaccia recipe as a guide. I have always wanted to bake a grape focaccia but I have never seen a sourdough focaccia recipe that made sense to me and I was a little intimidated to start experimenting on my own. I had his recipe bookmarked for a long time and then stumbled back onto it recently. I was a little worried about the huge amount of starter and flour but it turns out it is fine. This recipe is designed to make a giant monster of a focaccia that will feed an army or keep you supplied with bread for days.

 The topping is genius if I do say so myself. I created a mixture that is savory, sweet and salty. Just wonderful!

 The only thing I have to caution you on is to use parchment paper to line your cookie sheet. I saw this instruction and got a little cocky, thinking I knew what I was doing; I used a layer of cornmeal instead. That was last week and my mistake resulted in a focaccia that hermetically sealed itself to the cookie sheet. When I attempted removal, it broke apart. It was still delicious but very ugly. This week, I knew better.

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I am submitting this monster sized bread to this week’s YeastSpotting. Click here to enjoy bread baked around the world.

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Grape and Blue Cheese Focaccia

 Preferment:

2 cups active sourdough starter

1 cup room temperature water

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp olive oil

 Dough:

2 tsp salt

2 cups unbleached white flour

2 cups stone ground whole wheat flour

 Toppings:

1 tbsp olive oil

3 Rosemary sprigs, leaves removed from stems and then leaves roughly chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 quarter cup red or sweet onion, thinly sliced and then chopped in half

1 cup red grapes

4 tbsp crumbled good quality blue cheese

 Preferment:

In a large bowl, combine active starter, water, honey and olive oil. Let sit in a warm place covered for 45 minutes.

 Dough:

Add salt, unbleached white flour and whole wheat flour to the preferment. Mix until well combined and a stiff dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead 12 minutes. The dough should be firm and shiny. Form the dough into a tight ball and transfer it to a very large oiled bowl. Let the dough sit covered in a warm place for 5 – 6 hours until doubled.

 Line a 12” x 14” baking sheet with silicone parchment paper (if using regular parchment, lightly oil the paper. This dough sticks as it bakes!). Turn the dough out onto the parchment lined sheet and gently press it into a rectangle to fill the dimensions of the cookie sheet. Let dough rest covered for at least a half hour up to an hour.

 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush or spread 1 tbsp olive oil over the surface of the dough. Top with Rosemary, garlic and onion, making sure dough is evenly covered with these ingredients. Press grapes into the surface of the dough, I do this in neat rows, but a random covering of grapes is fine. Sprinkle blue cheese evenly over the focaccia. Transfer the focaccia to the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

 Remove the bread from the oven and transfer it to a rack to cool completely before cutting into it.