Focaccia with Caramelized Onions and Spinach
Focaccia is an Italian kind of bread. There are different types of it. I want to introduce this one, which is very popular. This bread isn’t just any kind of bread- it’s focaccia, and it is topped with delicious caramelized onions and sautéed spinach.
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
• 2 1/4 cups bread flour
• 2 3/4 tsp. instant dry yeast
• 2 3/4 tsp. salt
• 2 cups warm water /not hot/
• 1/3 cup good-quality olive oil, plus more for oiling
• cornmeal for dusting
• 1/4 cup good-quality olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing
• 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
• 3 1/2 cups loosely packed baby spinach
• 2 tbsp. chopped, fresh rosemary
• 2 tbsp. chopped, fresh thyme
• salt, to taste
• freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• dried oregano, to taste
• 2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella or other cheese of your choosing
• 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or other hard cheese or your choosing, plus more for sprinkling
• red pepper flakes, to taste
1. Make the Focaccia Dough: Place the flours, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until combined. Add the water and 1/3 cup olive oil and mix on low speed until the dough just begins to come together. Turn off the mixer, switch to the dough hook attachment, and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth and tarts to release from the sides of the bowl (it is okay if the dough still sticks to the bottom of the mixing bowl). If the dough feels too wet and is not releasing, add additional all-purpose four, 2 tbsp. at a time, until the dough releases.
2. Dust a work surface with flour and stretch the dough into a rectangle (about 9 by 20 inches). Fold each side onto itself, creating a letterfold. Tuck the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm-ish place for 20 to 30 minutes. Repeat this process (stretching the dough into a rectangle, letterfolding, tucking into a ball shape, and placing in covered bowl). Wait another 30 minutes and repeat a third time.
3. Lightly spray a 13-by-18-inch light-colored metal half-sheet pan or two 9-by-13-inch glass or light-colored metal baking pans with non-stick cooking spray and line with parchment paper. Use your fingers to smear a little olive oil (no more than a tbsp.) evenly across the parchment and sprinkle it with an even dusting of cornmeal.
4. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan(s) and stretch it into a rectangle (don’t try to stretch the dough into corners of the pan just yet). Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest (still at room temperature) for about 20 minutes. Uncover the dough and stretch it into the corners. (If the doughs feels resistant to stretching into the pan corners at this time, cover with plastic wrap and wait 10 more minutes.)
5. Preheat the oven to 450 F/180C and position the rack in the center. Place a baking pan filled with water on the rack below where you will be baking the focaccia. The steam from the pan will give the crust a nice crunchy exterior while keeping the interior moist and chewy.
6. In a medium skillet or sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is soft and translucent. Set the onion aside. Add the spinach to the skillet, cover, and cook until the spinach is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside until cool. Squeeze the spinach dry and set it aside.
7. Poke the dough in the pan. If your fingers leave a dent, it is ready; if not, wait 5 minutes and test again. Toss the rosemary with the remaining 3 tbsp. of olive oil. Brush the oil onto the top of the dough. Sprinkle with thyme, salt, pepper, and oregano.
8. Place the focaccia in the oven, on rack above the pan filled with (now boiling) water, and bake for 1- minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until the dough starts to brown on top. Then remove the pan from the oven and, leaving a small border of crust, top the dough with the onion, spinach, cheeses, and red pepper flakes. Continue baking the focaccia until the cheese is bubbly and browned.
9. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with more Pecorino Romano and salt to taste, and brush the edges with a little bit more olive oil. Serve immediately.
10. Focaccia tastes best directly from the oven, though leftover focaccia can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 2 days. Reheat for about 10 minutes or until warm to the touch before serving.