I’m a sucker for little piglets.
A brilliantly sunny day, a chilly wind whipping my hair and tearing at our coats, we decided to put our work aside for a short couple of hours and enjoy a brisk walk over to the Hangar à Bananes along the Loire and then back again across the Ile de Nantes.
Busy as a bee, I have little time these past weeks to focus attention on my blog, yet this, my little baby, is always on my mind. My suitcase now, once again, lies open on my bedroom floor, mouth gaping hungrily for treats to be dropped in for yet another voyage overseas. Or over Channel, as the case may be. Plate to Page Somerset is kicking off this week after much work and anticipation. Our program, updated and adapted to another country, another anticipated group of participants, is ready to go. Old sponsors, wonderful partners, are joined by many new, some filling up our already overstuffed goodie bags with amazing products (I defy anyone anywhere to say that we don’t have the best goodie bags of any conference!) as well as some fantastic and generous British sponsors supplying tremendous edibles and drinkables for the weekend itself. Outings planned and booked, a pub lunch So Very British organized, we’ve got our wellies and our brollies at the ready and this will most definitely be A Grand Day Out!
A long stroll along the Loire and through town led us directly to the tiny, tiny fair showcasing farm animals and local vegetable and fruit producers. What a fête des mères – Mother’s Day – one tiny lamb snuggled up next to mother while a tremendous sow basked in the glow of infrared lamps while her piglets bundled together, overlapping, snout to tail, next to her, within easy reach of a snack. I tried not to trample any small children as I excitedly pushed my way closer and began snapping photos.
So as I prepare for my week away, sharing the good times with Jeanne, Ilva and Meeta, instructing, encouraging, inspiring, I leave you with some photos of my Day at the Farm and an incredible Cherry Almond Focaccia. I saw a photo of one similar in the April 2012 issue of Bon Appétit and had to make one myself. I then saw my friends Lora of Cake Duchess, Shulie of Food Wanderings and Marneley of Cooking with Books baking Focaccia together, using a Nick Malgieri recipe from How to Bake for their newly formed Breaking Bread Society and the word was spoken, the sign given! A sweet focaccia has long been on my to-do list, and sour cherries are a favourite for baking. (For all the rules on how to Break Bread with Lora, Shulie and Marnely, just link here). I also want to share this Focaccia with Susan of Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting!
Follow Plate to Page on Twitter all throughout the weekend at #plate2page for all the fun, info and excitement of Plate to Page Somerset! And if you like what you hear, it is never too soon to register for the next workshop: the first & unique hands-on practical workshop for food writing, styling & photography. Next Spring in Ireland! Put your name on the waiting list now!
A tremendous thanks to our exciting and generous sponsors, it doesn’t get better than this: Bisol Prosecco, Sunchowder’s Emporia, Taste of Home, Gourmelli, Nielsen-Massey, Riso Gallo and welcome to our newest sponsors Kelly Moore, Donald Russel (Gourmet Butcher to the Queen), Edge of Belgravia, Sally Williams, Orchard Pig, F & W Media and Halen Môn, Isle of Wight Garlic Farm and Domaine of the Bee (and there are more...)
CHERRY ALMOND FOCACCIA
Dough recipe adapted with minor changes from Nick Malgieri’s How to Bake
Cherry-Almond topping adapted from April 2012 Bon Appétit
1 recipe Focaccia Dough:
1 1/3 cups warm tap water (about 110 degrees)
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) granulated dry yeast
1 Tbs granulated brown sugar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons sea salt
Cherry-Almond Topping (quantities of cherries, almonds, brown sugar to taste):
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
2 cups drained pitted tart or sour cherries in light syrup
1 cup of the syrup reserved from the jar
3 Tbs granulated white sugar
½ to ¾ cup slivered almonds
¼ to 1/3 cup granulated brown sugar
Prepare the Focaccia Dough:
Have ready one large mixing bowl greased with olive oil and one 10 ½ x 15 ½ -inch or one 12 x 16-inch jelly roll pan or lipped baking sheet an or a 14-inch round pan. (A wider pan will yield a thinner focaccia while a smaller pan will yield a thicker, fluffier focaccia; bake accordingly!)
Place the 1 tablespoon brown sugar with the yeast in a large mixing bowl. Add the warm water, stir to lightly blend and set aside for 15 minutes. Stir the salt into the flour and set aside.
When the yeast has activated and is frothy and thick on top, stir in the 3 tablespoons olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir in about a third of the flour-salt until blended, then stir in the rest in two additions; the third and final addition of flour may be blended/kneaded in using your hands.
Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead briefly until you have a homogenous, smooth and elastic dough. Place in the clean but greased mixing bowl, turning to coat the entire surface with olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic film and then a clean tea or dish towel and allow the dough to rest until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. (as my yeast was not active dry, I left my dough to rise for a little longer than 1 ½ hours.)
Prepare the Topping:
Place the 3 tablespoons white sugar in a small saucepan with the 1 cup reserved juice/syrup from the cherries. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium and, stirring occasionally but watching carefully, allow to gently boil (a low boil) until reduced to about 1/3 cup syrup, about 10 – 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, use 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to grease the baking sheet, bottom and sides (lip). Scrape the risen dough out of the bowl onto the baking sheet or jelly roll pan; press the dough evenly into the pan; loosely cover the dough with the plastic wrap and the towel and allow to rise until about doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Uncover the dough and pat down, pressing back into the corners and up the sides of the pan if it shrank a bit. Press cherries into the soft dough, as closely or as spaced as you prefer for a more or less fruity focaccia. Cover again and allow to rest for an additional 15 minutes. Uncover at the end of this time, Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil all of the surface of the dough and then drizzle the cherry syrup over the focaccia as well; allow the oil and syrup to collect in the dimples, around the cherries and even down the sides. Sprinkle the slivered almonds evenly but roughly over the top and then dust generously with the granulated brown sugar.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the focaccia is a deep golden brown, risen and sounds hollow when tapped, dense but springy when gently pressed.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.