Focaccia with Caramelized Onions, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Cracked Black Pepper and Thyme
As shared by the kitchen of Once Upon a Plate
Makes one 9 x 12-inch (or a thicker 8 x 10-inch) focaccia
Recipe can easily be doubled
1 1/2 teaspoons rapid-rising dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 to 2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/8 cup olive oil
Cornmeal, for dusting
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 thick slices of applewood (or other flavorful) bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips across the streaky grain of the strips.
1 medium yellow (or brown) onion, peeled and cut 1/4-inch slices into rings.
pinch of salt, pinch of sugar
Leaves of thyme, off the stem, plus additional for final garnish after baking
A few generous very coarsely ground pinches of black pepper, or cracked black pepper if your mill does not adjust to a coarse grind.
Additional coarse salt for sprinkling
Heat a pan over medium heat, add 1 scant Tablespoon olive oil. Add bacon pieces to pan and fry until crisp-tender (don't over cook as it will brown further in the oven.) Remove bacon and set aside to cool. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from pan, lower heat to medium-low. Add onion slices to pan, stir to coat evenly in the oil. Sprinkle a pinch of granulated sugar, and a pinch of coarse salt over the onions. Allow to slowly caramelize, stirring occasionally. This will take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, depending upon how thick the onion slices. If onions begin to brown too quickly, lower heat and add a teaspoon or two of liquid to the pan (water, broth, or wine.) When the onions are deeply caramelized and tender remove from pan and set aside to cool.
Prepare dough in bread machine (choose 'dough' cycle), or in food processor. I make mine in my stand mixer:
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle, combine yeast with the warm water and sugar. Stir gently to dissolve. Let stand 3 minutes until foam appears. Turn mixer on low and slowly add 1 cup of the flour to the bowl. Switch to dough hook and add remaining flour. Dissolve salt in 1 tablespoons of water and add it to the mixture. Pour in 1/8 cup olive oil. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium. Periodically scrape the dough off the hook. Mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding a little flour as necessary.
Remove dough to a lightly floured work surface and fold over itself a few times. Shape the dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl, turn to coat the entire ball with oil (to prevent a tough skin from forming.) Cover with cling film or a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Brush or rub a sheet pan with a little olive oil and sprinkle lightly with corn meal. When the dough has doubled turn out onto work surface. Shape and stretch the dough out to an oblong shape about 1/2-inch thick or so. Place the flattened dough on the pan and cover loosely with cling film. Let rest for 15 minutes. While dough is resting, position oven rack to lowest (bottom) position, preheat oven to 425* (F).
After 15 to 20 minutes uncover the dough and dimple with your fingertips all over. Brush the surface with more olive oil and then arrange caramelized onion slices evenly over the dough, followed by the bacon pieces, then sprinkle with cracked black peppercorns, thyme leaves and salt. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. After removing from oven I allow the focaccia to cool a bit, then sprinkle a few additonal thyme leaves over all.
Delicious warm or at room temperature with your favorite beverage. Enjoy!
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