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Part Asian, Part Italian — Momofuku Milk Bar’s Chinese Sausage Focaccia

New York’s Momofuku Milk Bar bakery is famed for its playfully delicious “crack pie,” “compost cookies” and “cereal milk” ice cream.

But when a review copy of  the cookbook, “Momofuku Milk Bar” (Clarkson Potter) by Pastry Chef-Owner Christina Tosi landed in my mail, it was a more savory-spicy concoction that caught my eye.

“Chinese Sausage Focaccia” is a delightful mash-up of Chinese and Italian all in one bite.

It’s focaccia studded with garlic slivers and sweet Chinese sausage slices — with a veneer of Sichuan chile oil baked into it.

How’s that for breathing fire into this new “Year of the Dragon”?

The book offers a range of sweets and desserts sold at Milk Bar and plated up at the various Momofuku eateries started by the often off-color Chef David Chang. They range from the easy (peanut butter cookies) to the quite ambitious (“Tristar Strawberry Sorbet, Macerated Strawberries, Lovage, Ritz crunch and Celery Root Ganache”). The focaccia falls in the middle of those two extremes.

Chinese sausage links and jars of toban djan (chile bean paste) can be found easily in Chinese markets in the refrigerator cases and condiment shelves, respectively.

The recipe creates a rather wet dough that’s not easy to work with. You’ll want to stretch it out on a large sheet of parchment paper before adding the filling and folding it over. That way, you can more easily transfer the dough and the parchment to the baking pan.

The directions are not always perfectly clear. The sentence that instructs to “pour the chile oil around but not on top” of the dough baffled me at first. Thank goodness I found Jennifer at Books Make Me Hungry, who posted how-to photos after making the focaccia last year. Turns out what you actually need to do is spoon the oil onto the parchment, creating almost a moat of oil around the focaccia dough on the pan.

My dough never quite rose enough to nearly fill the quarter sheet pan. But it baked up just fine, except that the focaccia never turned golden in the oven, as the recipe stated it would.  Books Make Me Hungry also experienced the same issue. So, what I ended up doing was just dipping a pastry brush into some of the residual chile oil still at the bottom of the pan, then brushing a little over the top of the focaccia, before allowing it to continue to bake for another minute or two. That definitely helped give it a nicer color.

The rest of the oil ends up baking onto the bottom of the focaccia, forming a crunchy glaze.

Allow the focaccia to cool fully before digging in, then cut into generous slices.

This focaccia has a tender, yet sturdy texture. It definitely will leave you with slick fingers. It’s messy but good — in the truest sense.

Chinese Sausage Focaccia

(Serves 6)

12 ounces Chinese sausages

8 garlic cloves

1 cup grapeseed oil

1/3 cup Toban Djan (Sichuan chile bean sauce)

1 recipe Mother Dough, proofed (see accompanying recipe)

With a sharp knife, cut each Chinese sausage link lengthwise in half. Then, slice each half into 12 half-moons. Cut garlic cloves into thin slices on a bias — the thinner you can get them, the better.

Combine oil, toban djan, sausage, and garlic in a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes; the oil will turn a deep red color, the Chinese sausage will darken, and the garlic will become translucent. Strain oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, saving it for later. Set the sausage aside.

Punch down and flatten the dough on large sheet of parchment that later will be transferred to a quarter sheet pan with sides. Stretch the dough out gently by hand until it is slightly longer and wider than a quarter sheet pan. You will need to flour your hands well to do so.

Visualize dividing your dough lengthwise in thirds. Spread half of the sausage and garlic down the center third of the dough. Fold the right third of dough over it. Cover that layer with the remaining sausage-garlic filling, then fold the left third of dough over.

Gently lift the entire parchment paper and transfer it along with the dough to a quarter sheet pan. Cover loosely with plastic and allow it to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Once the dough has doubled in size, use your fingers to gently dimple the top of the dough to make small indentations. Pour spicy garlic oil around, not on top of, the dough, so it looks like a moat of oil around the dough.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until focaccia is golden brown. (If it doesn’t brown much, take a pastry brush and dip it into any residual spicy garlic oil there might be in the pan. Brush over top of the focaccia and bake for another 1-2 minutes.)

Let the focaccia cool to room temperature in the pan before serving. If you attempt to cut into it while it is still hot or warm, it will seem gummy and underbaked.

Slice focaccia into 6 pieces and serve at room temperature, or toast by flashing in a warm oven. The focaccia will remain delicious, wrapped well in plastic, for up to 3 days.

Mother Dough

(Makes about 850g or 2 pounds of dough)

3 1/2 (550g) cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 packet or 1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast

Stir together flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer — do it by hand, using the dough hook like a spoon. Continue stirring by hand as you add the water, mixing for 1 minute, until the mixture has come together into a shaggy mass.

Engage the bowl and hook and have the machine mix the dough on the lowest speed for 3 minutes, or until the ball of dough is smoother and more cohesive. Then, knead for 4 more minutes on the lowest speed. The dough should look like a wet ball and should bounce back softly when prodded.

Brush a large bowl with oil and dump the dough into it. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough proof at room temperature for 45 minutes.

The dough is ready to be used as directed in the recipe above. If you do not plan on using your mother dough the day you make it, you can store it in an airtight container at least twice its size in the fridge for up to 3 days. Take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature 30 to 45 minutes before using.

Recipes adapted from “Momofuku Milk Bar” by Christina Tosi

More Momofuku: Jarred Sauces

And: Eating My Way Through the Momofuku Restaurants and Bakery

Plus: My Q&A with Momofuku’s David Chang

And: David Chang’s Visit to Kepler’s Book Store

And: Learn to Make Momofuku’s Famous Pork Buns

And: David Chang’s Cherry Tomato & Tofu Salad