Think of this as a subtle riff on a cheddar apple pie.
Because this focaccia that’s loaded with salty-nutty tasting Pecorino also gets a pretty crowning touch of thinly sliced, sweet apple rings over the top.
This tender, airy Italian bread started out life simply as “Cheese Focaccia.”
But when life gives you a bounty of fresh, crunchy, and juicy Pazazz apples, you want to put them on simply everything.
After all, these delicious apples, a relative of the popular Honeycrisp, are a great source of fiber, too. In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research has joined with Pazazz apples in the fight against cancer. February is National Cancer Awareness Month, the perfect time to double-down on a diet rich in healthful foods such as apples.
You can do your part even further by uploading your photo to the Pazazz superhero filter here, and Pazazz will donate $1 to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Or simply text PAZ to 797979 to generate the $1 donation, too.
Find Pazazz apples now through summer at local Safeway stores. Then, get ready to bake a big pan of this focaccia.
The original recipe is from the new “Cook with Me: 150 Recipes for the Home Cook” (Clarkson Potter) by Alex Guarnaschelli, the executive chef of Butter Restaurant in New York, and a regular judge on the Food Network’s “Chopped.”
The cookbook includes 150 inspired recipes for the home cook, including “Carrot Salad with Miso Dressing,” “Roasted Chicken Pot Pie with Cream Biscuit Topping,” “Goodfellas Spaghetti and Meatballs,” and “Gluten-Free Vanilla-Raspberry Muffins.”
The focaccia dough proofs twice, the first time in a bowl, and the second time in a sheet pan. If your kitchen is rather chilly during these winter days, put the dough in your oven with the pilot light on to proof. It provides just the right amount of warmth to get the job one, a trick I learned long ago from Cook’s Illustrated. When you spy the dough after the first rise, it will have indeed ballooned impressively to three times its size.
The focaccia originally called for 2 cups of grated Pecorino, half of which gets pushed into the dough in the pan before baking, and the remainder showered over the bread after baking. Because I wanted to allow the apples to shine a little more, I dialed back on the cheese that finishes the focaccia by 1/2 cup. Percorino has a saltiness to it, so you may even want to decrease the amount of cheese overtop even more, if that suits your taste.
I also sprinkled some chopped fresh rosemary over the apples before baking because I love its resiny-foresty note on any type of bread.
The focaccia bakes up with a crusty top and a tender, airy interior. It’s plenty cheesy, with the apples adding just the faintest sweetness. As a result, this focaccia never veers into dessert territory whatsoever.
Squares of it, drizzled with olive oil or dunked into balsamic vinegar, are wonderful for breakfast, brunch or snack. I actually enjoyed it alongside meaty lasagna. Don’t judge until you’ve tried it — at which time, you can just thank me endlessly for the inspired pairing.
Cheese Focaccia with Pazazz Apples
(Makes 16 to 20 squares)
3 1/2 cups (about 1 pound) bread flour
2 3/4 cups (about 1 pound) semolina flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons (about 15 grams) active dry yeast (about 2 packets)
2 1/2 cups warm water between 110 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed
1 1/2 cups finely grated Pecorino cheese, divided use
2 Pazazz apples, peeled, cored, and cut into thin rings
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
Balsamic vinegar, for dunking (optional)
Make the dough: In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the two flours with the salt, sugar, and yeast. Add the warm water and the olive oil, and knead on medium speed until the dough comes together, forms a ball on the hook, and develops a sheen, 12 to 15 minutes. Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the center. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside at room temperature to rise until it has tripled in volume, 2 to 3 hours.
Second proofing: Grease a half sheet pan (about 18-by-13 inches) with a little olive oil and press the dough into it as best you can. It will shrink back and only fill about half of the pan. Let it rest for 20 minutes, and then sprinkle 1 cup of the Pecorino over the dough and press it in, stretching the dough to cover the whole pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set it aside at room temperature until the dough rises nearly to the plastic wrap, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
Bake: Remove the plastic wrap from the pan and use your index finger to press rows of dimples into the dough, spacing them a few inches apart. Arrange apple rings evenly over the top in one layer, then sprinkle over the rosemary. Place the pan in the oven on the center rack and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until the focaccia is golden brown, about another 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Pecorino — or less — over the focaccia, to your taste. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes in the pan before cutting it into squares. Serve the focaccia with more olive oil or balsamic for dunking if you like.
Store leftover focaccia in an airtight container for up to 3 days on the countertop or in the refrigerator. Reheat in a toaster oven to enjoy.
Adapted from “Cook with Me”‘ by Alex Guarnaschelli
More Pazazz Recipes to Enjoy: Apple Beehive