This sweet onion foccacia is more than just a impressive looking loaf. Light and fluffy and flavoured generously with rosemary and extra virgin olive oil, it's a great bread for pull out for a weekend lunch or make sandwiches with. "Planting" the onions in the top allows them to caramelise and sweeten while baking.
Recently I've started to feel a little bit run down and out of sorts. The sudden weather changes and a heavy workload have contributed to it. I was seeing my trainer Nina this week when I struggled to lift the medicine ball that I ordinarily would have only somewhat struggled with (apparently it's important to struggle to do these things and they shouldn't be easy - exercise people be crazy :P).
I tend to get all Woody Allen around times like this. I kept thinking about how I must be so tired and yet I was hot and flushed. What was happening to me? Fever? Ebola? EBOLA? What has happened to Ebola? It's not on the news anymore. Bird flu? I have been eating chicken...I kept wondering aloud about my surprising weakened state.
Nina surveyed me with a cheeky glint in her eye. "Okay I have to tell you because I can see you getting yourself all worked up but that is a heavier ball. It's 9 kilos instead of 6 kilos," she said laughing at having me going for a good 10 minutes about any imagined ailments.
"Arrrghghhh!! I'm going to kill you!!" I said to her (note: kids don't tell people that you are going to kill them, it can get you arrested although I think I'd have a shot with a sympathetic exercise hating judge) and like a cartoon I chased her around in circles with my arms outstretched trying to reach for her neck . I have no idea what the people around us in Centennial Park were thinking. A training session gone wrong? Of course it wasn't serious and it was more funny than anything else and we were crying with laughter which some people may have misinterpreted too.
Anyway, what does this story have to do with this foccacia which Nina would never eat because she is gluten intolerant? Nothing except that I made it on the day that I saw and almost throttled her. When you're inside a lot you may as well make the best of your time there and have the oven on baking up all sorts of delicious things. Like this bread. I know that onions are not a cool vegetable. They're probably uncool (is there a "Am I cool or not gauge?") but I love eating them despite the fact that they make me cry terribly, even red onions.
After this came out of the oven, I had to try some while it was still warm and it was fluffy and gorgeous. The idea behind the onions came from a bread that I bought from Bombini restaurant when I was recently on the Central Coast (review to come up soon). Theirs was a different type of bread, a sourdough with caraway seeds but I liked the idea of making this a foccacia style bread so that the bread was puffy and flavoured with rosemary, olive oil and of course onions.
This is a delicious loaf and when I bake it, I coordinate the number of people eating it with the onion pieces so that everyone gets a square piece with onion in the centre top. It smells heavenly baked in so if you've got any time indoors, I urge you to give this bread a go!
So tell me Dear Reader, do onions make you cry a lot? Mr NQN has to leave the apartment or sit on the balcony when I cut them! And how often do you bake bread?
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Sweet Onion Foccacia Style Bread
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott/Not Quite Nigella
Preparation time: 10 minutes plus 1.5 hours resting time
Baking time: 25 minutes
- 500g/1.1lb. strong white flour
- 1.5 tablespoons instant dried yeast
- 300-350ml/10.6-12.36fl ozs. warm water
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons for brushing
- 1 tablespoon fine salt
- 2 red onions, peeled and sliced in thirds horizontally*
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
*I like the cut this into one squares per person so that one person will get a square with onion in the centre (which also makes it easier to cut). So feel free to use more or less onions depending on how many squares you want to get in the end. I don't know if I have explained that very well, hopefully you know what I mean.
Step 1 - Mix the flour, yeast in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook (you can also knead this by hand). Add the water and olive oil in a stream while mixing on the lowest speed. Knead for 8-10 minutes or so until the dough is elastic and stretchy.
Step 2 - Shape into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl covered with cling film in a warm, draught free area. If it is really cold, I turn the oven onto 35°C/95°F and then turn it off and keep it in the oven to rise for an hour.
Step 3 - Preheat the oven to 230°C/446°F. Punch the dough down and add the salt and knead lightly for 15 seconds or until the salt is incorporated. Spread out onto a 30x20 parchment lined tray with sides. Spread out to fit the tray and place the onions on top pressing down gently and cover and allow to rise in a warm place until at least doubled in height.
Step 4 - Brush with some of olive oil and the rosemary. Bake for 20-25 minutes. It will smell divine as it baking. Remove from oven and sprinkle with a little extra salt on top and give it a final drizzle of oil.