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Focaccia alla Barese (Onion, Anchovy, and Olive Focaccia)

(recipe, Nick Malgieri)

Introduction

The anchovies on this focaccia bread melt into the topping and add a pleasant note of saltiness, but no strong fishy taste. The recipe makes one 12-by-18-inch or 11-by-17-inch loaf.

Ingredients

    Dough
    1. 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    2. 2 tsp. salt
    3. 2½ tsp. (1 envelope) active dry yeast
    4. 1⅔ cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
    5. 3 Tbsp. olive oil
    6. Olive oil for the pan
    Topping
    1. ⅓ cup olive oil
    2. 1 large onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
    3. 1 can (2 ounces) anchovies in olive oil, drained and coarsely chopped
    4. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    5. ⅓ cup Gaeta or oil-cured black olives, pitted and quartered
    6. ⅓ cup Cerignola or other flavorful green olives, pitted and quartered
    7. Light sprinkling of kosher or other coarse salt

    Steps

    1. Make the dough: Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and stir well to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk the yeast into the water and whisk in the oil.
    2. Use a large rubber spatula to make a well in the center of the flour. Pour in the liquid and use the spatula to begin stirring in the center of the bowl, gradually stirring in a circle toward the sides of the bowl, incorporating more flour as you go.
    3. When all the flour has been incorporated, the dough will still be fairly soft. Use the spatula to dig down to the bottom of the bowl from the side, between the bowl and the dough, and repeatedly fold the dough over on itself, until no dry bits remain.
    4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature in the room.
    5. Scrape the dough into a prepared sheet pan without folding it over on itself. Lightly oil the palms of your hands to prevent sticking and press down on the dough so it evenly fills the pan. If the dough resists, cover it with a towel and let it rest for 10 minutes before continuing.
    6. Cover the pan with oiled plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled again, up to 1 hour.
    7. Make the topping: While the bread is rising, pour about half of the olive oil into a 10-inch sauté pan and place over low to medium heat. Add the onion slices and cook them slowly until they soften and begin to color lightly. Stir in the anchovies and cook 1 minute longer. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.
    8. Scrape the sauce onto a plate or glass pie pan and place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to cool. Stir in the olives.
    9. Bake the focaccia: When the crust is almost risen, set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
    10. Uncover the crust and use your fingertips to gently dimple it at 1½-inch intervals. Drop spoonfuls of the onion mixture all over the top and use a small metal offset spatula to spread a thin layer of the sauce evenly all over the dough. Sprinkle a few pinches of kosher salt. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
    11. Bake about 30 minutes. Turn the pan back to front about halfway through. Let the focaccia cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to slide it onto a rack to finish cooling.