May 19, 2012

Breaking Bread: Potato, Blue Cheese & Walnut Focaccia

I opened this site, to find a beautiful picture of a cherry tomato focaccia staring at me. Reading some more, found out this is a new group aptly called Breaking Bread, where there´s a monthly recipe to be used as guide to bake something interesting. The fact that the first item is focaccia is terribly inviting, because, really, who doesn´t like focaccia?

I remember the moment when this olive oil dough forever became a favorite. We (this was eighteen years ago, so the we no longer applies..but the memories are still as good) had just arrived to Santa Margherita, near Portofino, it was pouring, and we were so hungry after driving for hours and skipping lunch.

It was mid-afternoon and found out most places were probably taking a nap, since they were closed until dinner service began. The only one we found open was dark and there was someone inside, but clearly not waiting for any customers. After explaining our situation, which was not good considering our tired, messy appearance, I guess he took pity on us and offered some ham and cheese sandwiches. As a last resource really, by the way he talked about the food he was going to serve us, like he was kindly offering us leftovers, ashamed that he couldn´t serve us a proper meal. The bread that he used was focaccia.

Let me tell you that filled grilled crusty golden sandwich is still one of my best food memories.

Here is a humble interpretation, not intended to replace it. Some memories are best kept as such.

I love the combination of blue cheese and walnuts. The potato adds an unexpected creaminess. The nuts in the dough and a sharp blue cheese make the difference here. It gives this bread it´s character.  

Our hostess this month is Lora, from Cake Duchess, and she posted such a complete step-by-step guide to making focaccia you should be heading there right now, before starting this recipe!

adapted from: How to Bake by Nick Malgieri 
Copyright (c) Nick Malgieri 1995, All Rights Reserved

Makes 1 focaccia

1 1/3 cups warm tap water (about 110 degrees)
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely broken
1 cup blue cheese, crumbled
2 small potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (a mandoline works best)
Thyme for sprinkling
Coarse salt for sprinkling
Olive oil, extra for pan and top of the dough

Measure the water into a bowl and whisk in the yeast and olive oil.
Measure the flour and 2 teaspoons salt into a mixing bowl (I do it directly in the stand mixer bowl) and stir well to combine. Add half cup of broken walnuts.
Add the yeast mixture and mix for a minute until incorporated. You can do this by hand with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise at room tº until doubled in bulk about 1 hour.
Spread an additional 1 ½ tablespoons on the bottom of a 10x15-inch rectangular or 14-inch round pan (25x38cm rectangular or 35cm round).
Turn the dough out of the bowl onto the pan and pat and press until the dough fills the pan completely. If the dough resists, let it rest for a few minutes before continuing.
Cover the dough with a piece of oiled plastic wrap (oiled side down) and allow it to rise again until doubled, up to 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450º F/ 220ºC.
Dimple the surface of the risen focaccia by using your fingertips to poke cavities in the dough.
Take the potato slices and scatter them on top of the dough. With your fingers press the middle of the slice down into the dough; this way some of the potato will crisp and some will become creamy together with the dough. Scatter the crumbled blue cheese (and 2 Tbs extra walnuts if desired) on top. Drizzle a few Tbs olive oil, thyme and salt on top.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until deep golden. Lift the side of the focaccia with a spatula or pancake turner and check the bottom about halfway through baking time. If it is getting too dark, slide the pan onto another pan to insulate the bottom.
You can serve immediately, sliding the baked focaccia from the pan to a cutting board. If it will be served later, slide it off the pan onto a rack to cool.
Keep loosely covered at room tº. For longer storage wrap in plastic wrap, then foil and freeze.
To serve, unwrap and reheat for about 5 to 10 minutes in a 375ºF / 190ºC oven.


  1. What a great recipe and group!! I'll check it out and see if I join when I'm done with my exams!!

    1. You probably should since you love baking so much!

  2. Gorgeous, Paula! I love Foccacia, too, but have never had this kind before - it looks wonderful! We were lucky enough to spend a week in Genova a few years ago and enjoyed some great Foccacia there.

  3. Your focaccia turned out fantastic, Paula. So happy you decided to join us baking this month and just love your topping ideas. I adore blue cheese and this is on my baking list for this weekend:)

    1. Thanks Lora for linking my page! So glad I joined the group and are really looking forward to so many great breads!

  4. I, too, have always loved focaccia. Never before seen a focaccia recipe as unique and clever! What a great combination of flavors! Thank you for sharing. Allen.

    1. This is completely thinking outside the box, I love it. I would have never thought of the combination. So happy you are #breakingbread with us this month and how it brought out such and endearing memory.

  5. Thanks to all three of you for putting together a great group!

  6. When I first saw this, I thought the potatoes were apple slices! And that sounded good. But I love the full savory flavor with the potatoes. Maybe I will try it both ways? This is a lovely recipe. ~ David

    1. Apples should be perfect! There are so many good focaccia combinations


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