I have a weakness (one of many…) – Concord grapes. With their season so short, I tend to overeat them while they last until my tongue is numb and the throat is itchy. And when these symptoms of the overindulgence aggravate, I stop eating them raw and start to bake.
Makes one large 10×15 focaccia
For the starter (it makes almost exactly the amount needed for the dough):
Plan to make it a day before baking and keep in the refrigerator.
- ½ cup warm water
- ¼ tsp+ 1/8 tsp active dry yeast
- 3 oz (85g; ½ cup + 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
For the dough:
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- ½ tsp active dry yeast
- 6 oz starter (weight if you have a scale or just use it all except a tablespoon)
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup fine ground cornmeal
- 2 tsp sea salt
- Scant 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
For the topping:
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil + 1 tbsp, divided
- 2 cups Concord grapes (don’t bother to seed)
- 4 oz Gorgonzola cheese
Make the starter:
In a small bowl, combine the warm water and yeast. Waite for 5 minutes, and then whisk until the yeast is dissolved. Whisk in the flour until the mixture is lump-free and smooth. Let it rise and bubble in a warm place for about 2 hours. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before using.
Make the dough, bake the focaccia:
In the mixer bowl, combine the warm water and yeast. Wait for 5 minutes, and then whisk in until the yeast is dissolved. Whisk in the starter, then the olive oil. Switch to a wooden spoon and gradually stir in the flour, cornmeal, and salt until combined. Attach the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and knead at medium speed for 10 minutes. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl, be soft and slightly sticky. Add a bit more of the flour if the dough appears too wet. Transfer the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with oil-sprayed plastic wrap and place into a warm place to rise, for about 1 ½ hours or until doubled in volume.
Meanwhile, oil a 10×15-inch jelly-roll pan. Set aside.
Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and fold in the walnuts. To do it evenly, flatten the dough into a rectangle, then sprinkle the walnuts over the dough leaving a 1-inch border on each side. Fold in the longer two sides and roll the dough like a jelly-roll. Flatten the roll carefully with the hands, trying not to poke the dough with the walnut pieces. Now roll or stretch the dough to fit into the prepared pan; the dough should reach the corners and the edges of the pan. If the dough resists, cover it and let rest for 10 minutes, then continue stretching. Cover loosely with oil-sprayed plastic and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
At least 30 minutes before baking, center an oven rack and preheat the oven with a baking stone inside (if you have one) to 425F.
Dimple the dough gently with the fingertips, drizzle with ¼ cup of olive oil. Scatter the grapes over the dough. Crumble the cheese over the top, making sure the cheese is in rather large chunky pieces. Bake the focaccia until golden brown, about 25 minutes. As soon as you remove the focaccia from the oven, brush the edges with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool completely or enjoy warm. It is best the day it is baked.