Yet again I fear I am risking the wrath of the purists who will say this is not truly focaccia, but it’s certainly in the spirit of focaccia, if not the precise letter of the Italian bread law. If you’ve never made yeast bread before, this is a good one to start with; it’s one of the easiest risen loaves to make. If, that is, you have a standing mixer. You can do this one by hand, but if you’re not used to working with focaccia dough, you may find it a sticky, frustrating mess. The tendency with hand-kneaded sticky doughs is to add more flour, but you absolutely should not add more flour than I call for here, and so using a standing mixer will make you life a whole lot easier. Menuet is a terrific little cow’s milk cheese from Dancing Cow Farm in Bridport, Vermont. If you live in the DC area, you can get it at Cheesetique, but if you just can’t find it anywhere, a good replacement would be French Tomme de Savoie.
Cheese & Corn Focaccia
makes one 18×12-inch loaf
2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups raw corn kernels (about 2 ears’ worth)
1 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon dry instant yeast
3/4 cup + 1 cup + 2-1/3 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 pound Menuet or other tomme-style cheese, chopped into 1/2-inch chunks
In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat until smoking; add corn and sauté, stirring frequently, until corn begins to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.
In bowl of standing mixer, dissolve 1 teaspoon yeast in 1/2 cup 110ºF water. Add a pinch of sugar, wait 10 minutes to be sure yeast is active (you should see bubbles), then add 3/4 cup flour and whisk until you have a smooth, sticky paste. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise 30 minutes.
After sponge has risen, add remaining 1 teaspoon yeast, sautéed corn, 2 remaining tablespoons olive oil, 1 cup 110º water, & 2 teaspoons salt and whisk well to combine. Add 1 cup flour and whisk again. Add remaining 2-1/3 cups flour, and knead in standing mixer using dough hook for 5 minutes, stopping mixer & scraping dough once or twice. (This works best if you start with the mixer on low, then gradually increase to medium as flour is incorporated.) Dough will be pretty sticky.
Remove dough from mixing bowl, knead for a minute or so with a tablespoon of flour, and place in large, greased bowl; cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for one hour in a warm place (75-80ºF).
Remove dough from bowl and press into greased half sheet pan. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise for one hour in a warm place (75-80ºF).
Carefully remove plastic wrap and press cheese chunks into dough, evenly distributing them. Sprinkle with a little salt & black pepper and drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, then bake in preheated 425ºF oven until nicely browned on top, about 25-30 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow bread to cool on rack for 5 minutes, then cut into squares or triangles and serve.