Friday, January 26, 2018

California Dreaming: Roasted Peach and Ricotta Focaccia

This is a sponsored post. I was compensated financially to write about California Cling Peaches. 
All opinions, thoughts, feelings about canned peaches are my very own.

With summer months and months away, this is the time of year when I start to daydream about wearing flip flops, eating burgers outside in the shade and hearing thunder rumble off into the distance. Alas, my reality is feet in slippers, stew for supper and freezing rain being the crazy menace that it is. Oh, a girl can dream. When it comes to eating fruit, California Cling Peaches bring me a little taste of summer in the dead of winter. Easy to find on the store shelves, and affordable as all heck, canned peaches have no preservatives and according to a study by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, canned peaches are higher in antioxidants and Vitamin A and are nearly four times higher in Vitamin C and 10 times higher in folate than fresh peaches. Healthy and tasty, I love opening a can of these beauties.

Picked and packed in their own juices, usually within 24 hours to ensure they retain their 
appearance, texture, flavour and nutritional content, canned California cling peaches often 
find their way into my grocery cart. I love to add them to salads, smoothies, yogurt bowls, 
and of course sweet things like muffins and breads. Peaches and ricotta are best friends, 
so this focaccia ticks all sorts of boxes for me. If you love making your own bread or pizza, 
then you’ll love how easy this dough is to make. If you only have time to make the dough one day and the focaccia the next, the dough responds well to the slow rise in the refrigerator overnight. If you are shy/terrified when it comes to making anything with yeast, I’m sure you could get away with purchasing the pizza dough from the grocery store. I won’t judge. 

Pouring half a cup of olive oil onto the baking sheet might seem like a heck of a lot of oil, but trust me, this will ensure a crispy crust. Stretch the dough right to the edges of the baking sheet, and be sure to sink your fingers all over the dough to create little indentations - this will give the bread it’s bumpy texture. The dough has to rise again - this time just 30-40 minutes - then you are good to go with the toppings. The canned peaches are given a little more flavour with lemon juice, brown sugar and vanilla, then placed on the bread, along with dollops of ricotta cheese. The final touches are a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves and generous shake or two of coarse salt and sugar. And a drizzling of more olive oil, of course! Bake for 30-40 minutes until the focaccia is golden brown and the centre is cooked. Patience will come in handy as you allow the bread to cool before you slice it, but if you’re like me, you’ll be cutting while it’s still warm. 

This is one of the best breads I’ve even made. The crust is chewy and crispy, the peaches and ricotta are perfect together - a little sweet, a little cheesy - brightened up by the lemon zest and thyme leaves. The canned peaches maintained their shape and firmness better than fresh or frozen peaches. I love serving this focaccia for brunch, or even as a snack. If you can’t devour the whole thing in a day, leftovers crisp up well in the oven - just give a little drizzle or two of olive oil. If you’re invited out to a brunch potluck, you’ll make all kinds of friends when you show up with slices of this focaccia. And, the best part? You don’t have to wait for summer to make it!  

Roasted Peach and Ricotta Focaccia

2 cups warm (not hot!) water
1 package active dry yeast
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if necessary
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil plus 1/2 cup for greasing pan
1 (28 oz/798 mL) can of sliced California cling peaches packed in water, drained
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme plus additional for garnish
Fresh lemon zest, coarse sea salt, and raw or coarse sugar, for garnish

In the base of a stand mixer, combine the water, yeast, and sugar and whisk together. Let rest 5 minutes until foamy.  Add the flour, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and 1/2 cup olive oil to the bowl and use the dough hook to mix for 1-2 minutes until it forms a dough, then knead on low speed for 5-7 additional minutes. (If the dough is too wet, add more flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, but know that the dough should be sticky). Grease a large bowl with olive oil, then scrape the dough into the bowl, turning once to coat, and then cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free part of your kitchen and let rise 1 hour or until doubled. Make ahead:  The dough can be put into the fridge immediately after you scrape it into the bowl. It will rise in the refrigerator overnight. Combine the peaches, lemon juice, brown sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Mix and let sit at room temperature while the dough rises. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Once the dough has doubled, pour the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet and spread out evenly. Dump the dough into the center of the pan and use your hands to press and stretch until it reaches the edges. Use your fingers to make holes throughout the dough (this will create focaccia's bumpy texture). Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let rise 30 - 40 minutes until doubled. Once the dough has risen, arrange the macerated peaches throughout the dough, pressing them in slightly. (I save the juices for brushing the tops of the peaches once the focaccia has finished baking). Dollop the ricotta cheese on the dough. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, and sprinkle generously with fresh thyme leaves, lemon zest, coarse sea salt, and raw or coarse sugar. Bake 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp at the edges. Remove and let cool before cutting into slices and serving.
This focaccia is best the first day, but still pretty great a day or two after. Keep the leftovers tightly wrapped in the refrigerator, and then pop the slices (and a drizzle or two of olive oil) in the oven for a few minutes to crisp them up again.

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