Dried cherry focaccia

This lovely sweet bread is based on a recipe for dried cherry focaccia from the bakery Ecce Panne, New York that I found in The New York Times of 24 September 1989, and have religiously kept. Dried sour cherries from Wisconsin are now available in Sainsbury's. The dried orange peel is another product that you might have trouble finding. I suggest that you replace it with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of finely grated orange zest, or perhaps experiment with crystallized orange peel or even orange essence? This is not a beginners bread and the recipe might look complicated but once you made it becomes much easier to master and it can even be done with half the amount of yeast, which is the way I do it.

Yield

2 medium focaccias or a large one that will feed about 12 people

Ingredients

190 C, 375 F, gas mark 6

Soak the cherries, sultanas and orange peel in just enough water to cover them for at least a couple of hours.

Place the fruit in a colander over the bread bowl and squeeze it as much as you can. When satisfied put the fruit aside and carry on with the making of the dough using the water from the soaked fruit. Mix well the listed dough ingredients and slowly add enough warm water in order to achieve a good working dough. I used spelt for the bench as it gives a bit of fibber to the focaccia. Knead until the dough becomes elastic and then let it rise covered with damp cloth/plastic sheet in a warm place. Now due to the butter and the low yeast it might take a bit longer than usual, but it will get there in the end.

When it has doubled incorporate the fruit inside your bread bowl. This might feel very squishy and wet but do not worry. Cover the bowl with a plastic sheet and seal as well as you can and pop it in the fridge until next day (max 36 hours) for maturing. Incidentally I have come across recipes for brioche that also use this technique, for convenience maybe (?). But you may follow on if you like.

Next day take it out and roll it on a board with coarse maize meal (I used this regularly as it gives a very good finish to bread and is a must with pizza). Make two rounds or spread the whole thing in a big tray if you are feeding a crowd. Put on a previously oiled and maize dusted baking sheet and let rise covered with the plastic in a warm place. This will take a bit over an hour because the dough was not warm. When it is risen dot it all over with little lumps of butter. Bake in a preheated oven not fiercely hot otherwise it will burn, say around 190 C. It will take about 25 minutes or until it sound hollow.

Very popular!

A mixture of cranberries and cherries is also very good.

Maria Fremlin, 23 March 2000

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