The Ultimate Twisted & Filled Focaccia
Food is such a wonderful subject- and "food lovers" are such strange and wonderful people... well, some of them are! Haha! As long as people don't get too pretentious about food I am fine- and I do take food seriously... and yet, I detest snobbery and looking down on simple every day ingredients... especially if we are talking about fresh fruits or vegetables- these are the basis or should be of our every day diets!
So what do you think of the awesome-looking you can see here in the photos you can see in this post? It looks pretty delicious, doesn't it? And yes, you can take my word for it... it really is! You can also take my word for it that it was made using very few and very modest ingredients. Can you believe this was made from a roll of store-bough pizza dough? Well you had better believe it! And let me tell you why...
Take a look at these delicious slices or flavor-packed goodness in the image above and then look at the mere handful of ingredients that were needed to make them below. 7 olives, 5-6 sun-dried cherry tomatoes, a 2" piece of Feta cheese, a tablespoon of capers, a handful of diced bacon, 3 mini bell peppers, 1 small shallot and a little basil and parsley. These few things and 1 roll of pizza dough. That's all it is going to take.
You know you want to make this don't you? Go ahead... admit it! And who can blame you? Not I! I wouldn't even blame you if you wanted to make your own dough to do so... but let me tell you why I don't bother. Because at the end of the day- all that pizza dough is, is flour, water and yeast. If you make your own, sure it is simple and it is fresher... whatever. It will also take at the very least 1 hour of time. It will be softer. And for exactly that reason, it will be harder to roll up the way that this dough needs rolling. If you make your dough firmer to be easier to work with it will end up being too dense to make for enjoyable eating.
But a roll of dough- ok? And just have some fun! This is just a glorified pizza or a sandwich to be honest- save the airs and graces for some other meal!
So- first things first! Chop up the shallot and the peppers into a fine dice- you can use a half of a regular onion if you don't have shallots at home or if you prefer to and fry them along with the diced bacon in a dry non-stick pan for 3-4 minutes until the bacon begins to brown, the shallot becomes translucent and the peppers begin to soften. Remove from the heat and allow to cool,
Unroll the pizza base and then sprinkle with the bacon, peppers and shallot first, then add the sun-dried tomatoes and olives, finely chopped, the capers and the feta cheese, which I simply crumbled over the whole sheet of pizza base evenly.
I then finely chopped the parsley and sprinkled that over the top as well as the basil, which I plucked apart, being as the leaves are more delicate.
Once the base was nicely and evenly coated, as above, I began to roll it up tightly, using the backing paper to do so, pulling the dough over a little at a time and then pulling the paper backing off as I went... this is another reason that store-bought is really a good idea for this dish! There are very few convenience foods that I approve of- but this, as well as puff pastry, are high on my list and I am not afraid to say so! And apart from that... I would happily claim that my results speak for themselves!
Now comes the strange part... once you have rolled up all of the dough, nice and tight, what you need to do is to get a very sharp knife and slice down the LENGTH of the roll! I know this sounds strange and I know you are going to panic and be afraid that all of the filling will fall out... but fear not!
That dough is sticky and as long as you were careful to roll it up as tightly as you could, you are going to be fine. Make sure you cut all the way through and that you have 2 separated lengths- and you are ready to go!
The next step may look difficult but it is in fact very simple- what you need to do is to plat the 2 lengths of dough simply together, by laying one strip over the other and repeating the folding-over twice- that's about all the length you have to work with anyway- it really is no big deal and you don't need to be accurate or too fussy about it.
Next, pull the ends together, so that the twisted dough forms a ring and then fold the 4 separate end pieces together so that they overlap. Don't worry about pressing them and squeezing them together too much, just lay them so that they look pretty- the baking is going to fix everything into shape for you anyway... and the finished result should look something like this one does below.
Having cut down the length of the dough of course exposes all of the goodies inside, it lets all of the layers that were rolled together open up and gives everything a chance to cook through perfectly and for a great crust to form in the oven.
You know me well enough by now to know that I carefully lifted the finished "loaf" if you will and placed it into a non-stick saucepan and gave it 3-4 minutes on the stove top in order for the base to bake and begin to get crisp from below in advance.
It then went into a pre-heated oven at the maximum setting, on a middle shelf for 10 minutes or so before I removed it, gave it a very light drizzle of olive oil and then replaced it for a further 5 minutes at the top of the oven so that the crust could become lovely and golden and brown...
Not wanting to brag... but I have to admit that the result is pretty spectacular and impressive- even if I do say so myself! I am also happy to admit that I saw this method of plaiting up a rolled dough online- it is not a new invention, but it is my own interpretation and that is what cooking is all about- real cooking that is! Have a recipe by all means if you need one, understand the method... but then do your own thing and make that recipe your own!
Try out different ingredients, have fun with different herbs or even spices and let your imagination run wild! I somehow see a sweet version with apple, cinnamon and raisins on the horizon... maybe made from puff pastry- who know?
the only thing I want to know is that you are going to get yourselves into the kitchen and to have some fun... so get cracking!