Thyme-Scented Apple Focaccia

We went to a local, organic orchard this weekend to buy some Honey Crisp apples.  They are my husband’s favorite, and these are about as good as we’ve ever eaten!  I was searching for a unique apple recipe amongst the hundreds I have when I came across this one:  Thyme-Scented Apple Focaccia.   Bingo!  The perfect palette for my beautiful apples; a lean dough, covered with fresh apples, a little fresh thyme, and chopped hazelnuts.  A generous sprinkling of sugar over the top brings just the right touch of sweetness, and a caramelized edge to the focaccia.  I love the addition of the fresh thyme to the sweet apples; it’s that perfect combination of savory and sweet that makes this pastry so special.  It’s a terrific dessert, with your favorite cheese alongside (and a little wine, perhaps?)  I think it would make a very good breakfast or afternoon snack, with tea or coffee.  After all, an apple a day…

Thyme-Scented Apple Focccia
(makes 2, approximately 8 by 10-inch focacce)
1/2 cup warm water
1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup bread flour
1 cup water, at room temperature
5 tablespoons canola , hazelnut, or walnut oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 cups bread flour
2 tart, local, organic apples (Honey Crisp preferred), unpeeled and each cut into 16 wedges.
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped roasted hazelnuts
3 tablespoons natural Demerara sugar (or granulated sugar)
In a small mixing bowl, make a sponge by stirring together the water, yeast, and flour.  Cover and let stand for 2 to 3 hours at room temperature or until bubbly.  To make the focaccia, transfer the sponge to a large mixing bowl; stir in the water, 4 tablespoons of the oil, salt, yeast, and flour.  Mix until the dough comes together.  Turn out onto a floured work surface.  Knead for 10 to 15 minutes, or until very smooth and elastic.  Place in a well-oiled bowl, turning to coat with oil, cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.  Divide the dough in half.  Roll each piece into an oval, about 3/8-inch thick and about 8 by 10 inches.  Place on a large (or two smaller) parchment-lined baking sheet(s).  Brush the tops with the remaining tablespoon of oil.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let rise for 30 to 40 minutes in a warm place.  Position an empty baking pan on the bottom rack of a preheated 450Β°F oven.  Meanwhile, press apple wedges evenly into each piece of dough.  Sprinkle with thyme, hazelnuts, and sugar.  Mist the tops with water and ladle 1/4 cup water into the hot baking pan to create a burst of steam.  Bake focaccias 15 to 20  minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool on racks before serving.
(adapted from a recipe by Terra Breads via Anita Stewart in “The Flavors of Canada”.)  



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