I tend to be the type of person who works things out in my heart and mind mostly by writing about them. Sometimes I share it publicly and other times I write it down just to get it out of my head, intending it for no one but myself.
But I can only write so many things about COVID and my mom dying and the general bleak state of my emotions right now.
The other way I deal with my emotions – well, the other healthy way because excessive drinking probably isn’t the best long-term solution, even though I’ve definitely done it – is baking.
I stress-baked my way through the early days of the pandemic, turning out loaf after loaf of chewy sourdough bread and batches of molasses-laced spice cookies and pies and quiches and several iterations of banana bread.
Then I stepped on the scale midway through last fall, after polishing off more than a couple pumpkin muffins and noticing that even my forgiving sweatpants were getting a bit snug. And I decided I needed to take a break from baking quite so much.
But these days, I’m back to it because there’s something soothing about measuring, weighing, whisking, timing, and having something you can count on to yield predictable results. (And “predictable” is something that feels good when you went to bed one Monday night with a healthy 68-year-old mother who had just been to the doctor and was told everything was OK and had texted you that she loved you and had “liked” your Facebook post at 6 p.m. … only to get a phone call on Tuesday morning at 8:03 that would forever split your life into “before” and “after.”)
Oops. I’m writing about it again.
And so on that note, in case you are one of the many New Orleanians who finds yourself with an overabundance of figs, I would like to share my recipe for “fig-caccia,” which is just focaccia topped with figs that I couldn’t resist giving a cutesy name.
For the bread:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup water, divided
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
For the topping:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Halved fresh figs, about 15 or so
- Goat cheese, maybe about 4 oz., crumbled
- Several slices of prosciutto, chopped
Mix the flour, salt and pepper together in a stand mixer. Bloom the yeast in a quarter cup of warm water and let it sit for a few minutes. Add the yeast mixture, the remaining three-quarters cup of water, the rosemary, and the olive oil, and mix until the dough comes together, adding more water or flour as needed. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes (or knead by hand). Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise for an hour or until doubled.
When dough is doubled, punch it down and stretch it out to a 12 inch circle (or whatever shape you like – just make sure dough is about a half-inch thick). Transfer it to a pizza pan or a baking dish, depending on the shape. Drizzle the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil over the top and “dimple” the dough all over with your fingertips. Let it rest for 20 minutes.
Top the dough with whatever you like (although the classic combo here worked nicely), cover, and let rise again for one hour.
In the last 30 minutes of the rise, move a pizza stone (if you have one) to the top shelf of your oven and preheat to 450. (If not using a pizza stone, just bake the dough on whatever it rose on).
Transfer the dough to the pizza stone, lower the heat to 425, and bake for 30 minutes.