sweet cherry + rosemary focaccia.

sweet cherry + rosemary focaccia.

One more for the road, people; I’m writing this post and then launching myself face-first into my suitcase so I can get packed and ready for our flight this Monday. Well that, and a few dozen other odds and ends I need to tie up, but that’s okay: once we’re all in Florida, it’ll be vacation, and vacation food to go with.

Bread and I have been having a little bit of a moment recently, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. It’s just never happened to me before in a summer setting: typically, I get all bread-crazy in the winter. Perhaps this year it’s because I’ve learned how to actually make it versus trying to do so and dissolving in a pile of tears when it inevitably fails. I suppose that makes the entire process more fun for everyone.

Perhaps also it’s because bread is actually nice when it’s warm out. Generally there’s not a ton of hands-on labor, it doesn’t bake for more than a handful of minutes, and it uses ingredients I keep well-stocked in my pantry. It’s more useful than, say, cake would be in the summer, because you can serve it with dinner, or use it for sandwiches, or take it on picnics. It won’t melt, it won’t slide around, and almost everyone loves it. Bread is pretty great.

sweet cherry + rosemary focaccia.

My first bread of the summer (and thanks to a few of you, there will be more) is a simple focaccia, loaded with rosemary and fresh cherries. Focaccia has always been one of my favorite things to pick up at the store, but it lacks a little something you can’t always put your finger on. When you make it for the first time at home, you realize what you’re missing; absolute, just-out-of-the-oven freshness. It’s rare to find a perfectly crisped exterior with beautifully chewy insides on a store-bought focaccia. Thankfully, it’s easy to make your own.

sweet cherry + rosemary focaccia.

Friends, if I can do this, you can totally do this. I’m no expert with bread, and although I’m getting better, I still have a long way to go. This required little to no effort, and makes an entire half-sheet pan full of bread. The cherries make it festive and seasonal, and the rosemary scents the entire thing beautifully. I promise you, you will not be able to keep yourself away. I was shocked to discover that it cuts well, too; you’d think all those cherries would go sliding the minute you ran your knife through it, but they stay exactly where they’re supposed to. Having a party with just heavy appetizers and drinks? Slice this into triangles and serve. Throwing a luncheon? This would be an incredible side to a summer salad.

The one thing I promise that you’ll need is this: a sturdy, good-quality lipped sheet pan. It’s essential, because a good one will crisp the entire top and sides to an even golden sheen. As far as I’m concerned, it’s part of the recipe. Go get yourself a good pan, because everything you make in it will turn out better.

sweet cherry + rosemary focaccia.

Adapted from a recipe for rosemary focaccia which I found in my Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours cookbook by Sarabeth Levine. A lovely book, to be sure, but a little intimidating. Very much like Thomas Keller’s books in that way. She takes her baking very seriously, and I would absolutely recommend it for intermediate to advanced bakers, but for beginners, I can see how it would be a wee bit frustrating. This recipe, thankfully, was not at all difficult, so consider this to be “all ages.”

Sweet Cherry + Rosemary Focaccia

  • 3 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (between 110˚-115˚F)
  • 1 3/4 cups cold water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped, divided
  • 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 pound cherries, halved and pitted
  • 4 tablespoons good-quality olive oil + additional for oiling the bowl
  • sea salt for sprinkling over

Note: you will need a lipped half-sheet pan for this; nothing else will do. Use the best-quality one you have, and you will have one gloriously huge swath of focaccia, I promise.

Sprinkle the yeast over the 1/4 cup warm water and let sit for 5 minutes until foamy. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, then add the cold water and 1 tablespoon of the rosemary; stir with a whisk to combine.

Add the salt and 2 1/2 cups of the flour gradually, keeping your mixer on low speed. Add the rest of the flour as needed, just until a soft dough begins to form (I kept around 1/4 cup reserved from this step, because over-flouring means death to my bread doughs, typically.) Remove the paddle attachment and replace it with the dough hook. Knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth, forms a soft ball, and cleans the bowl, about 3 minutes. Do not overmix. If you don’t see it begin to ball up around the hook, spoon in a bit more flour until it starts to go the way you want it to. Gather up the dough from the hook and form it into a ball. The dough will be delightfully soft and pliable, and shouldn’t resist.

Grease the inside of a large bowl generously with olive oil. Place the ball of dough inside, turning it around to coat all sides with the oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place (I use the top of my refrigerator) until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a lipped half-sheet pan, and spread it evenly on the bottom and sides of the pan. Punch down the dough in the bowl and transfer it to the sheet pan. Using your hands, gently ease the dough out over the entire pan; this may sound crazy, but wait until you see and feel this dough; you’ll barely have to work to get it out to the edges. It’s very easy. If it’s too elastic, cover the dough in the pan with plastic wrap and let it sit for 5-10 minutes and try again.

Choose a warm place in your kitchen for proofing: I have no truly “good” warm places except for one: my oven. And so that’s where I do it. Arrange your racks so that one is on the bottom and one is near the middle; there should be enough space to fit a short tumbler on the bottom rack and not have it hit the top. Place your dough pan on the top rack, then boil two coffee cups-worth of water and pour it in to yes…two coffee cups. Place those on to the lower rack, on each side of the oven. Close the oven and let proof for about 45 minutes, until puffed.

Remove the dough poof and turn your oven on to 450˚F. While you’re waiting for it to warm up, use your fingers to poke little dimples all over the surface of the dough. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over the top of the dough; it will probably run into the little dimples, so aim for the space between. Sprinkle the cherries over top in a haphazard but gentle way, letting them sort of fall into each other as they want to. Next, sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of chopped rosemary. Finally, sprinkle all over with coarse sea salt, and listen for your oven to beep that it’s ready. Place in the oven and bake until perfectly golden brown, 18-20 minutes.

It will be devastatingly beautiful. You will have a difficult time letting it cool, but do please let it cool for about 20 minutes in the pan. Even though it’s big, it’s sturdy and will be pretty easy to lift out when it’s time. Transfer it to a board and cut it into whatever size pieces you choose. Amazingly, those cherries won’t be a deterrent to your slicing: they slice just as cleanly as the bread does, so no worries there.

Serves so many it is incalculable, or serves two for many, many bread snacks. Great for parties, because if you cut it all up into strips, it’s like it’s a self-contained appetizer.

Stores well in an airtight container for 1-2 days, although I would recommend eating it the minute it has cooled to warm, because it will devolve a little back into what you get at a good market: still tasty, but not at peak freshness. For guests and for treating yourself, serve this the very day it is made.

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31 Comments on "sweet cherry + rosemary focaccia."

  1. Ed says:

    Wow, that looks and sounds great. I bet the sweetness and earthiness from the rosemary give a very unique flavor and the salt sprinkled on brings together this combination.

    Awesome!

    • shannon says:

      Thanks, Ed! It’s funny; it really was so incredible that it surprised me. I expected good, but i didn’t realize how wonderfully cherries and rosemary paired together, and this focaccia recipe (as compared to others i’ve tried) is truly one of the best. so easy! The salt is essential; the hit from that combined with the sweetness of the cherries is really something.

  2. Take me with you!!!! And send me this bread! (pssst…I just made a blueberry focaccia. twinsies?)

    • shannon says:

      now jen, you know i’d totally pack you in my carry-on if i could. because i want to; do you know how much fun you’d be on vacation? I do. :)
      BLUEBERRY focaccia!?!?! you win. totally you win. in fact now i’m going to try this with blueberries and some random herb. #inspiration #windbeneathmywings

  3. I love focaccia. We made lots at school this year, but nothing as cool as this. We would use black olives on occasion, but never cherries. Oh, how I wish we had used cherries!

    Now, if you’re feeling lazy/want to look like an artisan bread baker from some big famous bakery, you could shape the dough into loose ovals, and bake ‘em up that way. Bonus points if you use a balance scale and cut the dough with a bench scraper. This is best done when there is company around to see you do it, as you will look like a real pro. Be sure to have an apron on, and a towel tucked into the back side. Rub a little flour into your shirt (implies hard work), and be sure to look a little sweaty yet impossibly fresh at the same time. Shape the dough ovals quickly and in a manner that says you don’t really care, because you do this sort of thing so damn often that you just know it will turn out. (Whenever we screwed something up at school, we called it “rustic” or “artisanal.”) Try to carry on a meaningful conversation whilst portioning, as again, it makes you look super casual about the whole affair. When you use your fingers to create the dimples in the dough, do so with great flair – sort of attack the dough. The pan should bounce around a little. Also, rub the olive oil onto the surface of the bread with your hands, and with great enthusiasm (it should border on sensual).

    Of course, you could just keep on keepin’ on… because it looks like you’ve defeated the Yeast Beast all by yourself. Way to bake!

    • shannon says:

      it is time now to use the cherries. although black olives in bread are basically my favorite thing ever, and don’t think i didn’t think about doing that with this one at some point.

      i’m SO doing this next time people come over, with one edit: no need to rub flour into my clothing, because i’m pretty sure it will be there already. i basically look antiqued when i make anything involving a floured counter. at least i have the professional look down.

  4. Dana Staves says:

    Oh, I’m so inspired now! This looks delicious (the cherries have me intrigued) and you’re right – store-bought focaccia just lacks that something. That something is warmth and freshness. And all that pizzazz that movita mentioned. :)

    • shannon says:

      now is the time to do the cherry things, for sure: we have so many here, and they are just delicious. i hear in cali you can sometimes get fresh tart cherries, which are almost never available here. if you find them, do something with them and think of me. :)
      i hate to knock the storebought, but it really is just a little…blah. not for lack of trying, for sure, but you just can’t duplicate “fresh baked” with “in a plastic bag.” EVER.
      you know movita is probably bursting with pizzazz. like in general.

  5. I’M SO HAPPY THAT YOU’VE OVERCOME YOUR FEAR OF YEAST!

    And so making this… if you ever need a “warm place” to proof your dough, I can definitely help you out in that department .. .it may also bake while proofing though ;)

    I NEVER would have thought of a cherry/rosemary combo but I can TOTALLY SEE how it would work!

    Also, I love MB’s advice. I will keep this in mind… I usually end up covered in flour and try to dust it off, from now on I will rub it into my clothes for added flair. I am famous for not putting my apron on until after I have already totally messed up my clothes. I will not change before I have to leave the house. I will wear my flour-covered clothing to the store when I have to leave to pick up all the ingredients that I am sure to forget and need to run out for mid-recipe (For example, despite being a cherry focaccia, there is a 80% chance that I will be halfway through the recipe before I realize that I don’t have any cherries…)

    I tried to make focaccia once, and was underwhelmed, perhaps I shall try again……….

    I’ll miss you while you’re on vacation!!!

    • shannon says:

      i know! it’s like a christmas in (almost) july MIRACLE!!! so long, yeast fears. well not really; sorry for being so bold there, yeast. I’m still scared of you a little.
      I mean, if you set bread outside where you are, it would bake, right? please try that…please do that for a thursday things; set bread outside to proof and see what it does PLEASE. you know it would be funny. I could actually slow-roast tomatoes on your sidewalk right now.
      i also refuse to change clothes when i inevitably forget something and have to run to the store, and it’s not exclusive to flour; it can be anything. they know me, so it’s cool (i think?). :) i’m also the girl who will forget the main ingredient EVERY time because i’m so focused on getting the other things. Barbecue sauce? I’ll forget the crushed tomatoes. Pumpkin muffins? I’ll forget the pumpkin. Buttermilk pancakes? you see how it goes.

      • You know, I bet I could totally do one of those “crock pot bread loaf” recipes by just setting the crockpot outside… I’m going to read on that tomorrow and see if I can get something in the works.

  6. That looks fabulous with the dark cherries dotting the top. I never would have though of using cherries, but now I will. Thanks for the recipe.

    The secret to baking with yeast is hiding your fear from the yeast – it can sense it and prey on it. Be confidant and things will turn out. As Father Dominic used to say on PBS’ “Breaking Bread with Father Dominic,” “It’s bread, it will forgive you.”

    • shannon says:

      Sarah, thank you! I’ll tell you, my photography skills are okay, but these photos don’t even do the real thing justice; it was SO breathtakingly beautiful in person. Cherries, like blueberries, are just so stunning when baked. So much color. you’re welcome!

      totally agree! it’s like a wild animal in that way; it can smell the fear. :) Oh my goodness, father dominic!! I remember him from when i was little. Suddenly i have a massive urge to watch him. i wonder if he’s still on..if not, surely i could find him on youtube.

  7. This is gorgeous, not to mention genius! Cherries and Rosemary? Who’da thunkit? Not this chick! I probably won’t be making bread, (she types sadly, cursing her low carb and gluten free diet) but I’m going to steal this flavor combo and use it with something else. Mmmm….maybe pork!? Yum!

    • Ed says:

      This would be a great combination with pork. How about ice cream? I think cooking the base with a few rosemary springs would be amazing. Pull them out before freezing, of course.

      • shannon says:

        Ed, that would be delicious! herb flavor is so unexpected (but totally beautiful) in ice cream. I think my Jeni’s ice creams cookbook pairs a few herbs and/or savories with traditional sweet ice cream, and the result is always (at least in my opinion) incredible. I know there’s a rosemary bar nuts version she makes that i hear is near-perfect. :)

    • shannon says:

      for sure good with pork! in fact, i think i’ve seen it in a smattering of pork recipes. I like Ed’s suggestions too, down below here.

  8. Monica says:

    I wonder if I’ll ever get to a place where I work with yeast regularly. It’s a world I need to explore. Very creative focaccia. My husband loves cherries but I would never have thought of such a combination.

    • shannon says:

      Monica, i wonder that myself. :) it took me awhile to sort of do more with bread things, but i think a little practice, and suddenly you can yeast it up on a regular basis. probably the key (at least with me) was to get confident enough to take away that nervous factor, because after that goes away, it seems much easier and much less like work. I’m still learning, for sure, but i’ve gotten way more comfortable with it. once the Wee One begins preschool this fall, i can see myself getting a regular rotation going. Which means i better get a regular rotation of cardio going as well. :)

  9. This sounds incredible! I have never made focaccia, but I love the stuff. I’ve also never seen a focaccia with fruit baked into it, and now I absolutely must. I also just bought a new rimmed sheet pan. Coincidence? I think not! If it cools down enough for me to turn the oven on, I know exactly how I’m going to break it in.

  10. Your focaccia came out beautifully, Shannon! Love the flavor combo…i bet rosemary tastes amazing with cherry. I’m a big fan of fruit+rosemary. Have so so much fun on your vacation!

    • shannon says:

      thanks, Amy! rosemary and cherry are great together; i think cherries have a sturdy enough flavor to hold their own against herbs, and the rosemary is particularly lovely with it.
      I’m in the midst of having fun on my vacation: i like this first week down here because my sister is down here for this part of it, and it just seems endless: i have more than two weeks still to go! it’s always a nice break in the year, i think.

  11. This is one beautiful slab of foccacia. I adore foccacia. I love to eat it plain, slather it in butter, and dip it in a herb-infused olive oil. Bread is one of my favorites… Period! I love the combo of rosemary and cherries. You’re a genius! Isn’t Sarabeth’s cookbook awesome? I own it. I love it!

    • shannon says:

      Jennie, have you cooked a lot from the Sarabeth’s cookbook? We should talk recipes. I just get so intimidated whenever i open up that book that i get all flustered and don’t know where to begin; it’s weird, because it’s not my normal reaction to cookbooks. I’d love to hear what you have made and liked from it so far.

  12. Pardon me. How rude! Enjoy your vacation.

  13. Ashley says:

    Such a beautiful swath of cherry-studded, golden foccacia! It’s consuming my thoughts and tastebuds right now…crispy AND chewy, the perfect killer combination!!!

    For another fun foccacia combo, I love anise + red or black grapes (some rosemary here too). Or Joy the Baker’s strawberry + orange zest + goat cheese + balsamic glaze. It looks super fancy and grown up, but is so easy to make…until, during transport, it slides off the pan and under your clean-but-not-that-clean car seat. Oof. We still ate it, though don’t tell anyone at that dinner!

    Enjoy your vacation!!!!

    • shannon says:

      thanks! it was so good, ashley. my curse is reading all the comments now and thinking “hmmm…i need to make that again!” I like the anise and red/black grapes idea….interesting! because grapes really hold their own in baked goods too, and I like that about them. OMG and the strawberry/goat cheese/all the other good stuff? WHOA. I will be falling all over myself to look that one up. You know, Joy the Baker is a cookbook i haven’t purchased yet, and i should put it on my library list.

      oh no! food transport mishaps are the worst! as far as i’m concerned, what happens in the car STAYS in the car. ;)

  14. I can’t stop looking at the picture of the dough where the olive oil has pooled in the dimples (sidebar: dimples is such a great word, don’t you think?). And I can just imagine the little plop plop sound of the cherries when you dropped them onto the dough. Man oh man!

    • shannon says:

      agree: dimpled is a really great word. :) it feels like forever since i’ve made this, and you’re making me really want to make it again before all the cherries have gone away for the year.

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