I recently spent a week up north visiting and helping my daughter and her family move into a new home. I’ve helped with her moves in the past, and my job always seems to fall into the cleaning and cooking category. My daughter complained to me that over the past month or so, she was so busy with after school activities, packing and house details, that she hadn’t had much time to make many homemade family meals. Since I love nothing more than feeding my family, I was all too happy to get into the new kitchen and cook while everyone else helped unpack the many boxes scattered throughout the house.
Along with family pasta favorites, I did some baking for the grandkids who all have a sweet tooth. One of the recipes I was testing for the family was an idea I had months ago but just never managed to get around to trying out. I planned to make a flatbread (or focaccia) topped with sautéed apples. When one thinks of Italian flatbread or focaccia, apples and cinnamon rarely come to mind, but I wanted to try and create a non-traditional sweet version.
While making the basic focaccia dough, I added some sugar and cinnamon to prepare a base for the apples, and once the flatbread was baked and cooled, I drizzled it with a thick vanilla flavored glaze. I ended up making this flatbread twice, as I baked it a tad too long the first time, and I wanted to tweak some of the ingredients a bit more before I shared the recipe. My daughter loved the flavor but thought that the addition of chopped walnuts in the dough would pair well with the apples. The second time I baked this focaccia I included walnuts, and it turned out exactly as I had imagined it should. It was obvious with how quickly that it disappeared that the family agreed with me that it was a winner.
I used Pink Lady apples, although any tasty baking apples will work well in this recipe. The only yeast I use for my bread baking is SAS Instant yeast. It can be mixed dry in with the other ingredients, and has always worked extremely well for me. I found with the sweet apple topping that 1/2 a cup of sugar worked fine for the dough, but you can increase that if needed. I also find that it is often difficult to give exact amounts for the water used in bread baking because the different flours used affect the amount needed. I usually start with half the water suggested, and then keep adding a little water into the mix just until the dough comes together.
Deborah Mele 2015
- 5 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil + Extra For Bowl
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Cup Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Instant Yeast
- 1 1/2 – 2 Cups Warm Water
- 1 1/2 Cups Chopped Walnuts
- 6 Medium Sized Apples, Peeled, Cored & Cut Into 1-inch Dice
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
- 1 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/3 Cup Unsalted Butter
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
- 2 Cups Powdered Sugar
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 – 2 Tablespoons Milk
- Measure and assemble your flour, oil, salt, sugar, yeast, and walnuts.
- Add everything but the water into a large bowl and stir.
- Add half the water and stir.
- Continue to add water until the dough begins to come together into a shaggy ball.
- Dump the dough mixture onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead with the heels of your hand.
- Knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and pliant.
- Add a little oil (2 tablespoons) to the bottom of a large bowl and place your ball of dough inside.
- Roll the ball of dough around in the oil ensuring the sides of the bowl and ball of dough are both lightly oiled.
- Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise. (I cover mine with a kitchen towel on top of the plastic wrap and sit it on a large sunny windowsill.)
- Let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about an hour or an hour and a half depending on ambient temperature.
- While the dough is rising, prepare the apples.
- For the apples, in a heavy frying pan, heat the butter until melted.
- Add the sugar, cinnamon, and apples, and cook over medium low heat, stirring often, until the apples are very soft and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.
- Cover, and set aside.
- Lightly oil a 13 x 9 inch baking sheet with sides.
- Dump your risen dough into the pan punching it down to deflate it.
- Use your fingers to push and press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for another 20 minutes or until the dough dimples when pushed with your fingertip.
- Use the tips of your fingers to dimple the entire top of the focaccia.
- Drizzle the 1/4 cup of olive oil over the top turning the pan carefully to allow the oil to roll into the indentations.
- Scatter the apples evenly across the top of the focaccia.
- Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown, then cool to room temperature.
- Place the powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a small bowl, then slowly drizzle the milk into the bowl while whisking continuously until you have a thick glaze.
- Drizzle the glaze over the flatbread, and allow to dry for 30 minutes.
- Cut the flatbread into 3 inch squares and enjoy!