Monday, March 12, 2012

Meyer Lemon Focaccia

I am a big fan of the barter system. I love those exchanges that surprise you (something that seldom happens with cash transactions—at least not in a good way). And I especially love those trades where each party feels that they ended up with the way better deal.

A few years ago I swapped a jar of still-warm plum-rosemary jam for a dress at a yard sale (after discovering I had forgotten my wallet but still had my present while biking out to a birthday party), and brought a container of limoncello to a chef at a local tapas restaurant in exchange for some hard-to-find choricero peppers. Last month, a neighbor passed along symphony tickets after he got too sick to attend, and I simmered up a batch of matzoh ball soup in thanks (he was hugely grateful, and I got to hear Itzhak Perlman, so it was win-win). And last week I traded a home-cooked meal for a 90-minute massage.

I had never had a massage of that length in my entire life. And it was amazing. She worked out the kinks in my achey back, and teased apart the muscles that seem to have shortened and stuck due to hours spent hunched over the computer. So when it came to dinner, I knew I had to bring it.

I made something of a dramatic feast—I'll tell you more details when I've got the time, but here's a quick rundown: there were bitter-and-sweet negronis, with big round ball-shaped ice cubes (thanks to a few small balloons I found tucked away in a drawer). I shaved raw asparagus into tangled ribbons, and dressed them with fresh mint, toasted hazelnuts, and slivers of truffled cheese. Seared scallops were set in a puddle of rich-yet-light oniony-fennel cream sauce, and an almond tart was topped with creme fraiche whipped cream and sweet-tart candied kumquats. But we started out with meyer lemon focaccia. 

I debated whether or not to even post this, first-off because it's a shamelessly barely-changed riff on my concord grape focaccia (topped instead with the last of the hand-picked lemons from my recent trip to California), and second because of the unappetizingly low-light pictures. But it is so very, very good. Meyer lemons are shaved whisper-thin, then used to top a crusty, airy, salty-sweet flatbread. The hot oven caramelizes the lemons into sweetness, though the rinds still give a bit of a bitter punch that plays nicely off of the coarse sugar. I was worried at first that it would be an unequal trade, that even such a lux meal couldn't make up for the amazing massage I had received. But the food delivered. "Oh my," she sighed, after the first bite of the still-warm focaccia. "I feel like I'm getting a massage right now."

Meyer Lemon Focaccia

yields two 9" focaccia, enough for appetizers for 6-10, depending on their level of hunger/restraint
note: this recipe is started the day (or two) before you bake it
1 cup water
1 tsp active yeast
1 Tbsp coarse salt, divided
3 Tbsp sugar, divided
1/4 cup olive oil, divided, plus additional for greasing the bowl and handling the dough
2 ¼ cups (10 ounces) bread flour 
1 large or two small meyer lemons, sliced as thinly as possibleif you have a mandoline, it would probably work great, but otherwise just take your sharpest knife and pay attention (if your lemon is super-ripe, you can throw it in the freezer for a couple hours to par-freeze, which makes slicing a bit easier)
2 tsp fresh rosemary needles

Combine the water and yeast in a bowl, and let sit for a minute or two to allow the yeast to soften and bloom. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, 2 tablespoons of the oil, and the flour. Mix with a large spoon until fully blended, then cover and let sit for 5 minutes to fully hydrate. Mix for an additional minute or two, until the dough becomes smooth. Grease another bowl with a bit of oil, and, using a spatula, transfer the dough into the bowl. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

After the dough has rested, using wet or oiled hands, reach into the bowl under one end of the dough, and pull it gently to fold the dough in half. Repeat with the other three sides of the dough, then flip the whole doughball over. Let rest 10 minutes, then repeat 2-3 more times. After the last folding, cover the bowl, and refrigerate overnight, or up to three days. These folds may seem a bit fussy, but achieve the dual purpose of incorporating some air pockets into the dough, and firming it up without using additional flour.

About 1 1/2  - 2 hours before you’d like to bake (depending on how warm your kitchen is), take the dough out of the refrigerator, and allow to come to room temperature for ~45 minutes to take the chill off. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or brush them heavily with olive oil. Gently divide the dough into two balls (they might be a bit more like blobs then balls), and place them on the prepared sheets. Let sit 10 minutes to relax, then, with oiled or wet hands, use your fingertips to sort of pat-and-push the dough out into 9” circles from the inside out, dimpling them without totally compressing them (if they resist, you can pat them out a little, let the dough rest ~5-10 minutes, then pat them out a little more and repeat as neededit’s important you press the dough out to out least this diameter, otherwise it will be too thick to cook properly).  Let rise for ~30-45 minutes (depending upon the heat of your kitchen, and how warm/risen the dough was when you started working). While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 500.

When the dough has risen, scatter the lemon slices over the top, and drizzle with the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, and scatter on the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons coarse salt. (that's 1 Tbsp/tsp per focaccia). Place the trays in the oven, then turn down the heat to 450. Bake for ~20 minutes, until the focaccia has cooked to a golden brown (it may seem a little underdone in some parts, especially around the lemons, but as long as their are no large uncolored spots you'll be fine). Let cool slightly, then serve warm or at room temperature (ideally within a few hours for optimum deliciousness).


  1. That really sounds fabulous. And even better because I have some Meyers in the fridge as I type. What a great trade!

  2. I wish I could find someone for a massage-food swap! And that concord focaccia of yours was one of the highlights of my fall...I can only imagine what this will do for my spring.

  3. That looks amazing! I have never made focaccia, and this inspires me to try.

  4. I found your blog based on search that led me to your grape focaccia just days ago; I thought I would be waiting until September to try it! I'll try this instead! Thanks :)