Onion and anchovy focaccia recipe

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Pissaladière is an iconic fougasse from Nice, in the south of France. Often mistakenly called a pizza, it is actually made on a thick bread or a fougasse base unlike pizzas which are traditionally baked on a thin and crispy dough and then topped with a small amount of anchovy paste and a thick layer of confit onions. Even if, like me, you’re not a fan of anchovies, this will take you by surprise. It’s light, just sweet and just salty enough, it tastes like the earth and the sea all at once, and it will leave you with a nose full of nutty and fruity aromas. Nothing tastes quite as good as eating a pissaladière with a glass of red wine, lounging in a long chair under a shady tree, just before taking a nap.

Ingredients

  • 1¾ fl oz (50 ml) virgin olive oil
  • 2 lb 4 oz (1 kg) brown onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • salt, to taste
  • 3½ oz (100 g) anchovy paste (sold in jars or tubes)
  • 3½ oz (100 g) small black olives, pitted
  • 6–8 anchovy fillets
  • 6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
Dough
  • 12 oz (350 g) plain (all-purpose) flour (‘0’/T55)
  • 6½ fl oz (190 ml) full-cream milk
  • 1 oz (30 g) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1½ oz (40 g) unsalted butter
  • 1/10 oz (3 g) dried yeast
  • 1/5 oz (6 g) fine salt
How to Make It
  1. To make the dough, put the flour and milk in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed for about 5 minutes, or until the dough comes together. Cover the bowl with a clean damp cloth and set aside to rest for 40 minutes.
  2. Add the sugar, butter, yeast and salt to the hydrated dough and mix on low speed until well combined, then increase the speed to medium and knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough begins to bind around the dough hook and starts to come away from the side of the bowl. During the kneading stage, scrape the dough from the hook and the side of the bowl two or three times. To check whether the dough is ready, use the ‘windowpane’ test. Cover the bowl with a floured cloth and set aside in a warm place to prove for 1 hour, or until the dough has increased by two-thirds. Knock the dough down, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm to the touch.
  3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface into a 5 mm (¼ in) thick rectangle measuring about 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 in). Feel free to use your hands to stretch the dough into shape. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and freeze for 1 hour, or until firm.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over high heat for 1 minute. Add the onions and pepper and combine well. Reduce the heat to medium, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20–25 minutes, or until the onions are golden and softened almost to a purée. Remove from the heat, season with just a little salt, remembering the anchovy paste is already quite salty, and set aside until cool.
  5. Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F) at least 30 minutes before baking the bread. Remove the dough from the freezer and spread the anchovy paste evenly over the top. The anchovy paste balances out the sweetness of the onions, but can very quickly overpower the rest of the flavours, so make sure it is applied very thinly. Scatter over the caramelised onions and the olives, then arrange the anchovies evenly across the top.
  6. Set aside in a warm place to prove for 30 minutes, or until the dough begins to rise again. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the bottom of the pissaladière begins to brown. Remove from the oven, scatter with thyme and cool to room temperature, then cut into squares and serve.
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