“I think the beauty of twinkle lights is the perfect metaphor for joy. Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments – often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we are too busy chasing down the extraordinary moments. Other times we’re so afraid of the dark that we don’t dare let ourselves enjoy the light. A joyful life is not a floodlight of joy. That would eventually become unbearable. I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude and inspiration.” – Brene Brown.
Spelt and Olive Oil Focaccia with Braised Fennel, Pine nuts + Rosemary Za’atar
Something about making my own yeasted bread, buns or rolls just screams celebration. The time and attention put into these makes them worthy of a special occasion, but also fitting as a special treat for one. I thought now would be as good a time as any to share this recipe with you, as I can for see a few extra gatherings in your near future. I love this as a party snack dunked straight into a vat of olive oil, or as a main meal with a big side salad, maybe some pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of tahini. You choose. I would call this a lazy-gal’s za’atar, as I just threw the ingredients in there without much measurement or thought process, but the flavors are all there. Best fresh out of the oven, but leftovers can be re-heated or toasted within a few days of baking.
May the season bring you nights filled with friendly comfort + so much joy. String up those twinkle lights x
Focaccia dough barely adpated from Food + Wine.
Vegan. Serves 6-8.
- 1 cup warm filtered water
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1.5 to 2 cups whole spelt flour
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 + 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon ground sumac
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds (toasted or raw)
- I small bulb fennel, fronds removed and thinly sliced
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Water, as needed
- Handful pine nuts
- Fresh lemon zest, to finish, optional
What to do
Mix together warm water and maple syrup in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top. Let sit for at least 5 to 10 minutes or until foamy. Mix 1.5 cups of flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add olive oil and yeast water mixture. Bring everything together with a wooden spoon and gently stir. Once you have picked up most of the flour and a soft, sticky dough is forming in the bowl – tip everything out onto a lightly floured surface. The dough should be quite wet. Gently bring together with your hands, softly kneading, no more than one minute. You are looking for a soft, sticky ball of dough, add more flour if needed. Once you have that, place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Set in a warm, dry place and let rise until doubled in size, one hour should do.
While the dough is rising, prep the za’atar. Finely chop the rosemary and place in a small bowl with ground sumac, sesame seeds and a pinch of salt. Combine and set aside.
Thinly slice the fennel. Add a good glug of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add fennel and sauté, stirring often. You don’t want the fennel to brown or get crispy, but rather soften and slowly cook. Reduce heat if necessary. Add splashes of water to the skillet when it is looking dry. You might need to add as much as 1/3 cup of water in tablespoon increments. The water will evaporate and you will be left with soft, melt in your mouth fennel after about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Line a baking sheet or dish with parchment and brush with olive oil. Punch down the risen dough and tip into the middle of the baking dish. Using your hands spread the dough out as much as you can to the corners or the dish. You could have an oval shape here is you prefer. Keep you hands clean so the dough doesn’t stick. Using your finger or the handle of a wooden spoon, poke holes ligthly all over the dough. Brush the entire service with olive oil. Spread braised fennel over top, sprinkle with rosemary za’atar and top with pine nuts. Cover again with a tea towel and let rise is a warm, dry place until risen again, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C. Bake focaccia until golden brown and firm, about 25 – 30 minutes. Let cool before slicing.