Grape, Lavender and Rosemary Focaccia

Rosie, our dog, perceives an entirely different universe when we're out on a walk. She knows exactly where to sniff, dig, and mark from some signals completely beyond my radar. As I am becoming reacquainted with the place I grew up, I'm thinking we (humans) must experience something similar. The slant of the sunlight, the cool mornings, and shrinking days that mark the beginning of fall also bring back a flood of memories of years of "back to school," over-eager Halloween costume plannings and farewells to the swimming pool and its Otterpops ... I keep getting lost driving over the roads I've been over a thousand times before; It's not that I don't know how to get to where I need to go--I just keep turning the wrong direction for some reason, like there's a disconnect between the present physical space and the space of memory. I'm starting to see it like those ant farms that kids play with...beneath the smooth sand lies a whole nother world of interconnected tunnels. As I'm walking around a seemingly normal place, I could easily slip down into the subterranean labyrinth of memory routes made years before.
There is something about bread making that seems to tie together the concrete present and the floating past. Maybe it's the tactile experience of handling the dough in combination with fleeting but palpable scent that fills the house when it bakes. Maybe it's because it forces you to wait, watch, and feel. Or perhaps because I've done it before and I'll do it again.
Right now it's hard to drive by the California Oak-dotted golden hills here in the Bay Area and not think about a glass of chardonnay--a great reminder to use up some grapes. I also really love lavender and I think it is far underused. I remember looking through a friend's mom's garden herb cookbook years ago and seeing a recipe for lavender focaccia. I've been meaning to try it since. So, I added rosemary and sea salt and adapted a focaccia recipe from Bon Apetit. In this bread, the lavender combines nicely with the rich sweetness the of the roasted grapes and makes the whole thing fragrant and full of pretty fall colors. This focaccia is a simple, quick bread to make. No kneading--just gentle stretching and gentle finger poking. You can make this bread sweeter by sprinkling sugar on top or adding honey, but I think it is better treated as savory--sprinkled with salt and dipped in balsamic and oil.

  • 1 C lukewarm water (85°F to 95°F)
  • 1/2 tablespoon yeast
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 cups (about) bread flour

  • bunch of grapes (I used red)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoons lavender flowers
  • 1 teaspoons coarse sea salt OR course sugar

Dissolve the yeast in the water in a large bowl. Mix in all but 1 T of the oil and salt. Stir in about a 1/2 C of the flour until mixed in. Then add the remaining flour, a scoop at a time until the dough is sticky, bumpy and soft. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
Oil a baking sheet and gently transfer the dough to the sheet, gently stretching it out, doing your best not to deflate it. It should cover about half the baking sheet. Press your fingertips into the dough to make little indentations. Brush on the remaining tablespoon of oil (or less). I used my Misto to spray the oil on, which works great. Place the grapes all over the dough, gently pushing them into the dough. Sprinkle on the
herbs and the salt or sugar depending on how sweet you want to be. This is a good time to preheat the oven to 375. Let the dough rise for another 15-30 minutes like that. Then bake in a preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool and eat soon!