Hey, guys! Consider today’s Concord Grape Focaccia Ring with Baked Camembert my first official fall offering. Yes, it’s a happy return to carbs, cheese, and coziness. And while I have had my misgivings about the season to come, I’ve come down firmly on the side of fall. It feels pretty good to leave the fence behind. The only trouble is, Toronto weather is not with me on this one.
When September hit, Torontonians were immediately plunged into fall-like temperatures. On the weekend following Labour Day, I attended a friend’s birthday party in Trinity Bellwoods Park and I was shivering when the sun went down. Shivering! I mourned the untimely death of summer but then I came to terms with it. I embraced fall and began chatting excitedly about Thanksgiving. Then summer returned, possibly for revenge – I really can’t be sure.
On the day I baked this Concord Grape Focaccia the temperature was a soaring 30º C (86º F). It felt even hotter when you factored in the humidity and a blazing hot oven. This is not how I envisioned whipping up this focaccia. I had pictured diving into this over-the-top piece of carb-on-cheese pornography while sipping a glass of full-bodied red wine in my slightly frigid but sunny backyard. What I got was running mascara, an oppressively hot kitchen and a sweaty sheen that screamed, “I could collapse at any moment”. So on fleek.
But enough about my crushed fall-forward dreams, let’s talk about this Concord Grape Focaccia Ring with Bake Camembert. This worked out better than I dared hope. I will admit that there wasn’t a ton on-the-line. When, in the history of world, has a baked wheel of cheese not turned out delicious? But I was less-confident about baking said cheese in the center of a batch of focaccia. I was also concerned for the safety of my cast iron frying pan. I love that pan. Deeply. Obsessively. Scarily. It’s perfectly seasoned and knows its way around a batch of skillet cornbread – it’s a good pan. Was I flying too close to the sun by baking cheese in it? Only time would tell.
Apparently, I wasn’t flying too close to the sun. It only felt that way because Toronto doesn’t understand seasons. I simply lined my beloved pan with a trimmed-to-fit piece of parchment paper and nothing even threatened to stick. It was an unseasonably warm pre-fall miracle. The next hurdle was slicing the focaccia into individual slices without undue harm to the pan or the molten cheesy goodness in the center. Another miracle! My slicing efforts went off without a hitch. Kitchen fail this recipe was not.
To finish off this monument to decadence. I topped the gooey camembert with a few fresh grapes, a healthy drizzle of honey and a scattering of chopped hazelnuts. The cheese was perfectly scoopable, stringy, and generally messy – exactly what you want out of a cheese. Naturally, this Concord Grape Focaccia Ring pairs beautifully with a nice red wine but I think it would also get along famously with a cream or brown ale.
To be honest, just looking at this Concord Grape Focaccia Ring made me feel irresponsible. This is not what rational, well-meaning people serve to their guests. This is what people who require company in their extreme gluttony serve to guests. Thankfully, this dish looks super classy, so if you do serve it to friends, you have the benefit of hiding your food-related crimes under a veneer of expert hosting skills. Well, that’s what I did anyway.
I feel like I can’t sell this Concord Grape Focaccia Ring enough. Perhaps, you feel I’m over-selling it. Well, you’re wrong and, yes, I am defensive about it. This stunning starter is briny, tart, sweet, salty, crisp, gooey and umami-y (well, aware it’s not a word). Basically, this focaccia is everything to all people (except vegans) but, like, in a good way. It satisfies every want or need, in terms of flavor and texture, you could be feeling at any given moment. Honestly, it actually made me feel dizzy when I took my first bite…in a first kiss kind of way, not a fall down and vomit kind of way.
So, in closing, I think you should make this Concord Grape Focaccia Ring with Baked Camembert and soon. Maybe wait until fall actually decides to show up. But who am I to tell you how to live your life? Just know that making this in 30º weather will be hard on your mascara and your foundation and your hair and your self-esteem. And don’t wear white, pit stains are real. Fair warning.
- 1 1/2 cups luke warm water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3 - 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup concord grapes, washed
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
- 1/4 cup fresh rosemary needles, divided
- Sea salt for sprinkling
- 1 wheel camembert cheese
- 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
- Additional grapes for topping
- Additional rosemary for topping
- Pour water, yeast and olive oil in a large stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Let stand for 5 minutes.
- Turn the mixer to low and add the salt followed by the flour. Add the flour in 1/4 cup increments until a tacky, uniform dough forms and the sides of the mixing bowl are clean. This may the full 3 1/2 cups of flour, or it may not. Let touch be your guide.
- Turn the finished dough onto a well-floured surface and briefly knead it by hand.
- Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of a large bowl and swirl to coat the sides and bottom. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place for an hour and a half or until doubled in size.
- Punch the dough down and transfer to a large well-oiled cast iron frying pan lined with parchment paper. Stretch the dough to fill the entire pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another hour.
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- When the dough has risen, place the camembert in the center of the focaccia to make an indent. Cut a circle out of the center of the dough, using the indent as a guide. Set the cut out on a cookie sheet and set aside.
- Using your fingers, dimple the surface of the cut out and focaccia ring. Liberally drizzle olive oil over both.
- Dot the surface of the cut-out and the ring with grapes and olives. Press them into the dough to ensure they stick. Finish dressing the focaccia with a sprinkling of sea salt and all but a tablespoon of the rosemary. Set aside.
- Cut a series of shallow slits across the surface of the camembert. Feed garlic slices into the slits followed with the remaining rosemary needles.
- Place the camembert in the center of the focaccia ring and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes.
- Top the camembert with honey, hazelnuts, fresh grapes and additional rosemary. Cut the focaccia into wedges and serve immediately. Don't forget to cover the handle of the skillet with a thick tea towel or oven mitt. The pan will still be hot.