Breads, Rolls + Donuts Uncategorized

blackberry and basil focaccia bread

blackberry-basil focaccia bread | the vanilla bean blog
One little basil leaf stared at me today, and it’s posture struck me as I snapped it’s picture. There it lay so small, so lonely, as if it were trying to curl itself up and sneak out; wishing for a gentle gust of wind to just take it to the right. I was instantly flooded with hundreds of similar stories of myself; there were all those awkward moments, flashing right through me.
I knew this leaf well.

A little basil leaf has so much to offer. Although the plant can grow strong and tall, turning itself into white blossoms, it would be silly to keep it just for this end. If it flowers too soon, it will dull the flavor of the leaves, keeping the plant from it’s full potential in the present. Because those leaves! those lovely green leaves with their perfectly cut lines have so much to give. Beautiful on their own, simple but sure, deep and determined, they will make your food dance. Chop them into long, lengthy ribbons, crush them gently, whirl them with some sugar, and they come alive, ready to accent everything they can get into.
blackberry-basil focaccia bread | the vanilla bean blog
blackberry-basil focaccia bread | the vanilla bean blog
And sometimes, it can take thirty-four years or so to figure out that going through life with determination just to be a flower isn’t really living. Beauty is found in adding and giving to others, in outstretched hands and honest hearts. So you may not fit into those jeans or may never have been asked to dance, but gosh darn that shouldn’t stop you from being! Wiggle off that stalk and get yourself in some soup! Don’t fold up and disappear – there is bread and drinks to flavor, to tint pale green and add dark flecks to. There is pesto to take charge of and ice cream to be churned into; pasta to curl around and pies and cakes to make interesting. And then, as aging comes, right before the cold and winter find you, then it’s your time to let go. You will send your white petals and your seeds to the air, and they will make their way back into the earth, to be born again.
blackberry-basil focaccia bread | the vanilla bean blog

Blackberry and Basil Focaccia bread
adapted from Nigel Slater, Ripe

I want to first say that I am smitten, absolutely smitten, with Nigel Slater’s Ripe. It is utterly gorgeous, and I am only half way through it. The Blackberry Focaccia was the first thing I wanted to make, and I fell in love with Judy Rodger’s shout out on the back. ‘Nigel Slater’s masterpiece is a quiet, gorgeous, slow-motion riot where nature teaches the hungry gardener everything about beauty. But this is a cookbook? Absolutely and deeply, starting with how great fruit happens. From there, the sublime recipes seem inevitable. When I thumbed upon the blackberry focaccia, I tore out the page to tuck in my July calender, whispering ‘genius.‘”

I changed things only slightly in my adaption. Mr. Slater uses a 12 inch round pan to bake his bread, I made mine an oval freeform shape on a half sheet pan, omitting the olive oil for the bottom crust (but I rather regret it – I prefer the bottom a bit crispy). I also used basil sugar, which if that does not appeal to you, can easily be swapped for regular sugar. The basil sugar is very subtle, and if you want a more pronounced basil flavor, I suggest chopping up 1/3 cup of basil and kneading it in to the bread dough. But I like it as is. Mr. Slater recommends eating this while still warm, and I agree. The bread does not keep for very long – not days, but hours. It’s still worth all the effort. The blackberries are perfect here, so tart, but tamed just enough by the sugar. Perfection.

3 1/4 cups  [450g] bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons [1 package, 7g] quick-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon basil sugar [350 ml]
1 1/2 cups warm water

8 ounces [250 g] blackberries
6 tablespoons olive oil [divided]
2-3 tablespoons basil sugar
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Fill a measuring cup with the warm water, and add the yeast, salt and sugar. Mix to combine. Put the flour in a large bowl, then add the water mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon or spatula, then turn out onto a floured surface, and knead gently for about five minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place kneaded dough into a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel. Put bowl in a warm place to rise, until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Once it has risen, lightly punch dough down.

Coat the bottom of 12 inch pan with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Place dough in the pan, allowing the oil to coat it, and then flip over so it will coat the other side as well. Shape dough to fit the bottom of the pan, gently pressing the dough into the corners. Gently knead in half of the blackberries while you are doing this (make sure to work them in, otherwise the bottom half of the bread will not have any berries), and then scatter the remaining ones on top. Cover the dough again and return it to a warm place to rise.

Preheat the oven to 425 [220 C]. Once the dough is almost twice it’s size (45 minutes to an hour), drizzle it with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, scatter with the sugar, and bake for 25-35 minutes, until well-risen, golden brown, and crisp on top [the focaccia should feel slightly springy when pressed]. Let it cool slightly and then dust with the confectioner’s sugar. Cut into wedges and eat while still warm.

basil sugar
This recipe makes much more than is needed, but think of all the lovely things you could do with this sugar! {Sprinkle on muffins, or scones, use in pie or tart dough, stir in some hot chocolate or coffee…}

1/4 cup basil leaves, packed
1 cup sugar

Place basil and sugar in a food processor, and process until leaves are chopped so small they look like green crystals in the sugar. Refrigerate basil sugar for up to three weeks.

  • Reply
    Monday, March 18, 2013 at 1:39 am

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this fantastic blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will share this blog with my Facebook group. Talk soon!

  • Reply
    Rachel Logan
    Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 5:49 am

    This looks amazing! So light and the utter epitome of summer. It’s on my ‘to cook’ list for sure! Thanks for sharing, and encouraging a little life living too. 🙂

  • Reply
    Megan Pence
    Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 2:53 am

    I never would have thought to add basil and blackberries to focaccia! Sarah this is pure carby brilliance! Inspired!

  • Reply
    Monday, May 21, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    What an absolutely gorgeous post! I love that little basil leaf, but my favourite image is the one with the quote, sugar and leaves – it’s so strikingly beautiful.

    I make focaccia all the time but have never thought to make a sweet version. You’ve inspired me!

  • Reply
    la domestique
    Friday, May 18, 2012 at 3:01 am

    Such sweet words, and good advice too. I did a double take when I saw that fantastic basil sugar! This recipe is a must try, and though I own Nigel Slater’s Veg book, Tender, this post convinces me I definitely need Ripe.

  • Reply
    Elaina @ Flavour
    Friday, May 18, 2012 at 2:38 am

    Shear poetry my dear! I absolutely lose myself in your posts and come out happier than ever. I can almost imagine being that little basil leaf! This looks divine! So inspired to makes something with my garden basil right now xo

Leave a Reply