Sometime last year, I vaguely remember watching a chef on TV making focaccia di recco. I had never seen this bread before but my mouth couldn’t stop watering as I watched. It looked like paper-thin flaky dough sandwiched with stringy melted cheese, finished with a good drizzle of olive oil. I wanted it. But since I wasn’t able to successfully find the proper cheese, I decided to go another route and make a sweet version. This hazelnut focaccia di recco is, to say the least, epic. The thin sheets of focaccia are filled with homemade hazelnut praline and honey mascarpone, baked until browned, and finished with powdered sugar. I could not get enough.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Most people think of the thick bread with dimples when they think of focaccia. However, there are actually many different variations. This focaccia di recco is comprised of thin sheets of dough, normally filled with gooey cheese. Today, we’re making a dessert version with honey mascarpone and hazelnut praline. It’s damn good.
To start, make the dough. The dough is made from just four ingredients, flour, water, salt, and olive oil. Combine the ingredients and knead until the dough is soft and elastic. Cover and let it rest for at least two hours or overnight in the fridge. If you chill the dough overnight, make sure to let it sit at room temperature for one hour before rolling it out. It’s important to let the dough rest so that it can easily be stretched and pulled later on.
While the dough is resting, make the hazelnut praline. I got the idea for the hazelnut praline from Le Pain’s brunette spread. When I used to work there, I used to toast a slice of bread and slather on the brunette spread for breakfast. It was so addicting. If you’re unfamiliar with the spread, think of it as Nutella without the chocolate, just hazelnuts.
To make the hazelnut praline, first, toast the hazelnuts. Rub the nuts in a clean towel to remove the outer skins. Don’t worry if you can’t get them all off. Then, melt the sugar to make a caramel. You may have noticed that we’re not adding water to the sugar to make the caramel. This is because this is the dry method. You can also use the wet method and add a bit of water if you prefer.
If the outer edges of the sugar turn brown first, gently stir the mixture with a rubber spatula. Immediately pour the caramel on top of the hazelnuts and let it cool. Break up the pieces and puree in a food processor until smooth. It’s essentially the same as making nut butter just with the addition of the caramel. Luckily, this recipe makes a large batch so you’ll have plenty of leftovers. You can also make the hazelnut praline several days in advance.
Now let’s back to the focaccia. Lightly dust a work counter with flour and roll out each of the dough halves until it’s about 14 inches in diameter. You may need to stretch and pull the dough to get it to the right thickness. If you hold up the dough, you should be able to see right through it.
Place dollops of the honey mascarpone evenly on the dough. Spread the cheese and make a well in the center, helping prevent the hazelnut praline from spreading too much. Then, place the other dough on top and seal the edges.
Gently tear small holes where the filling is to help it ooze out while it’s baking. Brush the top with butter, sprinkle some coarse sugar, and bake the hazelnut focaccia di recco until browned, about 11-13 minutes. If you want more of a charred topping, turn on the broiler for the last minute.
Finish the focaccia with a dusting of powdered sugar and get ready to dive in.
This hazelnut focaccia di recco was even better than I had imagined. It’s not too sweet, making it easy to golf down several pieces. Now I’m even more intrigued to try the savory version!
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