My Infinite and Undying Berry Love – Blueberry-Rasberry Focacia with Lemon Zest and Vanilla Bean

I have always been mad about berries, especially those darned Blueberries and raspberries. so elusive to my city. Sometimes I find The frozen versions of those and bring them home because these are relatively reasonably priced. These frozen berries sometimes are a mass of frozen berry pulp. The Blueberries usually retain their form, but the raspberries are invariably very amorphous, and by the time you thaw them, they end up as some beautifully colored flavorless pulp. Of course, that never ever deters me from buying them as I just want to possess them in any form. I stock up every time I see them. You see, I take my job of a berry lover very seriously. Every once in a while, when I do stop by one of the big chain gourmet stores in my city, I find some 125 gms of Blueberry packs or some 150 of gms of beautifully shaped fresh rasberries tucked away in the fresh imported produce section. My heart skips a beat, my hands tremble and against my will and my logical mind which screams “DON’T. You can’t afford them”, I reach for them, pick them up very lovingly, take in their beautiful form, admire them before I turn the pack over to check the price and then with a loud sigh, I still my beating heart and place them back where they belong. I walk away with all the resolve I can muster. I will give in to the berry lover in me, who just wants to take them home and do whatever the hell I want to, on another day. Not today.

So when I was in Singapore at a grocery chain and going all wide-eyed from all the stuff my dreams are made of, all the cheese I’d read about, the vegetables I’d seen in those Culinary shows and those ingredients I’d seen named in my favorite food blogs, seeing my old loves (the berries) didn’t excite me all that much! Maybe it was because I was focused on all the new produce on the block who had my attention, and the fact that I had no access to an oven there. My ears perked up when my friend, amused by the madness that had taken over me, mentioned that it IS possible to take fresh produce on the flight back to India (as part of the cabin baggage), her mom had taken back some vegetables. So I made a mental note to pick some of my favorite things on my way back to Hyderabad, India via Singapore. And that’s how I brought berries and lemons home. They sat pretty in the fridge for a few days. I’d lovingly and proudly stare at them each time I opened the fridge. Until I realized that I needed to use them up before they went bad. I needed to pick a recipe that deserved the honor of having these special berries in them. No muffins and triple berry cake (which I do love) which I had done to death. I wanted to something new and worthy of those berries. Nothing too heavy, as I had enough guilt to last me a lifetime when I look at the pictures of food I consumed on my vacation(it is SIMPLY OBSCENE!), but that’s a topic for another post.

Then I chanced upon a grape Focacia and then a savory Focacia among the numerous food pictures that come in my news feed everyday. These stuck and I knew I was going to bake a Fruit Focacia. I had baked a version of this with frozen berries in May last year. But this was going to be new and improved version. I researched a little and finally decided on the flavors. Since I had a few lemons with me, I would use Lemon zest. I had Vanilla beans, so would use their paste and since I do like mildly sweet but salty even better, I would use some flaky Fleur-Di-Sel on it. It came together very easily, is light and has been my breakfast for the last two days. Here’s my recipe for Very Berry Fruit Focacia.

The best purchases from my vacation.

The best purchases from my vacation.

What You Will Need

For the Dough

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons – Instant Yeast
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon zest
  • Seeds or paste from 1 Vanilla pod

For the Topping

  • 125 gms Blueberries Fresh or Frozen (thawed and drained if using frozen)
  • 125 gms Rasberries
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons Sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoon – Fleur-Di-Sel or any brand of flaky Sea Salt (completely optional)
The best flavors to infuse a Fruit Focacia with.

The best flavors to infuse a Fruit Focacia with.

The beautiful and contrasting colors that went into the oven.

The beautiful and contrasting colors that went into the oven.

How You Make It

  1. Combine flour, salt, yeast, lemon zest, vanilla seeds, and sugar together with your hands or stand mixer.
  2. Add the luke warm milk and knead (if doing manually) or using a dough hook (if using a stand-mixer)till everything comes together in a pliable dough. For about 10 minutes if kneading manually.
  3. Remove the dough from the Stand-mixer and add the olive oil. Knead till all the oil is distributed evenly throughout the dough and you can knead the dough into a round that feels as soft as a baby bottom.
  4. Oil a large glass bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with with a clean kitchen towel or cling film and set aside for an hour, till the dough doubles in volume.
  5. After an hour, punch the dough to let the air out remove the dough from the bowl. Using a bench scraper or a knife, cut the dough into two.
  6. Take two 8-9 inch cake pans or one 20 com Square and another 8-inch circular pan. Oil them.
  7. Add one part of the dough to one pan and spread it into the shape of the pan. Repeat with the other piece of dough.
  8. Cover and let rise for at least 45 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 200 degree C.
  10. Using your finger-tips, make dimples in your add and arrange the berries the way you like them on the dimples in both pans.
  11. Sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar each in each pan containing the dough.
  12. Sprinkle flaky salt, and half of the lemon zest in each pan.
  13. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  14. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes and then loosen them and invert onto a wire rack either to cool or just slice and eat with some added butter or syrup or just plain with your cup of favorite beverage.

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