Roman Onion Bread

Focaccia con la Cipolla alla Romana

You can buy slabs of this delicious, flat, oiled bread, coated in sliced onions and rosemary, all over the country; but nowhere do they make it quite so tingling and tasty as in the Pizzerie a Taglio of Rome. Usually this sort of thing is a between-meals snack, best eaten from its brown paper wrapping as you walk along. If you make it at home, as I do sometimes, serve it as delicious party food, or for a buffet, or with a dish of thinly sliced prosciutto as an antipasto.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (450 g) strong white bread flour
  • pinch salt
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 oz (25 g) fresh yeast or 2 teaspoons dried yeast, blended in about 2 fl oz (50 ml) warm water
  • 2 large onions, peeled and finely sliced, covered in cold water and left to soak for about 15 minutes
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • salt and pepper

Method

Put the flour in a mound on a work-surface and make a hole in the centre with your fist. Put a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon olive oil and the diluted fresh or dried yeast into the hole. Knead very vigorously together for about 15 minutes, adding more water as required. Leave in an oiled bowl covered with a cloth to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Take the dough out of the bowl, knock it back and replace it to rise for another hour.

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 8, 450°F (230°C).

Oil a wide, shallow, preferably metal ovenproof dish. The bigger it is, the thinner your Focaccia will be. I use an incredibly battered old tin, about 12 X 15 inches (30 X 38 cm).

Knead the dough again very briefly. Flatten it and spread it out over the base of the tin with your hands, pulling it in every direction. Press the surface over and over again to make sure it is spread out as evenly as possible, and also to force it to stick to the edges. Rub oil all over the flattened dough.

Drain and dry the onions, then lay them on top of the dough in a thick layer, leaving a 1 inch (2.5 cm) space round the edges. Drizzle oil all over the onion, scatter with rosemary and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes - the onions should be just soft and the rest of the Focaccia fairly pale in colour. Allow to cool for about 3 minutes, then slice and serve.

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