Shallots, Garlic, and Herb Focaccia

1 1/4 cups warm water
1 - 1/4 oz. pkg. active dry yeast
1 t. unbleached cane sugar (or white sugar from sugar beets)
3 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 t. salt, divided
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 cup cornmeal, divided
olive oil, for focaccia and oiling bowl
1 cup shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup garlic, thinly sliced
2 T. freshly chopped parsley
1 T. freshly chopped rosemary
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
2 T. vegan soy parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast flakes

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast and sugar, and set aside until bubbly, about 10-15 minutes. In a large bowl, combine 3 cups flour, 1/2 t. salt, and 1/4 t. black pepper, and stir well to combine. Add the yeast mixture and stir well to form a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead, adding additional flour if needed, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place a little olive oil in the large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, give it a twist, and turn the ball over to coat the other side. Cover, place the bowl in a warm place, and leave to rise for 1 hour or until doubled. Using a little olive oil, lightly oil a 15 1/2 x 10 1/2-inch pan, sprinkle with 3 T. cornmeal, and set aside.

When the dough has doubled, punch it down and transfer it to a floured work surface. Knead the dough a few times. Sprinkle the work surface with the remaining cornmeal and roll the dough in it to coat the surface. Transfer dough to the oiled pan, and stretch it, as needed, to fit the pan. Using your fingertips, make "dimples" across the top of the dough. Brush a little olive oil over the top of the dough, then sprinkle with the sliced shallots, garlic, chopped parsley and rosemary, remaining salt and black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Allow to rise uncovered for 45 minutes. After the focaccia is well-risen, sprinkle the vegan soy parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast over the entire focaccia. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Transfer the focaccia to a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, and cut as desired.

Yield: One 15 1/2 x 10 1/2-inch focaccia


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