Blue Cheese and Bacon Focaccia

I've fallen behind on blogging lately, too much holiday activity and craziness at work. But I'm recommitting, and what better way than with a totally scrumptious and decadent dish. Baking - real baking, with yeast and everything - is still intimidating, but this recipe was worth getting over nerves. I had no idea that focaccia dough included mashed potatoes, or at least this one did, but looking back now it makes sense for such a dense and flavorful bread. The topping is what makes it sing, though - tangy, pungent blue cheese and crunchy bacon. Took all of my strength not to eat half the tray before friends arrived.

Used this recipe from Bon Appetit, with a few variations. Also added more bacon and blue cheese than the recipe called for (duh).

Total time to cook: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Four small-medium white potatoes, peeled and quartered (mashed should fill one cup)
1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 tsp light agave (or honey)
4.5 cups white flour, plus a little extra
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
10 tbsp olive oil
5 thick-cut strips of bacon
3 oz crumbled blue cheese
1 tsp rosemary sprigs

- Put the potatoes in a medium pot with enough water to cover them. Bring the water to a boil and then simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 7 minutes (keep checking).
- Once the potatoes are cooked, mash well and set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix the yeast, agave (or honey) with half a cup of hot water - but not boiling. It should sit for about 10 minutes, until it's foaming.
- Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in the yeast, six tablespoons of olive oil, one cup of the mashed potatoes, and one cup of hot water. Mix until it's all incorporated and then finish with your hands.
- Dust a cutting board with flour. Knead the dough on the cutting board for about four to six minutes. The dough should be soft and not too sticky - if it's very sticky, add a little more flour.
- Brush the inside of another large bowl with olive oil. Put the dough in that bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave out in a warm place. Give the dough about an hour to rise.
- While the dough is resting, cook the bacon. Heat a medium or large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon until it starts to crisp but not so much that it's super crunchy. Pat dry on a paper towel and cut into small, bite-size pieces.
- Once the dough is done rising, heat the oven to 425 degrees (my oven gets very hot so I did 400 degrees). Brush a large baking sheet with olive oil.
- Place the dough in the middle of the baking sheet and firmly flatten until it fills the entire pan. Using your fingers, evenly press a few dimples all over the dough.
- Drizzle two tablespoons of olive oil over the dough. Bake for 10 minutes.
- Take the focaccia out and evenly arrange the bacon, blue cheese and rosemary sprigs on top. Bake for another 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges golden brown and the top fills firm.
- Let cool, cut into pieces and serve at room temperature.

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