Who doesn't love grilled cheese sandwiches? After all, they're about as American as apple pie.
But how would the Italians make them?
Imagine creamy cow's milk taleggio or stracchino cheese sandwiched between layers of crispy, hot pizza dough baked to golden perfection on a pizza stone. That's my version of an Italian grilled cheese sandwich! Nothin' like what Mama used to make.
I was first introduced to a luscious focaccia al formaggio at Manuelina in Recco along the Ligurian coastline. That was years ago, probably my first trip to Liguria. I traveled to Recco just to taste this Italian Riviera masterpiece and it was worth every single calorie, every single kilometer.
I decided I liked the concept which prompted me to write my own recipe for flatbread with gooey cheese all melted inside. This is what I came up with!
Grab a glass of Barbera from neighboring Piedmonte and enjoy!
FOCACCIA WITH CREAMY TALEGGIO
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60ml) plus 1 cup (8 fl oz/240ml) warm (110°f/43°c) water
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 fl oz/45ml) extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups (12 oz/350g) unbleached bread flour
12 ounces (350g) taleggio or stracchino cheese, coarsely grated
1/3 cup (1 1/2 oz/45g) finely grated aged pecorino cheese
Whisk together the yeast and 1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60ml) water and let sit until creamy, about 20 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup (8 fl oz/240ml) water, the olive oil, flour, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and soft, 7 to 8 minutes. Place in a well-oiled bowl and turn the dough over to coat the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75°f/24°c) until it doubles in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
Place a pizza stone or tiles on the bottom shelf of the oven. Heat the oven to 500°f (260°c) for at least 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces and form each piece into a round ball. On a well-floured surface, roll 1 piece of dough at a time into a 9-inch (23-cm) circle, 1/8-inch (0.3cm) thick. Transfer 1 piece to a well-floured pizza peel or paddle. In a bowl mix together the taleggio and pecorino. Spread one-third of the cheese mixture on the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Brush the edges of the dough lightly with water. Roll another ball to the same size and place on top. Crimp the edges to seal well. Pinch a hole in the second piece of dough in the center.
Bake the focaccia on the hot stone until light golden and crisp, 8 to 11 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough and cheese filling, making 1 more focaccia. Serve immediately.
Makes 2 focaccie and serves 10