Salty and sweet, this whole wheat focaccia bread with prunes and prosciutto is perfect for snacking or serving alongside your favorite soup or stew. 169 calories and 6 Weight Watchers Freestyle SP
This post was sponsored by the California Dried Plum Board. Although I was compensated to write this post, all opinions are my own.
I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t prunes just for snacking on when the afternoon munchies hit, or mixing into trail mix? But mixing it into focaccia – you’re crazy! I promise that you’re going to change your mind as soon as you take a bite of this perfectly sweet and salty classic Italian bread.
Prunes have garnered a bad rap in North America, but the truth is that they’ve been used in cooking for years, primarily in French and Moroccan cuisine. Their naturally sweet and complex flavor adds depth to everything from sauces and stews to baked goods and appetizers. And hey, if prunes are good enough for Julia Child and her iconic stews, they’re good enough for me!
Truth be told, I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about prunes (also sold as dried plums). Sure, I snacked on them once in awhile and pureed them to use as a natural sweetener in baked goods, but that’s where the prune adventures ended.
All that changed last month when I had the opportunity to visit Napa Valley, California and spent a couple of days learning about the health benefits of prunes, watching a prune harvest, cooking with the versatile dried fruit and meeting with growers whose families have been tending their orchards for generations.
Considering the ideal growing conditions, perhaps it won’t be a surprise that California growers produce about 100,000 tons of prunes annually, exporting them to 60 countries around the world. Primarily, the “New Improved French” is the variety of plum that is favored by California growers, a wonderfully sweet and plump fruit that is ideal for drying.
I plucked and tasted my fair share of prunes straight from the trees when we visited an orchard. I was a little kid with plum juices dripping down my hand. It was all I could do to stop myself from eating a dozen of them in quick succession.
We spent some time at the Culinary Institute of America, with the opportunity to create prune dishes in their kitchens and to feast on prune-inspired meals. One of the most interesting exercises we went through was a tasting session where we paired prunes with a variety of sweet and savory flavors. Did you know that prunes taste phenomenally good with pickled ginger (no joke!) or creamy miso caramel (brilliant invention!)?
One of my favorite pairings was prunes with prosciutto. The saltiness and texture of the prosciutto was the perfect foil for the sweet, tender and slightly chewy prunes. I could happily eat that as an afternoon snack, but was feeling inspired to go a little further with that flavor combo.
And so was born this whole wheat focaccia with prunes and prosciutto.
Now, this was not my first rodeo with focaccia, but it was my first time making whole wheat focaccia bread. Let’s dive right into my tips:
Tips for making whole wheat focaccia bread:
- As with most of my whole wheat baking forays, I turned to a staple in my pantry, whole wheat pastry flour. It is far lighter than regular whole wheat flour and produces a product with a light, tender texture.
- As with any yeast bread, the trick is getting the yeast to bloom. This is not difficult, I promise! I used to avoid yeast like the plague, but finally mastered it after many batches of my whole wheat pizza dough. I suggest using a kitchen thermometer the first several times you use yeast so that you can learn to judge the water temperature. After awhile, you should be able to do it by feel.
- Can you use a stand mixer for this recipe? Of course! Starting by using the regular batter paddle to mix the dough, then switch to the dough hook. “Knead” the dough with the dough hook until it pulls away from the sides of mixer bowl. Then, put the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead in the prunes, prosciutto and rosemary.
- Once the dough doubles in size (about 1 hour), press it into a small baking sheet, then poke holes in it with your finger to get that classic focaccia bread look. Let it rise for another 20 minutes, then sprinkle with rosemary, salt and olive boil before baking.
What are the health benefits of eating prunes?
- You know I’m going to talk about prunes’ ability to keep you regular, right? That’s a good thing! Why are prunes so adept at this? Well, it’s because they’re high in fiber and also contain sorbitol, which produces a mild laxative effect. We all need this – it’s not just for your grandparents!
- Prunes are rich in Vitamin A, potassium, manganese and iron (a great vegetarian source)
- Because prunes are rich in fiber, just a few of them will keep you feeling full, warding off those dreaded afternoon munchies.
- The natural sweetness in prunes is one of the many reasons I love to keep them around. Just a few will satisfy my sweet tooth and stop me from diving into the cookie jar.
Whole Wheat Focaccia with California Prunes & Prosciutto
- 1 ½ ounces prosciutto about 3 slices
- 1 0.75 ounce package (2 1/4 teaspoon) dried yeast 2 ¼ tsp
- 1 cup warm water 105-115 degrees F
- 1 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
- 2 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
- ½ cup chopped California prunes
- 2 tablespoons minced rosemary leaves divided
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the prosciutto slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the prosciutto is starting to brown and becoming crispy, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then break into small pieces. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, stir together yeast, warm water and agave nectar. Let rest until yeast blooms and bubbles form on top, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in flour, 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the crumbled prosciutto, prunes and 1 tablespoon rosemary. Knead to incorporate.
- Place dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest in a warm place until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Remove dough from the bowl and press it into a lightly oiled 9- by 13-inch baking sheet until it touches the edges. Using your finger, poke holes all over the dough. Let rest until the dough becomes puffy, about 20 minutes.
- Top the dough with the remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 tablespoon rosemary. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
- Bake until the focaccia is golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking sheet, then cut into 12 pieces. Serve.
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