This recipe makes a fluffy focaccia with a crunchy, golden, top of melted gorgonzola cheese. The dough is adapted from the schiacciata recipe in my cookbook, Florentine. One of its best features is the dimples created by the baker's fingers as the dough is flattened before baking—they become pockets that catch the oil, salt and cheese as they melt together. You can pretty much use any other favorite cheese in place of the gorgonzola (though it's really wonderful). Try mozzarella or stracchino for something milder. You can use butter instead of lard. Don't be afraid of using lard though, it not only gives a more traditional flavor, but also imparts a wonderful and characteristic crunch to the top of the focaccia. —Emiko
Stir or crumble yeast into the water in a mixing bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes to soften. Sift the flour into a wide bowl with the salt and pour over the yeast and water mixture, half of the olive oil and the lard (or butter). Combine to create a dough. Knead on a lightly floured work surface for about 8–10 minutes until elastic and smooth. If this dough is quite wet, this is fine too, work it with a wooden spoon (if you don't want to get your hands sticky) or in a mixer with dough hooks for 8-10 minutes and continue with the recipe.
Place the ball of dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place free from draughts until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. Alternatively, do this the night before you want to bake it and let it rise slowly overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
Roll out or gently stretch the dough (I do the latter) to an oval or rectangular shape, about 1 inch thick. I like to do this directly onto a sheet of parchment paper, which is then easy to lift onto a cookie sheet or baking tray, but you can also do this on a lightly floured surface then transfer it to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Dimple the top of the dough with fingers to stretch it out further (the dimples also create pockets for catching cheese and olive oil). Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top of the dough and rub it in with fingers or brush with a pastry brush. Sprinkle over salt and dot with the gorgonzola to evenly cover (as in the photo).
Bake in the oven on the bottom shelf for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove and let cool slightly. If you like, sprinkle over the walnut pieces once removed from the oven. This is best eaten the day it's made.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.