Wow your taste buds with this festive focaccia appetizer topped with sweet caramelized onions, tart cranberries, and creamy brie. It will become your new favorite holiday starter!
A few years back, my dad arrived at my house a few days before Thanksgiving suggesting we make focaccia topped with caramelized onions, cranberries, and brie. He’d gotten the idea from a footnote in a King Arthur Flour recipe and couldn’t get it out of his head.
We made it — a recipe meant to be an appetizer for a crowd — and devoured so much of it that neither of us was very hungry for the main course. There was something about the pops of tart cranberry with chewy, buttery cubes of brie and the rich caramelized onions piled on fluffy focaccia that made us keep going back for “just one more slice.”
This recipe has now become a holiday staple in our family, often requested and happily made.
A New Holiday Family Favorite
My dad runs a bakery and I am a recipe writer, so of course we couldn’t help but give King Arthur Flour’s original recipe our own tweaks and adaptations.
The dough is a riff on our recipe for No-Knead Pizza Dough made with slightly more water and some olive oil for richness and flavor. (It’s the holidays after all!)
We also trimmed down and streamlined the toppings. Three caramelized onions is more than plenty, and I like to finish them with a little balsamic vinegar. I also skip King Arthur’s suggestion to toss the cranberries in sugar; after trying it both ways, I don’t think it makes enough of a difference to justify the extra step.
The Best Brie for This Recipe
When I explained what I was making to the person at the Whole Foods cheese counter, he pointed to a specific wedge called Brie de Paris. “You want that one,” he said, “It holds its shape better in the oven.” It worked like a charm and held its shape in chewy little cubes on top of my focaccia.
This said, I think gooey puddles of brie would also be wonderful for this recipe. You really can’t go wrong, so if you don’t have a handy cheesemonger around who can point you to the melty or less-melty varieties, just grab what’s there.
Cheese Rind On or Off?
I also leave the rind on my brie. It’s fussy to cut it off and I always feel like I end up losing too much of the cheese itself along with the rind. However, if you’re really not a fan of cheese rinds, use a butter knife to scrape off as much of the rind as you can without losing the cheese below.
Ways to Adapt this Recipe
- If you don’t feel up to making the dough yourself, substitute two pounds of store-bought pizza dough.
- Instead of the brie, try any other soft cheese, like camembert.
- Swap out the cranberries for any other tart berry. Raspberries would be delicious!
- A sprinkle of chopped walnuts or pecans over the top of this would add some nice crunch!
Storing the Leftovers
Let any leftovers cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the fridge for about 3 days. They make a great cold breakfast or afternoon snack, or briefly reheat in the toaster oven.
More Favorite Holiday Appetizers
Focaccia with Caramelized Onions, Cranberries, and Brie Recipe
For the focaccia:
- 4 cups (500g) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 3/4 cups (350g) lukewarm water
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
For the topping:
- 3 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, for brushing on top
- 10 ounces brie, cut into cubes (scrape rind off with a paring knife if desired, though it’s not necessary)
- 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 Make the focaccia dough: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix together all the dough ingredients until the flour is fully absorbed. You don’t need to actually knead the dough, though I sometimes knead it a few times in the bowl when mixing by hand to incorporate the last of the flour.
Cover and let it rise for 1-2 hours at room temperature. Use it right away, or transfer to the fridge overnight.
2 Press out the focaccia dough: Film a half-sheet pan or baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil and pat the dough out so that it fills the entire pan. If it springs back, wait a few minutes and then continue patting it out. Let the dough rise uncovered until puffy — about 1/2 hour for room temperature dough, or an hour for refrigerated dough.
3 Caramelize the onions: Warm 2 teaspoons butter or olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until deep brown. This will take 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and remove from heat. Let the onions cool slightly.
4 Preheat the oven to 425F.
5 Top the focaccia: Uncover the dough, and brush the top with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, paying special attention to the edges and corners. Gently dimple the top of the focaccia all over by pressing your fingertips about halfway down into the dough.
Scatter the onions over top. Dot the cubes of brie evenly over the onions, followed by the cranberries. Finish by sprinkling the rosemary over top along with as much black pepper as you like.
6 Bake: Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the crust is golden (lift it up with a spatula to check). If the toppings start to brown too much before the bottom of the crust is golden, cover the pan loosely with foil.
7 Serve! Cool briefly, then serve. Leftovers will keep for about 3 days.
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