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According to food writer Mark Diacono’s new cookbook “Sour,” sour foods aren’t merely in the form of Warheads and unripe limes. In fact, a lot of the food we cook—and eat—is intentionally soured to create a new kind of flavor (think pickles and yogurt and certain cheeses).  

Related Reading: 15 Alternative Uses for Your Bread Machine

Sour: The Magical Element That Will Transform Your Cooking, $24.61 on Amazon

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So if you lack a sweet tooth in favor of those sharp, sour flavors, a cookbook filled with predominantly sour and savory flavors may be right up your alley. Not only are there plenty of recipes—like ham choucroute and cherry sour cream clafoutis—but the first half of “Sour” is devoted to a host of souring skills. You’ll learn how to make your own sourdough starter, brew yogurt, ricotta, and paneer at home, and ferment a bevy of fruits and vegetables. Armed with this souring tome, you’ll soon be cooking a host of wonderfully acidic, tangy, and bitter dishes—without having to resort to that one piece of candy to get your sour fix.

Mark Diacono

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To start, test out Mark’s recipe for gooseberry and sage focaccia, a springy dough that’s flecked with flaky sea salt and torn sage leaves. The dough is rolled into squat rectangles, brushed generously with olive oil, plopped with pink gooseberries, then baked in the oven until the crust is golden brown and puffed up. Serve warm, with more sea salt and olive oil for dipping; it’s likely you’ll never request a focaccia that isn’t sour again.

Recipe excerpted with permission from Sour by Mark Diacono, published by Quadrille November 2019, RRP $35.00 Hardcover.

Gooseberry and Sage Focaccia Recipe

Twenty years ago, I took a train to Corsica. On the way, I stayed for a few days on the Ligurian coast, where the olive oil is good and buttery. I did little other than walk, sit by the waves and eat focaccia, listening to the crazy frogs croaking the last of the light down the hill to the sea.

I left to spend a couple of weeks with the scent of maquis – Corsica’s take on the wild aromatic scrubland that coats much of the Mediterranean coastline – in my nose, and the ghost of that incredible bread still in my mouth. I am now ruined for all but excellent focaccia; thankfully this is one such.

At first glance, making focaccia looks a palaver, but it requires only a few minutes of your time here and there. This is quite a wet dough: don’t be tempted to dry it up by adding more flour. If you have my unquenchable appetite for focaccia yet a propensity for midriff expansion, make this when there are people coming to share it with.

Gooseberry and Sage Focaccia

  • 400ml (14fl oz) warm water
  • 10g ( ½ oz) active dry yeast
  • 250g (9oz) bread flour
  • 250g (9oz) ‘00’ pasta flour
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 10 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing and serving
  • Around 35 small sage leaves, half finely chopped and half left whole
  • 300g (10oz) gooseberries, topped and tailed
  • 2 tsp coarse or flaky sea salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  1. Stir together the water and yeast in a large bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes until foamy. Add both flours, the fine sea salt and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the yeasty water and mix well for about 10 minutes, either by hand or using the dough hook on a mixer, until it becomes a bit less sticky. Add the finely chopped sage towards the end. Brush a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, tip the dough in, cover with a tea towel and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1–1 ½ hours.
  2. Brush a large baking tray – or two smaller ones – with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Tip the dough on to the tray and use your fingertips to flatten the dough. Brush the top with more olive oil. Cover with a tea towel and leave for 20 minutes.
  3. Dip your fingers in olive oil and press and stretch the dough into a large rectangle, leaving dimples from your fingers in the dough and pressing the whole sage leaves into some of the dimples. Cover again with the towel and let it rise for about 40 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8.
  5. Brush the top with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and scatter the gooseberries and coarse sea salt evenly over the dough, nudging the gooseberries into the dough a little. Bake for 25 minutes until the crust is golden brown and puffed around the edges, sprinkling the surface with the sugar 5 minutes before the end. Generously anoint with the remaining oil.
  6. Try and allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes, before serving warm or at room temperature.

Header image by Mark Diacono.

Amy Schulman is an associate editor at Chowhound. She is decidedly pro-chocolate.
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