Of all the viral food trends that have sprung up during this pandemic, this one has to be my favourite. Making Focaccia Bread Art is like playdough for adults and way cheaper than therapy, especially if you need some stress-relief from being cooped up at home.
With so many people suddenly resorting to baking during this time, yeast and flour can be hard to find in the stores. I lined up for one hour at Phoon Huat to buy the ingredients to make this bread, but it was totally worth it!
Focaccia is super easy to make even if it’s your first time baking, so don’t worry. You’ve got this!
I would, however, advise that you get a kitchen thermometer to make sure that you don’t kill the yeast with water that is too hot. Also, don’t worry if you don’t have a standing mixer as you can make this by hand easily.
What’s great is that these edible decorations not only give this classic flat Italian bread a pretty makeover, it levels up the flavour too. You can also use pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sun dried tomatoes, capers, spring onions and even sausages and Parmesan cheese. Get the kids involved and get creative. Finally, playing with your food is something everyone can enjoy!
- 1 cup warm water (41-46 C)
- 2¼ tsps active dry yeast
- 2 tsps sugar
- 2 cups + 1 tbsp bread flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 tbsps mixed dry herbs
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tsps salt
- ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for greasing
- ½ tsp sea salt flakes, for topping
For the Decorative Topping
- Chinese celery (for stems and leaves)
- Cherry tomatoes, cut thinly (for small red flowers)
- Yellow bell peppers, sliced thinly (for sunflower petals)
- Pitted black olives, sliced (for the centre of the flower)
- Black sesame seeds (for soil)
- White sesame seeds (for background)
- Sage (for smaller plants)
- Red onion, thinly sliced (for dahlias)
StepsHide all images
Prepare the yeast. Mix hot and cold water until it reaches anywhere between 41-46 C*. Once you get the right temperature, mix 1 cup of this water with the yeast and sugar. Set aside for 10 minutes until foamy.
*Use a kitchen thermometer to be precise, as anything higher than 46 C kills the yeast and your bread won’t rise.
Add yeast mixture to the bowl of your standing mixer. Add ¼ cup olive oil and 1 cup all-purpose flour. Attach the dough hook to your standing mixer and mix on medium speed to combine.
If making by hand, mix everything in a large bowl with a spatula.
Once everything is well mixed, add the rest of the ingredients – bread flour, dry herbs, garlic powder and salt. Stir to mix until the dough starts to come away from the sides.
Tip the dough onto a clean work surface, dusted with about 1 tablespoon of flour. Knead the dough until smooth and less sticky. It should be elastic and moist. Place the dough into a bowl greased with olive oil, cover with a towel and set aside to rise for 1 hour.
During this time, you can start preparing the ingredients to make your “flowers”. Slice everything and set aside. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch with your fist to deflate. Grease the bottom of a baking sheet, measuring 14 inches by 10 inches, with a generous drizzle of olive oil.
Pre-heat oven to 230 C. Using the heel of your palm and your fingers, flatten the dough out, spreading it to the edges of the baking sheet. Be careful the dough does not start to tear.
If you are unable to spread it out fully, leave the dough covered for another 10-20 minutes to relax the gluten even more. It should be more stretchy after resting and you’ll be able to complete the task.
Using your fingers, dimple the entire surface of the dough then generously drizzle olive oil all over. Dimpling the surface creates little olive oil catchment areas, giving your focaccia extra crunch and flavour. Sprinkle sea salt flakes on top for extra oomph. Also sprinkle some white sesame seeds for added flavour.
Now, let’s get artsy! Decorate the top of the dough with your sliced vegetables. Once you are happy with your artwork, finish off by gently brushing everything with olive oil to ensure that the vegetables and leaves don’t burn in the oven.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool before cutting in. Make sure to take all those Insta-worthy photos before you eat it!
Serve with your favourite soup or salad. You can also make a sandwich with your homemade focaccia.
Storage and Reheating Tips:
- It’s best eaten fresh but if you have leftovers, the focaccia will keep at room temperature, covered, for at least a day. It should last in the fridge for about five days but we devoured this delicious bread in two days!
- For longer storage, cover in cling-wrap and foil and freeze for up to a month.
- To refresh the focaccia, allow to thaw, then re-heat in the oven at 160 C for about five minutes.
Cheryl has dedicated 16 recipes from her upcoming cookbook Smitten in the Kitchen to raising $20,000 for Food from the Heart. You can download this cookbook for free with any donation here. Your donation will go towards purchasing food packs containing basic essentials and groceries for vulnerable groups that have been badly affected by Covid-19.
Recipe and images courtesy of ONE FM91.3 DJ Cheryl Miles