Garden Focaccia Bread Art

  reading time: 5 min





Hey folks, my family and I made this "Focaccia Garden" last weekend for Lammas – literally meaning "loaf mass" – also known as Lughnasadh in the Neopagan Wheel of the Year! As the first of the three pagan harvest festivals it focusses on the first harvest of the summer season which is grains. For that reason, making and eating / breaking a loaf of bread is symbolic for peace, abundance and hospitality. So I thought it was very fitting to celebrate this day with this super fluffy focaccia dough topped with various kinds of veggies to create something like a flower meadow! It's edible art – a real "Vincent Van Dough", you know? *crickets chirping*

Anyway, making focaccia art also seems to be kind of a trend at the moment (thanks pandemic for getting people into baking again), and I can't blame anyone because it's a really fun way to express your creativity and bring out your artistic side!

This light and airy focaccia takes quite a lot of proofing time, but the actual preparation is very easy and quick to do – and the outcome is so worth it. Making this focaccia takes about 3 hours from start to finish, but all you really have to do is mix the ingredients together, let it prove, decorate, and then bake it. All you need is basically flour, yeast, olive oil, a sheet pan, and some colourful vegetables of your choice. (If you happen to have a sourdough starter in your kitchen, you could also use that to make your focaccia! If making this recipe with sourdough, start the process off the night before you want to bake the focaccia.)

This recipe serves 12 people as an accompaniment or as a light snack – or it can be served as a main meal with salad and dips etc. for 4 to 6 people.



VEGAN GARDEN FOCACCIA

Preparation time: 45 minutes + 2 hours 15 min rising time
Main ingredients: flour, olive oil, yeast
difficulty level: easy-moderate
makes: one 12x8'' / 30x20 cm tray (12 servings)
suitable for: vegan, lactose-free, wheat-free, soy-free

Ingredients

Dough:
1 cup (250 ml) water, lukewarm
3-4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp honey or maple syrup or sugar of choice
1 tsp salt
3 cups (450 g) flour (I used type 1050 spelt flour)
1/2 cube (25 g) of fresh yeast
3 tbsp water, lukewarm

also:
more flour (for flouring the surface)
more olive oil (to oil the baking tray and to spread on top of the dough)
salt (to sprinkle on top of the dough)

Topping:
vegetables, herbs and seeds of choice (e.g. yellow bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, radishes, red onions, chives, green onions, parsley, rosemary, olives, corn, garlic, flaxseeds, cumin and sunflower seeds) *


Instructions

To make the focaccia dough:

To a large mixing bowl add lukewarm water, olive oil, honey (or alternative), and salt. Add about half of the listed flour, and stir to combine.

Dissolve the yeast in 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water, and add the to mixing bowl. Stir, then add the remaining flour.

Knead everything into a smooth dough and set aside in a warm place to rise for 15 minutes, covering the mixing bowl with a clean kitchen towel.

Once the 15 minutes are up, place the dough on a floured work surface. Knead it vigorously for about half a minute, folding in the sides towards the center a few times, until it is nice and elastic. Roll out to about the size of your baking tray or sheet pan.

Brush the baking tray with a few tablespoons of olive oil to coat the entire surface, and place the dough in the center of the tray. Cover the tray with the same clean kitchen towel from before, and leave the dough to rise for another 2 hours in a warm place. (Don't worry, the towel won't stick to the dough.)

Whilst the dough is proving, prepare all your vegetables, making sure they are all washed, trimmed, peeled and sliced as needed.

Once the time is up, gently flatten the risen dough, pressing it into the edges and into the corners of the baking tray. Dimple the top of the focaccia by pressing your fingertips into the dough, kind of like pricking the base of a pie crust, but do not pierce all the way to the bottom of the baking tray.

Mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the equal amount of water, and brush the dough with it. Finally, sprinkle the focaccia with a bit of salt.

Now you can either top your focaccia the classic way – with halved cherry tomatoes, rosemary, olives, and red onions –, or you can create a piece of focaccia art by topping the blank canvas of the dough with loads of vegetables resembling a flower meadow ... (this is also a great way to use leftover veggies by the way!)



To make the artsy topping:

Alright, so you've chosen your battle. Now it's time to get creative with your focaccia bread art. You could strive to create a flower bouquet or a meadow, or even a famous portrait or painting, using nothing but edible equipment! Another great option is to create an underwater world, or a mandala-like mosaic.

* Great veggies to use in this case are chives, spring onions and asparagus to resemble grasses and flower stems at the bottom. Herbs like parsley, cilantro, sage, rosemary and basil make great leaves (rosemary and thyme can also be used to look like small plants, like tiny trees). Thinly sliced red onions, (mini) bell peppers and "tomato roses" look like flowers. Capers can be used as berries or seed pods. Broccoli resembles bushes or trees. Onion rings can also be used as flower centers, as can carrot slices and radish slices. Halved tomatoes can look like berries, seed pods or flower centers. Olives also make for great centers of flowers, or rocks. Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and even peppercorns can be used to fill the empty space at the top and in-between the flowers. And the slice of a lemon or orange can even be used to resemble the sun (perhaps with cut out pieces of citrus peel to look like sun rays)! You could also add actual edible flowers like chive flowers or nasturtiums, but I guess that's cheating a bit ...


Once you've arranged everything to your liking, brush the toppings with some more olive oil to prevent burning in the oven.

Bake the focaccia in a preheated fan-forced oven at 230 °C / 450 °F for 15 minutes, or until the focaccia bread is nice and golden.

The focaccia tastes best when it is fresh from the oven. However, when packed airtight in the fridge, it is still very tasty the next day. Re-heating the bread in the oven for 5-10 minutes at 180 °C / 350 ºF will bring back that chewy texture.

I recommend serving it with a dip such as my homemade vegan tzatziki, a soy yoghurt dip, or even with herb butter.

Before baking ...

... and after!


Have you ever made focaccia art before?






Maisy

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