Focaccia is known and loved as an Italian creation. There’s evidence to suggest that this delicious bread dates back as far as 2,000 years – having been created by the Etruscans. Liguria in Italy is now credited as the specific birthplace of focaccia. Traditionally, the bread should be 2cm thick with a soft centre, finished off with a sprinkling of quality sea salt and olive oil. Focaccia bread art is a trend that has made breaking with tradition a whole lot of fun! It’s impossible to attribute the genius idea of bread art to just one person. Teri Culletto of Vineyard Baker has been creating focaccia art since 2018. Hannah Page of Blondie + Rye has used sourdough exclusively since 2014 for her artistic creations.
Bread art is a food trend that often resurfaces, and it’s a great way to celebrate the start of spring, or any season for that matter. Spring is the most iconic season to capture with bread art because of all the vibrant, colourful flowers we enjoy at this time of year. Just think of the rainbow of veggies you can use to create a delicious yet stunning bouquet on top of your bake.
When we decided to devise our own simple vegan focaccia bread art, we originally planned to use chives as flower stems. Chives were completely sold out at the time, which led us to improvise with fresh stems of oregano. This turned out to be a happy accident because the oregano worked so well! No matter what you choose for your toppings, the key to a good focaccia lies in the deep metal oven pan & the correct amount of olive oil. Focaccia is essentially a risen pizza dough – it should be chewy, fluffy and flavoursome.
For the bread-
- 500g strong bread flour
- 7g Sachet of fast-action dried yeast
- 1½ tsps Salt
- 320ml Water
- 1 tbsp Olive oil
- Salt + olive oil to garnish
For the topping-
- Chives or oregano for the stems
- Red & yellow cherry tomatoes as petals
- black olives for the middle of larger flowers
- Red, yellow & orange mini sweet peppers for smaller flowers
- Start by mixing together all the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. For best results, sift the flour and place the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl to each other. This is to stop the yeast from being activated too early on in the process.
- Add all 320ml of the water water and a tablespoon of olive oil to the bowl.
- Use a wooden spoon to gently combine the mixture. Once it’s made a loose dough, ditch the spoon and with your (clean!) hands, finish forming the mixture into a dough, scraping the bowl to catch any last scraps of the mixture.
- Flour your work surface and take the dough out of the bowl. It’s ready to be kneaded.
- Knead the dough by using one hand to anchor it, and the other to stretch it out from the middle. Fold the dough back in, rotate it and keep repeating this movement in a circular motion. For best results, do this for around 10 minutes. You want the dough to look smooth and to not be too sticky when you’re finished kneading.
- Place the ball of dough back into the mixing bowl. Give the dough a little slosh of olive oil, rubbing it in to make sure it’s evenly coating the entire ball of dough.
- Place a tea towel over the top of the bowl to keep the dough safe and cosy. For best results, leave the dough to prove in a room in your home that is noticeably warm. Near, but not on, a radiator works nicely – you don’t want the dough to be too warm. Leave the dough for a minimum of one hour, by which time it should have doubled in size.
- When the dough has doubled in size, prepare a deep rectangular oven tray by lightly drizzling it with olive oil to stop the bread from sticking.
- Place your dough on the oven tray and use your hands to push the dough out towards the corners. Focaccia is traditionally a large rectangular flat bread. The dough is quite stubborn, so don’t be afraid to stretch it a few times into the shape of the tray. Use your fingers to push parts of the dough all the way down until you can feel the bottom of the tray. This is to create dimples, and dimples help the bread to absorb more olive oil for flavour, a crispy crust, and to prevent the bread from rising too much.
- Now it’s time to decorate! If you were going for a simple topping of salt and herbs, this is a two minute job and will require you to leave the dough to prove for an extra 30 minutes before going in the oven. As bread art takes a little longer to create, we can assume the bread is continuing to prove while we decorate. For this reason, you should preheat your oven to 250c when you start decorating – this way it can go straight in when you’re finished.
- Decoration is completely up to you, of course. We chose to buy a fresh oregano plant to get nice full sprigs to create our flower stems. We then chopped up lots of black olives to be the centre of the poppy and sunflower. The petals and flowers heads were all made from chopped cherry tomatoes and mini sweet peppers. Finish off with a splash of oil and a sprinkle of salt.
- For best results, place a sheet of foil to protect your toppings when in the oven, and also place the tray in the centre of the oven. Bake your bread for 10 minutes at 250c. When you think the bread is mostly cooked through, reduce the oven to around 190c and remove the foil to allow the top to get a lovely colour and for the vegetables to crisp up a little.
Have fun with this one! Something I’m keen to try with future bread art is exotic mushrooms and edible wildflowers. I just think these would look so pretty and taste delicious on a loaf of focaccia – or any bread for that matter.
Let me know if you give some bread art a go! You can tag us on Instagram with @earthlydelightsvegan. We’d love to see 🙂