How To Make Easy Focaccia Bread Art – Let Your Creative Side Shine

Like most foodies out there, I spend a lot of my time online looking for new recipes to try. I consume a steady diet of Instagram food photos, blog posts and YouTube cooking tutorials, all in the pursuit of the next delicious thing.

Since quarantine began, I’ve expanded my search for food inspiration to new corners of the internet. With everyone stuck at home, Reddit has become the epicenter of some of the biggest and most exciting food trends of the summer.

And that makes sense. People are stuck at home and have more time to pursue home-based hobbies. Remember March? When it seemed like everyone you knew was baking sourdough?

Well, sourdough quickly got boring for some bakers out there (I wish I could speak from experience, but we all know I can barely keep plants alive, let alone a sourdough starter) and they’ve moved on to much more in-depth, elaborate and technically difficult recipes.

Bakers out there are getting up to some amazing things. I’ve seen a ton of homemade Big Macs, French macaroons made in the shape of small cows, and some truly stunning chocolate eclairs.

Tempting as some of these are, the food trend that has caught my attention the most is focaccia bread art. Folks are baking stunning works of bread art: trays of crisp, chewy focaccia decorated with entirely edible ingredients pressed into the top, often in a floral design.

Focaccia is the perfect canvas for testing out all kinds of flavor combinations. The crispy-edged, golden dough retains a chewy texture, which means it can stand up to a wide variety of toppings, whether they are more traditional like garlic, tomato and basil, or more unusual, like broccoli, sweet potato and pine nuts.

And focaccia isn’t just a perfect canvas for flavors. Its wide, mostly-flat appearance provides a great space for bakers to express their creativity by creating, well, any design they want. Flowers are incredibly popular, but folks are exploring everything from impressionism to geometric patterns in their bread art.

You can see why this new food trend called to me, but I’m not usually a baker of bread. I bake cakes and cookies and brownies and biscuits. Oh, and I bake my homemade pasta sauce for an hour before eating (try it — this really helps the flavor develop!).

But the method below for making focaccia bread art worked for me! I used a combination of these two recipes to put together this arty twist on focaccia.

Focaccia Bread Art Tips and Tricks

Before diving in, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Olive Oil. You’re going to need a lot of olive oil for this recipe. More than you think. In total, you’ll need a whole cup of olive oil to make this focaccia bread correctly. The olive oil is what gives you that wonderful crispy, golden, almost-fried texture.
  • Those Divots. Focaccia bread traditionally has divots or dimples pressed into the top as it is flattened and pressed into the pan. These divots provide places for all of that yummy olive oil to collect.
  • Proofing. This dough needs to proof two times: once in the bowl for an hour to an hour and a half, and once it has been pressed into the pan, for anywhere from 20 minutes to 24 hours. The longer you leave your dough to proof, the more the flavors will develop.  
  • Toppings. The toppings are the most fun part of this recipe, so get creative here. Anything that would be good on a pizza would be delicious on focaccia too. If you choose to use ingredients that may have a lot of moisture, such as fresh tomato, dab the moisture off with a towel before placing on your dough to avoid a soggy final product.

Focaccia Bread Art Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Warm water (~110ºF) divided into two bowls
  • 1 Tbsp. Granulated white sugar
  • 2 ½ tsp. Active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. Dried Italian herbs, such as oregano, parsley, onion, garlic and basil
  • ¼ cup Olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tbsp. Flaky salt
  • 5 cups Spooned and leveled bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • Additional ¼ cup Olive oil for the pan
  • Additional ¼ cup Olive oil for drizzling on top of the focaccia after rising
  • Fresh, frozen, pickled, or dried vegetables, herbs and meats for topping

Method

  1. Combine one cup of the warm water with the sugar and the yeast in your mixing bowl. Set aside for about five minutes for the yeast to bloom. The yeast will look foamy when it’s ready.
  2. Once the yeast has bloomed, add 1 cup of the flour. Use either a wooden spoon or a dough hook on low to mix the flour into the yeast mixture until thoroughly combined.
  3. Add the other cup of warm water, ¼ cup of olive oil, the salt and 2 cups of flour to the mixing bowl. Mix again on low until combined.
  4. Slowly add the remaining 2 cups of flour, a few tablespoons at a time, as you continue to mix the dough. It will be sticky, but it should start to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  5. Using either the dough hook or your hands, knead the dough for a few minutes until it is slightly springy and bounces back when you touch it.
  6. Brush some olive oil on the inside of a metal or glass bowl. Transfer your dough to the bowl and lightly cover it to let it rise until it doubles in size. Depending on how warm your space is, this should take around 1-2 hours.
  7. Brush ¼ cup of olive oil on a 12”x17” sheet pan (or a pan of similar size). Stretch the dough out on top of this pan. If the dough isn’t holding its shape or is bouncing back after you press it into the corners of the pan, step away for about 10-15 minutes to give the dough more time to rest.
  8. Once the dough can be properly stretched, use your fingertips to make divots into the top surface of the dough.
  9. Pour the final ¼ cup of olive oil over the dough, spreading it evenly over the top and into the divots. Sprinkle the top of the dough with the flaky salt.
  10. Cover the tray of dough and let rise for at least 20 more minutes. If you have time, you can rest this dough for up to a day to develop deeper flavors.
  11. Once the dough has proofed a second time, it’s almost time to bake. Preheat your oven to 450ºF. Slice olives, onions, bell pepper, broccoli florets, fresh herbs, ham, sun-dried tomatoes, and anything else that sounds good, and press them lightly into the top of the dough in whatever design you like.
  12. Brush the top of your dough, toppings and all, with another layer of olive oil. Bake the focaccia for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are lightly crispy and the top is golden brown.
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