Fancied-up focaccia — flatbread decorated to look like a bouquet or a garden — has been a thing on Instagram, but focaccia has been around long before social media. It’s a simple, satisfying flatbread, like a slightly puffy pizza, and like pizza, it’s a gift from Italy. This Thursday, I take this bread which goes back centuries, and give it the Instagram treatment. Join me for my free online class, Beautiful Boards and Focaccia with Flowers. I’ll show you how to turn basic bread dough into edible works of art.
I bake quickbreads, yeast breads, whole grain breads — even when it’s not Whole Grains Month (yeah, I’m that wild), but I especially love baking focaccia.
This bread is almost foolproof to bake, and yet even plain, has artisanal appeal. Until I can visit the vineyards of Tuscany, freshly baked focaccia finished with a drizzle of olive oil a sprinkling of sea salt and maybe a sprig or two of rosemary is the next best thing. Rustic it may be, but it upgrades any meal.
I share my focaccia recipe as part of my class this Thursday, but you can make it even easier on yourself and use commercial pizza dough.
Either way, decorating basic bread with sweet summer peppers, ripe tomatoes, olives and herbs not only enhances the flavor, it’s a beautiful way to get a little more produce in your life.
Think of rolled out focaccia or pizza dough like a canvas. This is where you create, using thin slices of vegetables, sprigs of fresh herbs, seeds, olives, and more to illustrate. You don’t have to be an artist (I’m not), to make bread into something beautiful.
Tips for Baking a Beautiful Bread
- Making focaccia from scratch? Remember, yeast is alive, make sure yours is fresh.
- Allow an hour or two to let the dough rise prior to baking.
- Focaccia is forgiving, but for the best, most tender results, try not to overhandle the dough.
- Don’t be afraid to crowd your focaccia canvas. The bread will expand during baking.
- Learn from the masters. Renoir and Matisse did early sketches before committing their artistic vision to canvas. So do I. I like to dummy out my design, arranging my ingredients on a piece of parchment paper before patting everything onto the dough.
- Designing focaccia with your kids is a great way to get everyone excited about fresh vegetables and a chance to create wonderful memories together in the kitchen.
- Your finished artwork doesn’t need to be museum quality. It’ll still taste yummy.
Remember, bread is, in and of itself, something beautiful, magical, even. Take a little yeast, a little water and some flour. Add some heat and time, and from a sort of mud, you get a sweet-smelling, sustaining loaf that feeds many and comes at the cost of no creature’s life, something far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s an act of creation, not destruction, an everyday miracle at a time when miracles seem thin on the ground.
Topping an everyday miracle with vegetables and herbs? Que bella.
Beautiful Boards and Focaccia with Flowers class happens 6pm ET this Thursday. Register now for class recipes.
Other Lives, Other Loaves
- I used to make this alligator-shaped bread for my father, a Florida Gator.
- Another focaccia recipe from our friends at Edible South Florida.
- Jamie Schler’s orange and olive-studded focaccia from her book, Orange Appeal.
- Kicha, Eritrean flatbread from Hawa Hassan’s In Bibi’s Kitchen
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