See YouTube video here.
Focaccia is Italian for "from the hearth".
Focaccia is a rich, spongy flatbread of Italian origin. Addictive, crumbly, with that characteristic earthy yeast aroma. As with most culinary mainstays, there are versions in most every culture, and region. There is also a sourdough version of focaccia.
Now imagine this mouthwatering bread as a the chewy base for oils, aromatic herbs, vegetables such as onions and peppers, olives, seeds, nuts, fruits,... decoratively placed on the dough as inspired by your inner artist. Termed "focaccia bread art" or "focaccia garden", these are stunning and delicious creations.
A few important lessons I discovered from working with this lovely bread art:
You can cut your vegetables to a thickness of 1/4 inch, as your cooking temperature and coating oil allow for them to cook at a higher heat longer, without burning, and, if in the oven long enough, begin to char, which I like. I use grapeseed oil to brush on the vegetables before baking, in my experience, it encourages the toppings to char slightly. If you'd prefer no char, then take the bread out of the oven sooner.
To keep the delicate herbs from discoloration and burning, dip them first in lemon water, dry them well, then ensure they are coated well with oil when placed on the bread before baking. Use 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to 1 cup water.
Toppings with low moisture content are ideal, so they retain shape and don't make the bread soggy. Any fruits or vegetables with drainable pulp and liquid can be used as well. Slice cherry tomatoes in half and drain on paper towels before placing on bread. Do not use overly ripe fruits or veggies as they will be higher in water content.
Play with the amount of sugar in the bread dough. Most recipes use 1 tablespoon yet I increase that to 2-3 tablespoons. Personal preference. Also you may add extracts like vanilla or maple, especially if you will be designing with sweet toppings like underripe strawberries.
Regarding aesthetic design, pay attention to how the toppings appear after baking to achieve desired end result. Use colorful, flavorful toppings, and cut them in unexpected shapes. Ensure you push the toppings into the focaccia before baking.
In exploring the world of focaccia bread art, there is one definitive, extraordinarily well done blog on the subject, so MANY thanks to Teri Culletto, check out her talented work on Vineyardbaker.com.
Prep Time: 30 minutes active Yield: 1 half sheet pan or 2 quarter sheet pans
Oven temperature: 450 degrees
Stand mixer with bowl and dough hook
one half sheet pan 12x17 inches or two traditional quarter sized sheet pans
large mixing bowl
16 ounces warm water (110 degrees), divided into (2) 8 ounce cups
2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon fine salt
24 ounces bread flour, approximately 5 cups
1/3 cup oil for coating the baking sheet and bread before baking - use olive oil or grapeseed oil, *see item number 1 above
course salt, finishing salt,
herbs, olives, capers, pickled items, red onions, green onions, peppers, other firm low water vegetables, seeds, nuts, fruits, dried cheeses, ...Cut into interesting shapes and strips for your final "garden" design.
Warm one cup of the water to 110 degrees, pouring it into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix in the yeast and sugar with a hand whisk or fork. Let rest for several minutes as it begins to become foamy.
Add in one cup of flour, mixing on low until flour is incorporated.
Add a second glass of warm water, the 1/4 cup olive oil, and salt. Continue adding the remaining flour, a cup at a time.
Add more flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and sticky, add more flour, a quarter cup at a time.
Continue to mix the dough on medium low for a few minutes. The dough will be ready when it is smooth yet spongy and detaches from side of bowl easily when removed.
In a large bowl, place a tablespoon of olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it over once to ensure it is coated thoroughly. Cover in plastic wrap, then cover with a towel, placing in a warm resting place. Let rise until doubled in volume, from 45 minutes - 2 hours. If you bake yeast bread often, your rise time could be as short as 30 minutes!
Punch down and remove the dough from the bowl. Divide into 2 large pieces, if desired, or allow to remain as one. If you divide the dough, you will need two traditional quarter sized sheet pans to separately bake the focaccia in. If you do not divide the dough, you will use a half sized sheet pan.
To prepare sheet pans, spread enough oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan. If you skip this step, you're in trouble. That focaccia dough STICKS to surfaces! No parchment is necessary.
Place dough in the oiled sheet pan, and begin gently stretching it. If it becomes stiff, that's the gluten stiffening, so wait several minutes and stretch again. Stretch out the dough until it is approximately 1/2 inch thick.
Once the dough has been stretched, cover it with plastic film. Place pan in refrigerator overnight to develop the yeast flavor. You can also skip this step and begin the design and baking of the bread right away if needed. Alternatively, you can store the ball of dough, unstretched, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days before using.
When you are ready to design and bake the bread, and have stored it in the refrigerator, let it sit at room temperature for approximately 30 minutes. Oil your fingers, then dimple the surface by pressing your fingers deep into the dough.
Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil on the top of the bread, ensuring the dimples now contain oil.
Allow the bread to rise for a second time, up to 30 minutes.
After the bread has risen, begin placing your "garden" on the focaccia, ensuring you press the toppings into the bread well with your fingertips, as before when you dimpled the surface. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Use the pastry brush to glaze the decorated bread with either remaining olive or grapeseed oil, at this point I prefer using the grapeseed oil.
Now the bread is ready for the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, or until bread is golden brown in color. I also extend the cooking time if I desire a char on some of the toppings, which I highly recommend!
Remove from oven and place baking sheet on wire rack to cool. Once bread is warm, remove from sheet. Enjoy!!!
Please share your designs with me! I hope you'll share this recipe with fellow focaccia lovers! Also, I hope you will subscribe to my YouTube channel (Paula Naumcheff) for food and lifestyle videos.