For those of us who thought the official lockdown comfort bread was sourdough, we were sorely mistaken. Let me introduce you to garden focaccia, the stunning new yeasty trend adorned with colorful veggies that have taken Instagram and online forums by storm.
Focaccia is an Italian flatbread similar in texture and style to pizza dough. Unlike sourdough, which requires temperamental yeast, special kneading and hours to rise, focaccia is a cinch to make. Now, factor in that you can use the flat white dough’s surface as a canvas for creating colorful blooms and blossoms, and you’ve got some serious baking therapy going on.
If you’re like me and the tempting combo of soft yeast dough and garden creations has piqued your interest, here’s all you need to know about making your own colorful – and delicious – flatbread gardenscape.
When rumors of curfews started circulating in Istanbul, one of the first things that sold out wasn’t toilet paper. It was flour. Baking has always been an important part of Turkish culture, but it has seen a boom in popularity since curfews have kept people indoors for days. Where once the largest bag of flour you could buy in a market was 5 kilograms (11 pounds), the past month has seen industrial-size 25-kilogram sacks becoming a regularly stocked item. And those stocking up have a point. There’s something relaxing about watching yeast bubbles before adding it to the sticky mixture soon to be beautiful, crusty bread. The smell of fresh bread baking and the satisfaction of making it is a wonderful stress reliever, and this new trend has combined it with colorful creativity.
This bread canvas uses focaccia as its base. Of Italian origin, focaccia may not be a bread you are familiar with, but it is a versatile treat that can be baked plain but is traditionally made with fragrant rosemary and generous drizzles of olive oil. Garlic, cheese or other herbs are also used depending on the local traditions and region of Italy you visit. For our purposes, finding a recipe that uses ingredients that fit your taste is a great start. There are hundreds online, and some even include helpful how-to videos. All the recipes are relatively the same, requiring simply flour, warm water, active dry yeast, good olive oil and salt. You will also need a large – at least 22-by-30-centimeter (9-by-13-inch) – baking sheet to bake your doughy canvas. Be sure to add your veggies after you shape the dough but before the final proof for the best
results. In fact, depending on how long it takes to lay out your design, the final proof, which usually takes between 20 to 40 minutes, may happen while you are creating. That’s fine. If the dough is ready to be baked, just throw it in the oven once your masterpiece is ready.
It is also a great idea is to sketch your design before you start placing pieces. Some bakers who work with garden focaccia often even keep a sketchbook full of their favorite patterns and ingredients. This is an especially fun activity for any youngsters decorating their own bread while they wait for the dough to rise.
Pick your petals
Once you find a good recipe and are waiting for your dough to rise, it’s time to let your imagination run wild. Raw vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, capers, olives, course sea salt and a variety of seeds are all great options. Sliced cherry tomatoes, drained, make great bright red poppies, while julienned yellow peppers arranged around mounds of sliced black olives will give you cheery sunflowers. Red peppers sliced into rings and layered by size make romantic roses. Slices of red onion with their variegated purple and white hues offer pretty symmetrical spirals perfect to arrange petals around or simply as modest blooms. How about some tulips? Slice cherry tomatoes down the center into quarters lengthwise, leaving the bottom uncut so you have four “petals.” As they cook, they will wilt and open, mimicking the slightly curved, open petals of a tulip. Capers or olives strategically lined up along a stem give the illusion of tiny blossoms. For a splash of violet, add slices of purple potatoes or purple carrots as accents.
What’s a garden without some green? To mimic stems and leaves, you can use, well, stems and leaves. To add a dainty touch, flat-leaf parsley stems with or without their pretty leaves would do the trick as would chives. If you’re looking for more robust stalks, asparagus or green onions are great options. Sprigs of rosemary or curly parsley offer a bushy effect, while sliced mushrooms add a fun earthy element too.
This is a fun activity for adults and kids alike, and if you decide to give it a shot, we would love to see your cheery creations. Tag us on Instagram at @dailysabah. Happy baking!
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