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Focaccia bread art is the latest internet food craze - have you tried it?

PUBLISHED: 10:30 11 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:47 11 July 2020

Focaccia art became a huge online trend during lockdown  Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Focaccia art became a huge online trend during lockdown Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

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More and more people have turned to baking and cooking in lockdown, with arty bread being a huge hit. Follow our recipe to make it yourself.

Focaccia art became a huge online trend during lockdown  Picture: Charlotte Smith-JarvisFocaccia art became a huge online trend during lockdown Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

I don’t know about you, but cooking and experimenting in the depths of lockdown is what kept me sane. There was the week I tried out the Tiktok craze for dalgona (whipped coffee) - disgusting unless you like very strong, very sweet hot beverages. Another week, devoid of my coveted stock of plain white flour, I was forced to ‘think outside the box’ when my kids demanded pancakes. And, of course, when I did get my mitts on flour, I had to join the rest of the nation in stirring up a Kilner jar of sourdough starter, Bob. Bob was a celebrated member of the family for about three weeks before I forgot about him in the cupboard, where he festered into something furry and green with a stench the likes of which I’d never smelled before. Is yours still alive?

A trend I’ve absolutely loved though is bread art. More specifically focaccia art. Search online and in social baking communities and you’ll discover whole galleries of beautiful breads, topped with skilfully arranged vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts and seeds.

Both baking and art are known to boost our wellbeing, so combining both is surely next-level self care?

This week I’m showing off my efforts. OK so it’s no Van Gogh, but I was secretly pretty pleased with the results and don’t think I’ll be able to make plain old run-of-the-mill focaccia ever again.

If you’ve got children at home, or now (in your bubble) are looking after grandchildren, this is a fun, tasty bit of kitchen magic you can all enjoy getting stuck into together.

All you need is the dough recipe below, a rummage through your fridge and cupboards, and a bit of imagination. I would love to see your efforts and if enough of you have a go I’ll publish a gallery of the results. Email me.

Easy focaccia bread

(makes one bread roughly 20cm by 30cm)

Ingredients

1.5 sachets dried yeast

Large pinch sugar

350ml to 400ml warm water

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500g strong white bread flour

1/2tsp sea salt

Olive oil

Selection of toppings you like: Peppers, red onions, spring onions, broccoli, olives, anchovies, cheese, nuts, seeds, fresh herbs, asparagus –the list is endless

Method

Combine the yeast and sugar in a bowl and add a quarter of the warm water. Stir and leave to activate for five minutes. Now add the flour and salt, stirring with a knife to combine. Use enough water to bring the dough together. It should be slightly sticky but not wet.

Leave the dough for 10 minutes so the liquid can absorb into the flour. Now flour a worksurface and tip the dough out. Knead – stretching, pressing and turning – until it’s elastic and smooth. If you dip your finger in flour and press it into the dough it should spring back.

Grease a large bowl, pop in the dough, cover and leave somewhere warm for about an hour until doubled in size. Pre-heat the oven to 220C. While the dough is in the oven on a clean surface play about with patterns with your chosen toppings. Experiment with colours and shapes – lay everything out as you’d like it.

Line a baking sheet with greaseproof and rub with olive oil. On a floured surface roll the dough out to around 20cm by 30cm then transfer it to the tray, pressing it to hold its rectangular shape.

Drizzle the bread with more oil and transfer over your toppings in the order you like them, pressing them firmly into the dough.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until risen and golden. This is a gorgeous picnic bread – especially used for an American style muffaletta. Make this by carefully cutting through the middle of the bread – like a giant sandwich. Brush the cut sides with olive oil and layer the bottom half with cured meats, chopped olives, roasted peppers, salad, pesto and cheese (Swiss cheese works nicely). Pop the top on, wrap in foil and leave in the fridge, weighted down by something heavy, for a few hours before eating. Slice to order. If you’re at home it’s extra good warmed up in a panini press.


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