In kitchens across the world, bakers are pushing their culinary art to new heights.
As sourdough starters bubble gently on kitchen countertops and the smell of freshly baked bread wafts through domestic kitchens, gardens made of cherry tomatoes, peppers, olives and red onions are bursting into flower as poppies and sunflowers are taking root in focaccia bread. Enter focaccia art.
"It’s cathartic and therapeutic,” says Teri Culletto, a home baker in Vineyard Haven, Mass., who is thought to have started the trend when she was first inspired to combine her love of art and bread-making back in January 2019. She's since received 100s of letters and pictures of people's creations from across the world, evolving into a worldwide baking community with "people inspiring one another with their creative comestibles."
"It seemed that this pairing of vegetables and herbs placed in such a way on dough-turned-canvas has in some way sparked an easy and creative outlet for individuals during these challenging times in kitchens around the world," she says.
Where does the Focaccia art inspiration come from?
Here's how trend-starter Teri Culletto found her inspiration: "Through the months and seasons I would see something in nature, a field of poppies or vines of grapes, or in a museum exhibit, and be inspired to convey them through bread art."
Vincent VanDough is her personal favourite, inspired by the Dutch post-impressionist's famous sunflower scene following a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. "Fresh colourful peppers, cherry tomatoes, scallions, chives and various other colours and flavours came together into a floral art pattern much like a painting. Baking the focaccia off at just the right temperatures to allow for some caramelisation to the bread and vegetables added those warm colours of autumn flowers. As delicious as it was, it had more meaning to me as a piece of art."
How to Make Focaccia Art?
Start by making the focaccia base, this will serve as your blank canvas.
Try sketching out your masterpiece first, as you'll be against the clock as the dough rises, and let your imagination run free, creating your own landscape or masterpiece. Whether you go for a portrait or a gardenscape is up to you.
When it comes to the decoration think about the colour and shape offered by various fruits and vegetables.
Begin by placing your herbs and vegetables gently in your chosen pattern on the top of your focaccia dough. When you are satisfied and everything is picture-perfect, go back and press some of the veggies in so the dough is hugging them a bit.
What ingredients can you use to make your bread art?
These are various foods that can be found easily at home and added to your focaccia to create an eye-catching design:
- Little sweet peppers make great flowers
- Purple potatoes
- Fresh lemons
- Olives provide black and purple colour
- Fresh Chives or scallions for stems
- Basil or parsley for leaves,
- Capers, small grape tomatoes, red onion, nuts, cooked beans and seeds all add beautiful colour to your pallet.
Raw vegetables, for example, are tricky, because they have different water contents. Thicker pieces are better, as thinner ones might burn.
Let the dough rise and get a bit 'billowy' before pressing delicate ingredients like chive stems into the bread.
Brushing the bread with olive oil adds flavour and gives the dough a glossy finishing touch.
How to make a focaccia landscape
Watch how it's done in this easy video;
More foccacia art on Instagram...
Bread Art: Tips and Tricks
If you're sticking with bread, there's a whole lot more you can do to make your loaf the crowning glory.
Score your bread by slashing the dough with a blade or a sharp knife to allow it to expand during baking before it goes in the oven. This will give the bread more room to rise without splitting. Back in the day, there was a communal bread oven in the village or town, and the bakers would have their own ‘signature’ slashing pattern to recognise their own loaves.
These days it's also a great way of personalising your loaf and a chance to show off your artistic flair.
Take a look at our video and prepare to be inspired.
If you need some practical guidance, here's a great step by step look at how to create all those amazing shapes.
Here are some wonderfully intricate examples of bread art from a Slovenian baker.