Sometime in the 90s, focaccia suddenly became a big deal in Australian cafes. The flavoursome, slightly spongy bread is a great conduit for a range of flavours and the bread itself can be made with myriad variations. I remember feeling very sophisticated as a university student when I’d order focaccia for lunch, along with a black coffee.
But even though I’ve munched my way through swathes of focaccia at cafes around the world, I’d never made it myself until yesterday. During the pandemic, I have jumped on other bread-related baking bandwagons. I’ve created three variations on banana bread with a Snickers bar-inspired calorific load of ludicrousness, a cinnamon swirl banana bread and a bejewelled almond banana bread. I’ve made a few loaves of bread with varying degrees of success, from a Turkish bread that reminded me of the cafe underneath my old office in Sydney through to a supposedly foolproof loaf that exploded inside my oven because the tin was too small.
I was never going to be self-sufficient in bread over lockdown – I’m more of a get-a-seeded-loaf-on-special-and-bung-it-in-the-freezer kinda girl. But yesterday I spotted some focaccia fun on my friend Lou Lou’s Facebook page – stunning homemade focaccia decorated with vegetables to look like spring flowers. It was festive and fun and looked eminently doable.
So I did my research. One of my old stand-by cookbooks, the Australian Women’s Weekly Traditional Italian cookbook, offered me some handy clues for putting the focaccia bread base together. Naturally, I strayed from the recipe with all the loyalty of Boris Johnson to a blonde and accidentally used self-raising flour instead of plain. I only realised this blunder as I was cleaning up the kitchen while waiting for the dough to proof and I was terrified I was going to end up with a focaccia the size of Texas. But this brain fart turned into a blessing – I remember my Pizza Hut dough training and figured if I reduced the proofing time, I could probably get away with this. As a bonus, it meant the focaccia would be ready a little sooner.
As for the decoration of the focaccia, this floral fiesta is a great way to use up herbs, red onions, peppers, carrots, tomatoes – pretty much anything that can be sliced thinly and fashioned into flowery designs works here. So I haven’t been prescriptive with the toppings – this is your chance to be creative and make a unique crowd-pleaser. If the response on my Facebook page is any indication, I am pretty sure I’ll be making floral focaccia for plenty of houseguests in the months ahead.
And for those who are gluten-free, click here for the recipe that my friend Lou Lou used for her spectacular focaccia.
Here is a picture of mine before it went into the oven:
And here are the before and after pictures for the spectacular gluten-free floral focaccia that Lou Lou made: