Sick of Sourdough? Try Springtime Focaccia

While some bakers fussed over sourdough during quarantine, another bread trend sprouted on Instagram: garden focaccia.
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decorative sunflower focaccia

Recipe by Cecily McAndrews

This article originally appeared in our Winter/Spring 2021 issue. Get the magazine here.

Start to Finish: 1 hour

Servings: 6 to 8

Easy, adaptable, and wildly photogenic, this creative carb is a beginner baker’s dream. The quick-rising dough comes together in one bowl and offers a canvas for any toppings you can imagine—or whatever’s in the fridge. Start with this recipe, then create your own riff as you dream of spring. 

Ingredients

Dough

  • 2 1/4 cups warm water (about 100°)
  • 1 package (1 1/4 oz.) active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
  • 8 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt

Toppings

  • Red, yellow, and orange regular and mini bell peppers
  • Thinly sliced jalapeño strips
  • Parsley leaves
  • Chives
  • Halved cherry tomatoes
  • Thinly sliced red onion
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Capers
  • Flaky sea salt

Preparation

1. In a large bowl, stir the water, yeast, and 2 tbsp. oil. Add the flour and salt; stir with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough forms.

2. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit until doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge. (An overnight rise will give you the best flavor.)

3. If the dough is refrigerated, let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour before shaping. Drizzle 5 tbsp. oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Using your fingers, spread the oil until it coats the bottom of the baking sheet. Scrape the dough onto the baking sheet, turning it so it is coated in oil. Press the dough out toward the edges of the pan. Let stand at room temperature until the dough spreads slightly and the edges are noticeably swollen and rounded, about 30 minutes for room-temperature dough and 1 hour for refrigerated dough.

4. Preheat the oven to 450°.

5. Prepare your toppings: Cut the regular-size bell peppers into 3/4-inch-wide strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, tapering them so they look like petals. Cut the stem ends off the mini peppers and halve them lengthwise. Using a small knife, trim each cut end so that it resembles a tulip.

6. Pour the remaining 1 tbsp. oil over the dough. Using your fingertips, push the dough into the corners of the baking sheet, leaving deep impressions in the dough (you can push almost all the way down to the bottom of the pan). If the dough is sticking to your hands, lightly oil them.

7. Arrange the large bell pepper strips in flower shapes. Arrange the jalapeño strips along the bottom of the dough. Place the parsley and chives on the dough around the flowers. Add the mini pepper halves and cherry tomatoes (cut-side up) as blossoms. Arrange the red onion slices in a flower shape. Sprinkle the black sesame seeds in the center of the larger pepper flowers; add the capers to the centers of the small pepper flowers. Place additional capers around some of the chives to mimic the look of flowering grass. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

8. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Tip: Because the veggies and herbs shrink quite a bit as the focaccia bakes, when you build your doughy landscape, add more toppings than you think you need.

More Tasty Twists

This dough can go savory or sweet, so play around with a mix of veggies and herbs, or try fruit and berries for a breakfast-y bread.

decorative tomato and asparagus patch focaccia

Tomato & Asparagus Patch

Halved asparagus stalks, chopped olives, tomato “blossoms” 

decorative kale bouquet focaccia

Kale Bouquet

A bunch of kale tied with chives, roasted red pepper “roses”

decorative pineapple and orange focaccia

Bee Sweet

Pineapple and orange flowers, strawberry bees with orange-segment wings, basil leaves