If you don’t have an Instagram account, then there is a small chance you have missed out on one of the best baking experiences to come out of the 2020 quarantine – Garden focaccia. Basically a flatbread, focaccia is an easy bread for the home baker and makes for the perfect canvas to create edible works of art.
Garden focaccias are a great way to use up odds and ends of herbs, vegetables, olives, capers, you name it, and create seriously stunning bread that is almost too pretty to eat. Almost!
I of course had to try my hand at making a gluten-free version. After several attempts that were more artsy than edible, I finally came up with a recipe that was not only pretty but delicious. I mean seriously delicious! One friend said, “it tasted like the best butter drenched crusty bread topped with bits of lusciousness.” High praise indeed and a bit remarkable in that there is not one once of butter in the recipe. I believe the secret to the fabulous taste is infusing good extra-virgin olive oil with garlic, it flavors the dough from the inside out. You may be shocked at the amount of salt in the dough (and you can certainly cut it back if you want) but this also takes a fairly plain dough and amps up the flavor.
You will notice the use of corn starch as well as an all-purpose measure-for-measure gluten-free flour blend. This helps the dough brown better but if you can’t have corn or the flour you use already contains corn starch, just replace it with an additional cup of flour.
What to use for the decorations? Really you are only limited by what you like to eat and your imagination but here are a few ideas to get you started.
Begin with placing fresh herbs, green onions, or asparagus as stems into the dough just before baking. Then add flowers using bell peppers sliced into strips or crosswise, tomatoes, thinly sliced eggplant, artichoke hearts, thinly sliced onions, broccoli, zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms, black olives, spiralized carrots, or whatever veggie you have on hand. Capers and diced black olives can be used for flower centers and seed pods. You can even use traditional pizza toppings such as pepperoni and Parmesan cheese.
The idea is to have fun! This is a great project to do with children, too.
- ¾ cup (180 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic , minced
- 4½ teaspoons (13 g) active dry yeast (2 packets)
- 3 cups (710 mL) warm (120 degree) water
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) honey or agave
- 4½ cups (540 g) gluten-free all-purpose flour blend (with xanthan gum)
- 1 cup (120 g) corn starch* (see blog post for note)
- 4 tablespoons (48 g) baking powder
- 2 tablespoons (36 g) kosher or fine sea salt plus more for the top
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Assorted fresh herbs and vegetables plus olives and capers , if desired
- Combine the olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan and warm over low heat just until the oil is warm to the touch. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour ¼ cup of the oil into a small container, trying to leave the garlic settled at the bottom of the pan. Save both for later.
- Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and honey. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, corn starch, baking powder, and 2 tablespoons of salt. Pour the yeast mixture over the flour mixture, add the ½ cup of olive oil along with the minced garlic and stir to combine. The dough will be soft, more like a batter than dough. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap, place in a draft-free warm part of the kitchen, and allow to sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper and brush with some of the reserved olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Scrape the dough into the pan and with damp hands, press the dough to the edges of the pan. Brush with olive oil, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and let rise again for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Decorate the focaccia as desired. Brush the vegetables lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
This delicious recipe graced the cover of the September/October 2021 issue! This issue is on newsstands from September 1 – October 31, 2021. See a list of stores that may have the issue available for purchase, or call 727-738-5735 to order this issue. If you’d like to order a subscription (your subscription would not include this issue) please visit our subscription order page.
Have you tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and let us know your thoughts in the Ratings & Reviews section below.