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Bread Art 101: How to Decorate Focaccia Bread

Focaccia bread with a flower bouque design created with fresh herbs and veggies.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Decorated focaccia bread is all over social media these days. Want to make some yourself? It’s easier than you think. We’ll walk you through the steps.

Before baking that beautiful artisan Italian bread, you’ll need to get some fresh ingredients, like herbs and vibrantly colored vegetables, to create that gorgeous, charming imagery.

Embellishing Toppings

The secret is naturally beautiful, colorful toppings. Here’s a quick rundown of all the fresh herbs and veggies you can use to create a picturesque work of art:

  • Baby bell peppers: You can get them in red, yellow, and orange. They taste sweet and make beautiful flower petals.
  • Red onion: Thinly sliced, these make pretty white and purple flower petals and give your bread a nice biting, yet subtly sweet flavor.
  • Italian flat leaf parsley: These make lovely flower leaves you can add to the stems. You can also use sage or cilantro.
  • Thyme or rosemary: Either of these will add an earthy flair, and both make nice grass or thin leaves.
  • Green onions: The long green strands make perfect flower stems. You can also cut and shape them into other pretty designs.
  • Chives: These also make nice thin, long flower stems, and provide a natural tallgrass look.
  • Asparagus: If you’re attempting a bouquet and need sturdy-looking stems, asparagus works wonders. Just make sure they’re small and sliced in half (or quartered) longways.
  • Olives: Halved Kalamata, black, or Spanish olives make fantastic flower centers. However, you can also use them to make pretty flower buds on stems.
  • Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes make perfect petals and rosebuds.
  • Capers: Like olives, these also make great flower centers or tiny buds.

Get creative, and don’t be afraid to experiment. You can even take it a step further, with different cheeses and cooked meats, like pepperoni or sausage.

Prep Your Veggies and Herbs

Prepared veggies and herbs, including red onion, mushrooms, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, baby bell peppers, thyme, chives, and parsley.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

First, take a look at a few designs to get an idea of what you want to make. After you decide and purchase your toppings, it’s time to get prepping!

Make sure all your fresh produce is washed and thoroughly dried before you peel or slice. We recommend you use a paring knife for these little details.

Prepare your herbs, tomatoes, and olives into the shapes or slices you need. Lay out all your veggies on a large sheet pan. Let them sit in the fridge while you make your focaccia bread. You’ll be working against the clock later, so be sure to prep your herbs and veggies in advance.

If you don’t want to feel pressured to design your work of art in under 15 minutes, set it up beforehand on a large plate or sheet pan. That way, once it’s time to get crafty, you can simply transfer your art one piece at a time.

Make Your Focaccia Bread

If you have a recipe for focaccia bread that you don’t want to part with, adding herbs and veggies to your dough should still work. Just be sure to add some oil on top of your artwork to avoid burning.

If you’re interested in making a standard garlic and herb focaccia bread from scratch, check out this easy-to-follow recipe. We’ll be using the same method with a few additional steps to turn it into a picturesque work of art.

You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast (one packet)
  • 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (divided)
  • 1/2 teaspoon and 1/4 teaspoon flakey salt (divided)

Now, it’s time to get down to business!

Put your yeast in a large bowl with some warm water. Stir until combined, and then let it sit for five minutes.

Combining yeast and water in a large white bowl.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Add 1-1/2 cups of flour and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the water and yeast mixture. Stir it until everything is combined, and then let it sit for about five more minutes.

Combining flour with the yeast and water mixture.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Stir the remaining 1-1/2 cups of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and bring the dough together. As you mix in the flour, you’ll notice the dough forming. Transfer it and some flour onto a hard surface and start kneading the flour into the dough. You’ll have to knead at least 20 times to get a smooth ball of dough. You might have a minimal amount of flour left, which is okay, just be sure not to over-knead.

Kneading the remaining flour into dough.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Transfer your dough to a large, oiled bowl. Cover it with a warm, damp towel and let it sit in a warm part of your kitchen for one hour so it can rise. We preheated our oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and let our bowl of dough sit nearby to keep it warm.

A towel covering a bowl of dough while it rises.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a 9-by-13-inch sheet pan. After the dough has risen for an hour, transfer it to the sheet pan.

Transferring dough to an oiled sheet pan.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Use your fingers to stretch and press the dough out in the pan. Be careful not to tear it. Poke some dimples with your fingers. Add 1 tablespoon of oil on top, and then sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of flakey salt on top.

Hands pressing and stretching out dough in a sheet pan.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

While your dough rests, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Start using your prepped herbs and veggies to create your masterpiece. Don’t spend much more than 10 minutes designing your bread art, though, because it will need to go in the oven.

Hands placing various herbs and vegetables on bread dough in the shape of flowers.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Once you’ve completed your artwork and the dough has rested for at least 10 to 15 minutes, baste the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the vegetables with a basting brush. This will prevent them from burning while baking.

Basting olive oil over the herb and vegetable design on top of the dough.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Now, bake your masterpiece for about 15 minutes, or until it’s golden brown.

A baked, golden brown focaccia bread fresh with a bouquet of veggie and herb flowers on top.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Making bread is a very specific science, but there’s an art to it, as well. Decorating your bread like this will help you find the artist within and enjoy a soft delicious snack after!

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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