With our second COVID Easter on the horizon, a colorful and delicious focaccia garden at the centerpiece of our Easter meal sounds like a perfect addition to our table. Even better? I’m going to be passing this project off onto my three teens since it’s such a great hands-on way to get the kids involved in meal prep beyond decorating Easter eggs.
I first saw focaccia gardens sprouting up on Instagram last spring when I was still trying to perfect my own bread making and whipped coffee recipes. And since I’ve had some time to think it over, I’ve discovered some tips and tricks for making a perfect focaccia garden.
The way I see it, it’s another way to make our Easter meal feel special, especially since our table will be so much smaller than in pre-pandemic days. And whether you’re thinking of a traditional ham or an easy-to-prep Easter brunch (with loads of egg-free Easter brunch recipes too), a delicious focaccia garden will make a nice-looking (and tasty!) accompaniment to any spring meal, even beyond easter.
Here’s how to do it.
Top image: Garden Focaccia from Sprouting Wild Ones
Making a Focaccia Garden
Start with a focaccia base: 3 different options.
A focaccia garden is all about that base (‘bout that base ’bout that base…) and depending on both your comfort level with bread dough and the amount of time you have to spend in the kitchen, there are a few options.
Let me show you three ways to get your perfect garden plot…er, focaccia dough ready.
1. Easy homemade focaccia
With only a few basic ingredients (including both bread and all-purpose flour), this recipe for Olive Oil and Rosemary Focaccia on Chewing the Fat, from Joanne Chang of Boston’s wildly popular Flour Bakery, is a great beginner recipe.
The dough comes together quickly in a stand mixer, or turn on the timer and let your mini sous chefs work off some steam by kneading the dough by hand.
Then, other than a few hours of time for the dough to rise, there’s very little to do before your dough is ready to become an Easter garden. Just remember to decorate your dough and then drizzle with olive oil before popping in the oven.
2. Overnight, no-knead focaccia
Sometimes, making homemade bread dough while also trying to meal prep all your other dishes, and dealing with kids hopped up on jelly beans can be a lot. This is when you consider this highly-recommended overnight dough recipe for Saltie’s Focaccia from Marian Bull for Food 52.
No kneading required, just flour, water, salt, yeast. — and time. In fact, you’ll want to start it up to to two days ahead if possible.
If you can remember to start this bread on Friday, you’ll wake up Easter Sunday and only have to roll out your dough before handing off to your decorating team in time for dinner.
3. Store-bought “focaccia” dough
Generally, all of my “homemade focaccia” is made out of those balls of supermarket pizza dough, because it’s a) easy and b) the kids like it.
I like the tips for making Focaccia Pizza from Pina Bresciani, an Italian cook from Vancouver, which is a good place to start. If your kids should recoil at this strange new dish that appears on the dinner table, you can just yell, “it’s pizza!” and be totally telling the truth.
But whichever of these three routes you choose for your focaccia garden base, it’s all good. No shortcut judgments!
Adding toppings to your focaccia garden: Some inspiration
Now that you have your dough ready for the oven, you’ll want to decorate your garden with all sorts of veggies and herbs. And decorating is of course the fun part!
Depending on your kids’ ages, you may need to prep items like onions and peppers to get them ready for “planting.”
My other big tip for parents is to remind your kids not to push their toppings deep into the dough, like you would in a real garden. Instead just let them rest right on top of the dough.
1. A kid-made focaccia garden design
I would definitely visit the tips a kid-made focaccia garden offered over at Sprouting Wild Ones (also shown at very top), because the article includes a delicious recipe for an infused olive oil you can add to your dough recipe for extra flavor.
She also has a great tip for kids who are planning out their garden so that you don’t have to worry about them digging their fingers into the dough to move things around. So smart!
(And can you tell this is a big of a gross-out point for me? YMMV.)
2. A wildflower garden design
One of the prettiest versions of a focaccia garden that I’ve seen is this stunning Sourdough Focaccia Garden from Lavender and Lovage. It includes such a cool mix of toppings worth considering for your own edible masterpiece.
Show your kids the pictures of this garden after it’s baked, so that they know how the colors will change in the oven, and check out all the interesting items that you see scattered above.
A trip to the supermarket or farmer’s market to pick out your focaccia ingredients would be fun to do with older kids. Or if they’re a lot older, send them to pick them out!
3. A citrus-topped focaccia garden
Check out how she coats the oranges to make them extra delicious, then use this recipe as a springboard for your own ideas: Maybe you can even create a dessert version of a focaccia garden?
Keep in mind that measurements and oven temps listed here are European, though the recipe itself is very straightforward and easy to follow.
4. A focaccia garden work of (modern) art
If you have artistic kids, challenge them to find inspiration for their focaccia garden using a work of art like Monet’s Garden at Giverny, or Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, which is what you probably recognize here in this stunning Van Gogh Sunflowers Focaccia Art from Not Quite Nigella. Wow!
I think the only thing that worries me is that we’d all love it too much to eat — but I think that shredded cheese base would be too enticing to resist. And hey, that’s what cameras are for, right?
A few other focaccia garden tips I’ve picked up
Photo by Roman Grachev on Unsplash
- Think “rainbow” of colors. Purple onions, peppers and carrots of all colors, roasted beets, red tomatoes, green scallions, even edible flowers will add a lot of pop even after they are baked.
- Use different shapes. Chives become grass, asparagus makes great stalks, rosemary springs look like ferns, sliced radishes make great petals.
- Remember that some vegetables will “bleed” when baked. This may make the bread underneath it a little soggy. If the texture will be an issue for your kids, consider using sun-dried tomatoes instead of fresh, or small pieces of fresh beets instead of jarred.
- Thinly slice heartier root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, or purple potatoes so that everything cooks evenly.
- A sprinkle of salt or some other flavorful herbs like rosemary or thyme will make every bite flavorful.
- Your garden does not have to be only vegetables: sliced bits of pepperoni, shaved prosciutto, sweet figs, bright strawberry halves, or freshly grated parmesan or shredded cheese can add some texture and flavor to your creations.
- Don’t forget nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices! They lend themselves to creativity as well as flavor.
- Add some toppings at the very end of the bake or even after the bread comes out so as not to burn them while baking. Consider edible flowers or delicate sprigs of parsley that will look gorgeous in their rawest form.
- Try making mini focaccia gardens by splitting up the dough, if you have more than one child. You could even make a new family tradition by giving everyone their own little “garden plot” to decorate before Easter dinner. That’s the kind of tradition we’d keep going even when we go back to our “normal” Easter dinners. Or hey, it could just be a cool way to welcome spring, whatever you celebrate this time of year.