Recipes

Bring your bakes into bloom: how to make trendy bread art, step by step

10 May 2020 - 00:00 By Hilary Biller
The best bread art is bold, so pick toppings in an array of vibrant colours and textures.
The best bread art is bold, so pick toppings in an array of vibrant colours and textures.
Image: Hilary Biller

Bread dough has become a blank canvas in one of the latest food trends to hit social media during lockdown: bread art.

Taking inspiration from flower gardens, creative bakers are adorning their loaves with vegetables, herbs and other toppings to turn them into nature-inspired works of art.

HOW TO MAKE BREAD ART, STEP-BY-STEP

STEP ONE

Make up a batch of your favourite bread dough (or use one of the recipes below). Allow the dough to rise, covered, in a warm place until it has doubled in size; about 40-60 minutes.

STEP TWO

Knock back the dough by kneading it gently on a lightly floured surface.

Next shape the 'canvas' for your bread art. You'll need a fairly large surface area to create your masterpiece so a focaccia or long and flattened loaf shape work best.

Hein van Tonder's bread art. Visit heinstirred.com for the recipe.
Hein van Tonder's bread art. Visit heinstirred.com for the recipe.
Image: Hein van Tonder

Remember, to be successful the depth of the dough is also very important. Too deep and the bread won’t cook through without the decoration burning. Shape a dough 'canvas' that's no more than 5cm high.

STEP THREE

The best bread art is bold so choose a mixture of vegetables and other toppings in an array of colours and textures. (See decorating tips below.)

The idea is to press the toppings firmly into the dough so they stay put during baking, but not too deep so that the bread rises to cover them. 

Brushing the decorations with a little oil will help them to stay put and retain their colour. 

STEP FOUR

Once you have decorated the bread, don’t allow it to prove any further as the dough will rise and cover the veg art. Bake it immediately.

If at first you don't succeed try again, it's great fun and practice makes perfect.

DECORATING TIPS

  • Vegetables like spring onions, onions, celery, fennel, peppers and tomatoes — especially cocktail tomatoes — work well. Olives are great too. Coarse salt and seeds add lovely texture to bread art pictures.
  • Slice your toppings and place them in a bowl of water for about 15 minutes before using, this will help prevent them from burning while baking. Drain them well before using.
  • You will have more success using vegetables with a high starch content like beetroot, butternut and carrots, than those which have a high water content. The latter tend to dry out and lose a lot of their colour during baking. If you'd like to include these starchy veg, precook them in salted water first.
  • Fresh herbs will lose their colour during baking. To help them retain their hue, dip them in water to which a generous squeeze of lemon has been added. Another trick is to remove the herbs once the bread is baked and replace them with fresh ones.
Jenna Short's beetroot focaccia.
Jenna Short's beetroot focaccia.
Image: Supplied

RECIPES

JENNA SHORT'S BEETROOT FOCACCIA

Jenna Short is the pastry chef at Pierneef a La Motte Restaurant in Franschhoek. She adds cooked beetroot to her focaccia dough to give finished bake a lovely feminine colour and soft texture.

Makes: 1 focaccia

Ingredients:

250g cooked beetroot

200ml water

5ml (1 tsp) active dry yeast

5ml (1 tsp) sugar

600g cake flour

60ml (4 tbsp) olive oil

10ml (2 tsp) salt

Assorted vegetables, herbs and seeds for decorating

Method:

  1. Cut the beetroot into chunks, add 50ml of water to the beetroot and blend to create a smooth purée. Set aside.
  2. To make the dough, combine the yeast, sugar and 50ml of water, mix well and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Combine the yeast mixture with the flour, olive oil, remaining 100ml water, and beetroot purée in the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the dough hook, knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it's smooth, shiny and slightly sticky.
  4. Transfer the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place until it doubles in size, this can take up to 2 hours.
  5. Flatten the dough, and transfer it to a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  6. Using your hands and fingertips, pull, stretch and push the dough into your desired shape; it should be 1-2cm thick.
  7. Prepare your edible decorations/toppings. Slice your toppings and place them in a bowl of water, this will help prevent them from burning while baking.
  8. Once the bread has risen again, push the dough down using your fingertips, to flatten and even it out.
  9. Now it's time to get creative: drain the your toppings and use them to decorate the focaccia.
  10. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C (fan setting on) for about 20 minutes. Once cooked, let the focaccia cool down completely before serving
Sidudziwe Gerasch's focaccia.
Sidudziwe Gerasch's focaccia.
Image: Supplied

SDU'S FOCACCIA

Baker Sidudziwe Gerasch is the owner of Gerasch Bakery in Durban. Her focaccia recipe was inspired by one on thetasteofkosher.com

Makes: 1 focaccia

Ingredients:

Dough:

350ml warm water

10ml (2tsp) instant yeast

20ml (4 tsp) sugar

470g stone-ground flour or any strong flour

45ml (3 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil

15ml (1 tbsp) salt

Toppings:

45ml (3 tbsp) olive oil

Assorted vegetables, herbs and seeds for decorating

Method:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm water, yeast and sugar. Let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes until it foams.  
  2. Add the flour and mix, using the paddle attachment, until the dough starts coming together.
  3. Add the olive oil and salt.
  4. Swap the paddle attachment for the dough hook. Knead for about 15 minutes or until the dough is sticky but smooth. Add more flour if needed.
  5. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly-greased mixing bowl and cover with a wet towel or cling wrap. Place in a warm place and let the dough rise for an hour, or until it doubles in size.
  6. With your fist, gently punch down the dough, then pull the edges of the dough to the centre.
  7. Place the dough on a lightly-floured surface. Knead two or three times, then shape it into a ball. Allow it to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes, and then in the fridge for another 20 minutes; this will make it easier to roll out and shape.
  8. Transfer the dough to a lightly-greased 28 x 35cm baking pan. Using your hands, spread out the dough to fit the pan; if it won't spread to the corners, rest it in the fridge for a few minutes and try again.
  9. Brush the dough with oil, decorate with the vegetables and seeds of your choice and sprinkle with salt.
  10. Bake in a preheated oven at 175°C  for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.