I am pretty chuffed my sourdough starter is still going and I seem to have found my rhythm. After baking the very popular Sourdough Breakfast Cookies a few weeks ago, this Sourdough Focaccia is another bake from the weekly feeding and discarding process.

The original plan was to bake a basic Foccacia with pools of olive oil, a sprinkle or two of sea salt flakes, and a scattering of rosemary leaves but that all changed when Hilary Biller, the food editor of the Sunday Times called me to chat about the upcoming Mother’s Day feature.

As we were in a strict lockdown in South Africa, flowers were not available and she came up with the lovely concept of honouring our moms with floral art on home-baked focaccia. I loved the idea and the timing was perfect as I was planning to bake focaccia. I did some research – floral bread art had become quite a trend on Instagram during lockdowns all over the world – and decided on my design.

Sourdough Focaccia

I halved a bulb of garlic and used that as the “flower” with spring onion as the stem. As it was for Mother’s Day, I kept the rest of the design light and feminine using fresh thyme, parsley and basil as decoration. You can use any vegetables and herbs as decorations and to your heart’s content. Peppers and tomatoes will add splashes of colour and I have seen some beautiful sunflower designs. Just remember that whatever you place on top will shrink when baked so the more the merrier. Make sure to check out these great decorating tips from Hilary.

The focaccia recipe comes from Alexandra’s Kitchen and pretty much takes a day, depending on the strength of your starter and how warm your kitchen is for proving the dough, so prepare for an early start. But it is without a doubt worth all the time and effort with a definite sense of pride when it comes out of the oven and enjoyed by everyone.

I hope you enjoy this recipe for Sourdough Focaccia. If you’ve made the recipe share it with me by tagging @heinstirred on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #heinstirred. It is always a treat to see the recipes made and I would love to see your floral art.

Sourdough Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 100 g sourdough discard
  • 10 g salt
  • 440 g water, room temperature
  • 512 g bread flour
  • extra-virgin olive oil for greasing and drizzling
  • sea salt flakes
  • 1 garlic bulb, halved
  • fresh basil, thyme and parsley

Instructions

  1. Place the discard, salt and water in a large bowl
  2. Stir to combine a bit but it does not have to be fully mixed
  3. Add the flour and mix until the flour is fully incorporated (The dough will be quite sticky.)
  4. Fold the dough by reaching into the bowl and pull the dough up and into the center
  5. Turn the bowl in quarter turns and continue until you have completed 10 folds
  6. Drizzle the dough with a splash of olive oil and rub to coat
  7. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set aside to rise until the dough has doubled in size - around 6 - 8 hours depending on the temperature of the room and the strength of the starter.
  8. Make sure not to over prove at this stage
  9. Once the dough has doubled, pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the middle of a non stick pan of around 33cm x 23cm
  10. Use your hand to gently deflate the dough and release it from the sides of the bowl and gently place the dough into the center of the pool of oil in the pan
  11. Fold dough envelope style from top to bottom and side to side to create a rough rectangle and turn the dough over so that the seam-side is down
  12. Rub the top of the dough with more olive oil and leave to rise for another 4 to 6 hours or until puffy and nearly doubled
  13. Preheat the oven the 200 degrees C
  14. Rub your hands lightly with olive oil, and using all ten fingers, press gently into the dough to create dimples and stretch the dough to fit the pan
  15. Decorate the dough with the halved garlic bulbs and herbs or any combination of vegetables and herbs to create an image (remember the vegetables and herbs will shrink so add more rather then less)
  16. Drizzle the dough with more olive oil and sprinkle generously with sea salt
  17. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden and the bread makes a hollow sound when you give it a knock
  18. Let the bread cool in the pan before transferring to a cooling rack
  19. Slice after 30 minutes
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This recipe first appeared in the Sunday Times Food Weekly

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