Make This Garden Art Focaccia Bread That Simply Inspires

Make This Garden Art Focaccia Bread That Simply Inspires

Easy Garden Art Focaccia Bread Recipe – Farmer’s Market Edition!

This garden bread art recipe was inspired by traditional Azerbaijani outdoor cooking and my love for all things fresh from the Farmer’s Market! Join me as I revisit my focaccia bread that first appeared in “Canvas and Cuisine: The Art of the Fresh Market” 

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Sometimes inspiration just hits! For me it started with the Azerbaijan cooking vlogs that constantly show up in my Facebook feed. 

I used to look forward to seeing friends and kids of friends and grandkids of friends. 

Now, I peer into the screen waiting to see my adorable Azerbaijan friends as they emerge through the green door of their tiny house to forage through the woods, harvesting as they go. 

The only sounds you hear are the rustling of leaves and chirping birds. He throws down a metal pan, slices some logs and before you know it there is a working oven in the middle of a field or by the side of a stream or at the top of a ridge!

She uses a clever wooden board to chop everything from onions to a whole leg of lamb. He makes tea out of the flowers he picks as he passes the field. 

I’m inspired by everything that they cook – always outdoors and always on an open fire. But what gets me the most is how she (Lord, I wish I knew her name) bakes bread at almost every meal using nothing but her hands and a covered skillet. 

It’s amazing! 

And even more, it makes me crave fresh baked bread almost daily. 

Let’s face it…I have every modern tool known to man starting with electricity and ending with a machine fitted with a dough hook and still, I find bread making to be daunting.

I’m over it! If my Azerbaijan friend can bake gloriously delicious-looking bread over an open fire, then I can certainly take my bread baking to a new level using my state of the art kitchen. Right?

I have a really good recipe for focaccia bread in my book “Canvas and Cuisine: Art of the Fresh Market”.

The dough comes together quickly and rises when requested. It bakes in about 15 minutes and has just enough crumb to distinguish itself from flatbread. It’s my go-to bread recipe, so I decided that my focaccia dough would be my canvas.

My morning trip to the Farmer’s market yielded all sorts of treasurers. I purchased peppers and multi-colored carrots. I gathered my favorite purple-green tomatoes and all sorts of herbs. When I laid out all of these, I saw my plan come together. I would create a flower garden using veggies and herbs to decorate my bread. I would make my Azerbaijan friend proud! 

It’s all in the planning, so I laid out my design on parchment paper while the bread was rising. This was the smartest thing that I did, because I could change things around on paper that I would have been stuck with when placed on the bread dough.

I used red onions for flower petals and chives for stems. I sliced the carrots using my mandoline and cut olives, red cherry bomb peppers and grape tomatoes into thin slices. Sage and parsley leaves pulled everything together and my flower garden was born.

In the end, it worked like a charm and my pals oohed and awed at the results. I must admit I was pretty impressed with myself!

My Azerbaijan friend started me on this journey. (I feel I have more to come!!) The Farmer’s market furthered my vision.

And here’s my take from this experience. Inspiration can be found anywhere; you just have to open your eyes. 

What’s going to inspire you this week??

Garden Art Focaccia Bread Recipe

 

Servings

6-8

Ready In:

20 Minutes plus a few hours for bread to rise

Good For:

Appetizer, Brunch

Ingredients for Garden Art FOCACCIA Bread

 

  • 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1 ¾ cups warm water

  • 5 cups unbleached all-purpose

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 cup olive oil, divided

  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme 

  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Directions for Garden Art FOCACCIA Bread 

 

Place the yeast and sugar into a small bowl. Stir in the warm water. Place the bowl in a warm place until the yeast is bubbling and fragrant, about 15 minutes. I use the proof setting on my warming drawer for this.

Use an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook to combine the flour, salt, ½ cup of olive oil and the yeast to form a dough. Once the dough comes together, continue to knead the dough in the machine until smooth. Stop the machine and check the dough every couple of minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic, hold its shape around the dough hook and spring back when you indent it with your finger. This takes anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes using the mixer. If you are kneading by hand, knead until you can’t knead anymore!

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead it by hand for an additional 30 seconds. If the dough is too sticky, you can sprinkle with additional flour. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a bowl that has been lightly coated with olive oil. Cover and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. I use my warming drawer for this step, too.

 

Pour the remaining cup of olive oil onto a 12 ½ x 17 ½ x 1-inch jelly roll pan. Transfer the dough to the pan, stretching it out to fill the pan. Turn and coat with oil on both sides. Use your finger to poke indentations into the dough. These will be the “nooks and crannies” to hold the seasoning in the next step. Place the dough in a warm place to rise again, for 1 hour. Yep, the warming drawer is still the best place!

Preheat the oven to 400°. Transfer the pan from its warm place. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, sea salt, thyme, and rosemary. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Bake until the top of the bread is golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan before cutting into squares.

 

Let There Be Harvesting: Jalapeno Corn Bisque

Let There Be Harvesting: Jalapeno Corn Bisque

Creamy and sweet with a touch of heat, this soup is fabulous served after a brisk walk on a cold day!  Welcome Fall with my Jalapeno Corn Bisque! Click to skip to the recipe

 

We took a drive through the countryside this past week. This was by complete accident.

We were on our way to our friend’s home across the state, about a three-hour drive. Usually, we take freeway to by-pass freeway to alternate state road freeway and bam…we’re there.

Not this time. I pecked in the address, plugged the phone into the car, and listened to my (Aussie-voiced) virtual assistant as he directed me along the way. In an entirely different way!

We were on roads that we had never traveled.

Once hubby looked up from his iPad and asked me where we were…and I couldn’t say…we began to look around at our whereabouts.

We drove through town after town and passed farm after farm and noticed the fields full of growing cornstalks. Hubby noted that it was soon to be harvest time for that corn and that was just enough insight to send me off in that direction.

I found my recipe for Jalapeno Corn Bisque from Canvas and Cuisine and altered it by placing the ingredients into a slow cooker while I skedaddled towards errand running.

The results were delish.

But I pushed the meal up a step by adding a wedge of home-baked focaccia bread (Also, a recipe from Canvas and Cuisine). Now, it was both delish and tummy-filling.

If you are in the mountains of North Carolina, then you know fall is in the air. If you are living by the ocean in Florida, then you are experiencing the dog days of summer.

Either way, you will find corn is most plentiful at this time of year and I invite you to “harvest” some of your own and chow down on this really yummy soup.

Jalapeno Corn Bisque

Creamy and sweet with a touch of heat, this soup is fabulous served after a brisk walk on a cold day; I like my bowls fireside! I was introduced to this soup, by a super chef in Banner Elk, North Carolina. It was that kind of bone-chilling Autumn day when you just need a big bowl of soup to warm you from the inside out. It didn’t hurt that the corn is grown right down the street from the restaurant.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped, about 1 cup

1 whole leek, washed, white part chopped, about 1 cup

4 large jalapeno peppers, seeded, veins removed, diced, about 1 cup

8 ears of corn, kernels removed from cobb, about 6 cups

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup sherry 

3 cups homemade chicken stock or prepared low sodium broth 

4 cups half and half

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour mixed with 1 tablespoon room temperature butter (beurre manié)

Fresh chopped cilantro

Serves:   8

Time:   60-Minute Cuisine

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Heat the olive oil in a deep soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, leek, and jalapeno pepper and cook until beginning to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the corn and cook for 5 minutes more. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic powder. Pour in the sherry. Cook until the liquid is almost all evaporated, about 3 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the veggies are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Use your gadget of choice (food processor, blender, or immersion blender) to emulsify the soup. 

Return the soup to the pot if you have used a blender or food processor. Heat the soup over low heat. Stir in the half and half. Drop small pieces of the beurre manié (flour mixed with butter) into the soup. Stir until the soup thickens to your desired consistency. You can add more cream to thin the soup or more of the beurre manié to thicken it.

Garnish with fresh herbs, cheddar cheese, salsa, cooked bacon, or all the above!

Sweet Traditions in the Making

Sweet Traditions in the Making

This was so going to be a post about Thanksgiving side dishes…. And then… I had the blessing of having both granddaughters join me on what happened to be National Bread Day this Sunday.

Mallory, 13 and Bookie, 2 have a huge age difference between them, but share a common love for me – reminds me of Sally Field in Soapdish and that line, “they really, really love me!…”

Here’s how making our precious memories together went down. I was looking for something to write about for Monday’s blog, and Mallory inspired me by her quest to bake something. She was looking for edible cookie dough or at the very least, a chocolate cookie skillet.

But Jorj.com just posted a bunch of cookie stuff….soooo, we decided on baking bread instead. Thanks to just placing an order with Carolina Ground, and having a lot of flour on hand, we had an absolute blast.

We baked my recipe, A Tale of Two Loves from Canvas and Cuisine and swirled the bread with a layer of my last jar of highly coveted apple butter.

Totally worth it!

Sweet Mallory spent hours with Brooke in between dough rises, and sweet Brooke abandoned her nap to rise to the grown-girl challenge. Does it get any better than this? I’m not sure. Coming into Thanksgiving, this is what I give thanks for. And I hope you cherish your family moments too.

Oh, and P.S. When you bake this bread, feel free to add a tablespoon of your favorite spice mix to the flour, like apple pie spice, gingerbread spice, or pumpkin pie spice!

A Tale of Two Loaves

makes 2 yummy loaves

20 minute cuisine, plus 2 hours to rise and 30 minutes to bake

2 cups milk, warmed on the stove top

1 large egg, beaten

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon natural cane sugar

2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 package

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 ½ cups white or whole-wheat bread flour

2 ½ to 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Stir the beaten egg into the warm milk. Stir in the sugars. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

Place the melted butter, salt and whole-wheat flour into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Pour in the wet ingredients. Stir, on slow to medium speed, until the flour and milk are combined. Add the all-purpose flour, about ½ cup at a time gradually increasing the speed of the mixer to form a soft, wet dough. This process will take you about 5 minutes. Once the dough wraps around the hook, continue mixing until you have a smooth, shiny ball of dough wrapped around the dough hook, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been coated with vegetable oil spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 1 ½ hours to rise. I use my warming drawer set on the proof setting for this.

Coat 2 (8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½-inch) loaf pans with vegetable oil. THIS IS IMPORTANT! If the pans are larger, your dough may not rise. If your pans are smaller, the dough may not cook properly.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Punch the dough down and shape into two round loaves. Place each loaf into a pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 30 to 45 minutes. If you are adding mix-ins into your loaf, now is the time. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board. Fold in your favorite items. (Mine is a brushing of melted butter with cinnamon and brown sugar.) Shape the dough into a loaf and continue with the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Bake the bread until the tops are golden and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.

 

Apple Butter Time!

Apple Butter Time!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again! I just can’t get enough of Fall Festival time in the mountains. There is a festival weekend for October Fest (with sausages and kraut), one for Wooley Worms (these furry insects race UP a tight rope!), one for pumpkin patches and corn mazes, one whole month dedicated to the Wizard of Oz and my personal favorite, a festival dedicated to apples!

The Valle Country Fair in Banner Elk is such a place. I visited on a cool, crisp autumn day where my breath blew out steam, and my hands were shoved into my pockets. I didn’t shiver long.

As soon as my gal pals and I walked into the fair, we beelined for the home made apple cider station and helped ourselves to a heaping cup of warm cider. It’s produced the old-fashioned way using a wooden press and aluminum wash bowls to collect the juice.

After that we wandered through the rows of craft booths spying everything from hand carved wooden bowls and cutting boards, to personalized nursery rhyme music CD’s, to gourds turned into Santa faces, to ceramic treasures like those of Triple C Pottery where I bought a set of the cutest bowls…

But, the absolute best, longest wait in line, and most expensive item at the fair is a fresh, warm jar of apple butter, lovingly prepared by the members of the church in huge, steaming pots over wood fires.

The cinnamon-gingery aroma lures you to the booth, where you queue up to spend $8 a jar. Along the way, you make new friends, exchange recipes and meet a guy with a chicken hat on his head (the legs move up and down!) You are only allowed several jars of the golden apple butter, and I usually max out the limit.

Apple butter is terrific on a warm biscuit, sensational on banana bread, exceptional as a condiment alongside roasted pork and delicioso in my apple butter cake that I dedicate to the hard-working church members and schoolteachers of Holy Cross Episcopal Church.

Apple Butter Cake

With Cream Cheese Frosting

Serves a crowd

60 Minute Cuisine

For Cake:

1 ½ cups pastry flour

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 2 sticks

1 cup brown sugar

¾ cup natural cane sugar

3 large eggs

1 ½ cups apple butter

For Frosting:

2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 cups cream cheese, room temperature, 2 8-ounces packages

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 stick

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 to 2 tablespoons milk (as needed to thin frosting)

1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat two 9 x 9-inch (you can certainly change the size of the pan if you choose) cake pans with vegetable oil spray. Place a layer of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan and coat the paper.

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.

Use an electric mixer to combine 1 cup butter with both sugars until fluffy. Mix in the eggs. Pour in ⅓ of the flour mixture followed by ½ cup of the apple butter. Mix well and continue alternating ingredients until all the flour and apple butter are mixed into the batter. Spread the batter into the two pans. Bake until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully invert the cakes onto a rack. Remove the parchment paper and cool the cakes completely.

Use an electric mixer to combine confectioners’ sugar with the cream cheese, ½ cup butter and the vanilla until smooth and creamy. You can mix in a teaspoon or two of milk to get the consistency that you prefer for frosting. Place one cake onto your serving platter. Slather the cake with frosting. Top with the remaining cake. Cover the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle the top of the cake with chopped walnuts.

*Recipe from Canvas and Cuisine, The Art of the Fresh Market by Jorj Morgan

 

 

Welcoming October with Stuffed Squash!

Welcoming October with Stuffed Squash!

 

In the Canvas & Cuisine cookbook, “apples” and “squash” appear over 80 times in the manuscript! During the fall season, we want them more than ever – that’s why I was so happy to dust off a double whammy of an autumn recipe: Apple, Sausage & Cheddar Stuffed Acorn Squash. In this version, I took a few calorie saving shortcuts.

I substituted the Italian sausage with turkey bacon, and served it sans nuts and cheese. For the fall-ish flavor bouquet, I sautéed Granny Smith Apples and bacon in a shallow bath of butter and pure cranberry juice.  There was enough left over in the pan to drizzle savory cranberry sauce over the finished product, making the baked squash extra yummy!

The thing with a gutted gourd, is that it’s a blank canvas to stuff with virtually anything you see fit.

But allow me to digress…The stuffed squash comes with quite the story, as so many of my recipes do.

I was on a trip with my artist friend, Sue, Canvas & Cuisine’s co-author. We visited Blarney Castle in Ireland, and…well…I wasn’t feeling quite lucky enough to brave its narrow (I mean EXTREMELY narrow), four-story, windowless and very claustrophobic staircase.

I barely survived my one and only panic attack. I hadn’t even known I was claustrophobic until I met Blarney Castle. When we finally burst out of the tower and onto the top, Sue and I found ourselves in-line to kiss the famous stone. Tradition has it that in order to kiss the stone to receive the gift of eloquence, one has to bend over backwards lowering your head from the parapet walk over an opening in the tower that leads all the way down to the ground below.

There are two very, very young, very, very scrawny teens, on either side of the hole in the floor to make sure you don’t fall, but they were not convincing enough for me! I ended up sprinting past Sue and that stone, down the castle’s back stairs, and found my way to the closest pub. I took refuge in a pint and comfort in a dish called Cheshire Pie, which combines chunky pork and sautéed apples in a flaky crust.

The Canvas & Cuisine recipe for stuffed acorn squash was born shortly thereafter. The recipe posted below is a modified version. In both recipes, the flavors are sweet, tart and rich. It’s super for a mid-week meal and awesome for a brunch gathering before your next sight-seeing trip. Just make sure that you check out the sight to avoid unnecessary fright!

Apple & Candied Bacon Squash

serves 4

30 to 40 minute cuisine

For Squash:

2 medium acorn squashes, halved and seeded

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

For Stuffing:

1 tablespoon butter

½ pound turkey bacon, finely chopped

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup 100 percent cranberry juice

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup cheddar cheese, optional

Preheat the oven to 400°. Drizzle the cut side of the squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon. Place the squash, cut-side-down into a baking pan. Bake until the squash is fork tender, about 20 minutes.

Heat the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cranberry juice. Add the apples and bacon, and cook until fruit is soft, and bacon brown and crumbly, about 8 minutes. Season with 1 more teaspoon cinnamon spice and some of the salt and pepper.

Pull the baking dish from the oven. Turn the squash so they are cut side up. Stuff the squash with the apple/bacon filling. Use any remaining cranberry/bacon syrup to drizzle over the top.

For the Decadent Cook:

Add cheddar cheese if desired, by placing the dish back into the oven, and cooking until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes more. Garnish the stuffed squash with a dollop of sour cream.