People around the world, with their livelihoods and movements, upheaved almost overnight have turned to the need to create and nurture beauty to cope with the many uncertain and challenging days ahead. Artists and creatives are producing some amazing art, short stories, short films and content to keep us all entertained, inspired and hopeful during lockdown. Sharing freely of themselves to shine a light in the darkness of our isolation and to reach out to their fellow human beings and give of their skills (because we are all in this together), combined with that innate urge to create is what makes us human and gives us purpose during these times.
During periods of isolation we all need a way to reach out and express ourselves and what better way than through the sheer joy of creating for the good of our collective communities.
Two recent trends that has been sweeping the Covid-19 world harkens back to the first sustainability movement of modern times. Victory gardens from the WWI era where vegetables, herbs and fruits were grown in whatever spaces people could find – rooftops, public parks, empty lots, backyards and fire escapes. It was built on the principle that there is nothing more valuable than self-sufficiency, and tagged onto that was a resurgence in sourdough breads. The traditional method of bread baking for thousands of years came back into fashion as yeast and processed white flour were prioritised for the army.
It’s to no surprise that people would invest in building their own community-based food security and cultivate something beautiful and useful in times of great stress and uncertainty.
An emerging trend that seeks to marry the two have become garden-scape focaccia breads; creative souls are using the focaccia as a blank canvas, baking beautiful garden scenes with garlic chives for flower stems and zucchini and cherry tomatoes for flowers and petal. You can use the dill, rosemary, edible flowers, asparagus, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, chiles, watermelon radish, chives, and radish to create a decorative garden-scape.
While I do not offer advice on creating the best garden-scape, I can offer you my recipe for a great blank canvas upon which to express your deepest darkest, gardening desires.
Note: If you don’t have a sourdough starter you can refer to my earlier post – the trials and tribulations of Singapore sourdough for a jumping off point which hopefully inspires you to grow your own!
1 cup Sourdough starter
1 cup water
3 Tbls olive oil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast
3 cups bread flour
Some fresh herbs (I used basil, rosemary and thyme)
Combine the starter and water in a mixing bowl.
Combine the starter water mix with the yeast, bread flour, salt and olive oil. knead until the dough is elastic and smooth approx. 7 minutes on medium speed using the dough hook attachment (if you’re kneading by hand it will take about 12 minutes).
Coat a bowl with some olive oil, place the dough in the bowl , cover and allow to rise for 60 minutes.
Coat your hands with flour and place the dough on a lightly floured countertop. Gently Stretch the dough out till it’s twice its size. Fold the dough over itself letter style to make a rectangle , return to the bowl and let it rise for another 30 minutes.
Repeat the above step ☝️ Coat a baking tray with some olive oil and transfer the dough into the baking tray.
Gently stretch the dough into the corners of the pan. Cover it and let the dough relax for 10 to 15 minutes.
Stretch the dough again but don’t worry too much if it doesn’t fill the whole pan as the dough relaxes and proofs it will spread out naturally
Cover the pan and transfer it to the refrigerator to let the dough rise overnight (14 to 16 hours).
The next day, remove the pan of dough from the refrigerator and gently dimple the dough at irregular intervals with your fingers. Don’t be too rough as you don’t want to deflate the dough too much.. chop your mixed herbs and mix with a few tablespoons of olive oil and pour over the focaccia so that it collects in all the dimples.
Cover with cling wrap and proof at room temperature for 2 hours
preheat the oven to 220°C.
Bake the focaccia for 20 to 25 minutes, until light golden brown.
Remove the focaccia from the oven and turn it out onto a cooling rack. Allow the focaccia to cool for 20 minutes before slicing.
A recipe for a great blank canvas to grow your own garden-scape with your kids, wife, parents, friends and basically anyone you want. Have fun, keep baking and stay safe.