'Tis the season to start decorating for…Halloween! With a few tricks, you can turn ordinary focaccia bread into incredible and edible works of spooky art.

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focaccia decorated like a pumpkin patch with sweet potato slices for pumpkins
Credit: Jackie Freeman

It sure feel like decorated focaccia has become all the rage. Beautiful scenes of wildflowers, impressionistic paintings, and more have delighted our eyes, palates, and minds. And now that that autumn is in full swing, it's a perfect time to create a Halloween-themed focaccia. If you have kids, they'll love helping you create these fun, fanciful, and sometimes creepy works of edible art. Read on, and I'll show you step-by-step how to create Halloween focaccia and share three decorating ideas you can do with the kids.

child decorating pumpkin patch focaccia with yam pumpkin faces and herbs
Credit: Jackie Freeman

How to Create a Halloween Focaccia

First, the Focaccia

The first step in making a haunted tableau is making homemade focaccia. Don't be intimated by making your own bread: Focaccia is an easy and forgiving recipe featuring a few simple ingredients, like yeast, flour, oil, and optional herbs. My favorite recipe, Decorated Focaccia Bread, uses just a splash of milk instead of sugar.

In a rush or have too many little hands wanting to help? Using store-bought or homemade pizza dough is a great substitute for the more traditional Italian bread.

Time To Get Creepy (in a Fun Way)

The possibilities are endless when creating hair-raising Halloween scenes, from gory goblins to perfect pumpkins. Let your inspiration (and your kitchen cabinets and fridge) guide you to making haunted scenes.

ingredients for decorating halloween focaccia yam slices, bell pepper, olives, mozzarella, tomato sauce
Credit: Jackie Freeman

A few of our favorite ingredients include:

  • Sweet potatoes (for pumpkins)
  • Mozzarella cheese (for ghosts, eyeballs, and moons)
  • Marinara sauce (for blood)
  • Olives (for spiders, eyes, and mouths)

It's also helpful to have a few tools on hand:

  • Small paring knife
  • Scissors
  • Pastry tips (for punching out small holes) (like this set: $20.00 at surlatable.com)
  • Halloween-inspired cookie cutters (like this set: $7.99 at amazon.com)

Assembling and Baking the Halloween Focaccia

  1. Oil an 11x17-inch baking sheet.
  2. Turn the dough out onto the prepared baking sheet. Gently spread and flatten dough to fit the entire sheet. Press your fingers into the dough to make light dimples over the entire surface. Let rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  3. Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  4. Decorate the unbaked focaccia with the Halloween scene of your own invention, or check out the ideas below for inspiration. (Note that sweet potato slices need a head start on cooking and should be prebaked at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 10 to 12 minutes before proceeding with the rest of the decorations.)
  5. Spray or brush all over with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with flaked sea salt.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and continue to bake until golden and bread springs back when gently pressed, about 20 more minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully slip out onto a cooling rack. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Halloween Focaccia Decoration Inspiration

Dia de los Muertos

focaccia decorated to look like traditional dia de los muertos mask
Credit: Jackie Freeman

Use a variety of ingredients to emulate the elaborate decorations often found on these traditional masks. Get creative and use whatever you have in your cupboard and fridge that is colorful and fun.

  • Start by shaping your dough into a rough skull shape.
  • Layer paper-thin prosciutto slices to make the "flesh." It might be a little-too close to looking like flayed skin, but they taste great and give your calavera (skull) some creepy-realness.
  • Use onion rings as eye and nose holes.
  • Sliced, slivered, or whole almonds make great teeth.
  • Sliced baby corn, black and green olives, tomatoes, bell peppers (fresh, roasted, or pickled) add color, flavor.
  • Bake following instructions above.

Pumpkin Patch

focaccia decorated like a pumpkin patch with sweet potato slices for pumpkins
Credit: Jackie Freeman

Much like in the beloved Halloween special, you can celebrate the Great Pumpkin in your very own bread pumpkin patch. Sweet potatoes* are the perfect pumpkin substitute with their orange color, round shape, and sweet flavor.

  • Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F.
  • Thinly slice your sweet potatoes into circles about ¼-inch thick (peeled or unpeeled — your choice) , then get creative.
  • Cut out eyes and mouths with pastry tips or a paring knife, or use a lemon zester (also called a channel knife) to create little lines on your pumpkins. After you cut out the sweet potato pumpkins, spray or brush them with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake them all on their own just until they're tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. They will continue to cook when you put them on the focaccia and bake it.
  • Use fresh herbs (like rosemary, thyme, oregano, or parsley) for the stems and leaves, and pumpkin seeds or pine nuts for the soil.
  • Top it off with a mozzarella moon and baby corn stars.
  • Bake following instructions above.

*Don't get tricked; follow this treat of a tip: Some sweet potatoes have very pale flesh and won't make convincing pumpkin cutouts. Make sure to buy sweet potatoes that are orange inside, like Jewel and Garnet varieties.

Happy Halloween

focaccia bread decorated with cheese ghosts, yam pumpkins, and black olive spiders
Credit: Jackie Freeman

Chock-full of your favorite Halloween creepers and crawlers, this decorated bread is a fun one to make with the kids (and is basically a pizza with all of your favorite toppings).

  • Brush your bread with plenty of blood (marinara sauce) or sprinkle it with olive oil and dead bugs (Italian seasoning).
  • Cut out mozzarella ghosts with a paring knife or ghost cookie cutter and use pastry tips to make little eyes from olives.
  • Use small balls of mozzarella, green olives, and marinara sauce to make blood-shot eyeballs.
  • Frankenstein faces come alive with bell peppers and olives.
  • Turn those same olives into creepy spiders crawling up chive (or string cheese) webs.
  • Bake following instructions above.

Too Cute to Eat?

If you're looking for a decorative landscape, these breads can be kept out at room temperature for several days. But, just like their gingerbread cousins, if you don't eat them fresh (the day of baking), it's best not to eat them at all (compost...meet my little friend...after a few days, that is).

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