Meatless Monday with Elena and Katherine: The Secret Garden Foccacia

| April 29, 2024

The Backstory

We’ve been roommates since freshman year and still live together. We both happened to apply to the library’s Special Collections First-Year Fellows program, and by some stroke of fate both got into the program. After the fellowship, we both continued to work together in that department, and to bake many things within our lovely home.

Given that we work at Special Collections and live together, it felt only natural to enter the Edible Books Festival as a team. We both love the  festival and think that it is such a wonderful opportunity to connect the JHU community with books and the library, so we have made it a pact to enter each year. Last year we entered the contest with a cream puff tower version of Mount Purgatory, and since that attempt at victory was unsuccessful, we knew we had to try once more.

We actually had two 2024 entries, a Hamlet skull cake and The Secret Garden Foccacia, the latter of which won First Place in the Best Vegan category. The Secret Garden was one of Elena’s favorite books growing up, and she has many little plants and flowers growing in our apartment, so it seems like a great choice.

Seeing all the entries and having people be so genuinely happy eating and engaging with books always makes us particularly happy. Also, the cattle-sized ribbons at a college library event were phenomenal.

Focaccia bread decorated with floral designs made out of vegetables sits on a table. Near it there is a small sign that says "The Secret Garden" and a second sign that says "Scan Now to Vote."
Our floral foccacia was easy to make, beautiful to look at, and delicious to eat.
Elena and Katherine smile at the Edible Books Festival awards ceremony, holding armfuls of prizes include an enormous green prize ribbon.
Victory is ours.

The Recipe

Elena makes foccacia often, and given the enormous amount of commitments we both have, we wanted to opt for a less time-intensive recipe than the cream puffs. At the time of Edible Book Festival, Katherine was in tech week for the title role in Galileo and Elena was working on a research paper and presentation for Greco-Roman lamps at Deir el-Medina, so between the two of us, we did not have many hours. The focaccia is a pretty simple break and we had all our ingredients already, so we picked it opted to decorate it with floral patterns.

Neither of us is vegan nor vegetarian, but we end up eating a lot of plant-based foods naturally. We cook all our meals at home so sometimes we will eat rice and eggplant or chickpeas, or vegan soups. It’s not intentional; it’s just a side effect of cooking on a budget. We think they taste great, so no complains from us.


  • 500g white flour
  • 450 ml of warm water
  • 7g of active dry yeast
  • 10g of salt
  • olive oil
  • Assorted vegetables for decoration


  1. I mix all the ingredients until a sort of wet dough forms and leave it to rest for half an hour.
  2. Then I preform stretch and fold (aka knead) the dough to strengthen the gluten content.
  3. Let it rest until it has doubled in size. That will take 45 minutes to an hour; it depends on the temperature.
  4. Drizzle half the oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer the dough to the sheet. Drizzle the dough with the rest of the oil.
  5. Stretch the dough until it fills the sheet and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  6. Dimple the dough and decorate as you wish with sliced and chopped vegetables.
  7. Stick it in the oven at 350 degrees F until golden brown, anywhere between 25 to 40 minutes.