The Focaccia Flourist Makes the Prettiest Hudson Valley Breads

Photo courtesy of The Focaccia Flourist

This Wallkill-based home baker combines her love of flowers and focaccia to fashion breads that are almost too beautiful to eat.

Ashley Napoli’s foray into focaccia began because of mom guilt. The 33-year-old mother of two children, ages six and eight, focused on feeding her kids healthy, natural foods, but she didn’t often make their meals herself. “I woke up one morning and I felt ashamed that I wasn’t making more homemade stuff,” admits Napoli, whose husband Ian, barber and owner of Horse and Lion Barber Co. in Beacon, did most of the cooking. “I was interested in the science behind bread baking, though, so I decided to try making sourdough.”

Ashley Napoli bread
Courtesy of The Focaccia Flourist

At first, Napoli began by nurturing her starter, trying out new recipes, and crossing her fingers that the result would resemble a loaf of bread. She soon discovered she had a knack for focaccia; its pillowy, flat top lends itself well to an artistic touch. “I really like edible flowers and drying flowers, which led me to carving up vegetables to look like flowers on my bread,” says Napoli, who uses eggplant, which doesn’t shrink when baked, to create everything from animals to landscapes. She began posting her breads on Instagram and was amazed when people began asking how they could order one.

 

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Napoli branded herself as The Focaccia Flourist and began selling her custom loaves, as well as more traditional focaccia (with toppings such as rosemary, tomato, and garlic) out of an antique flower cart at The Beacon Farmers Market and at her husband’s shop.

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She also started teaching private baking classes in clients’ homes, which led to classes at Watergrass Hill, a bed and breakfast in New Paltz, and hosting focaccia wine pairings at Whitecliff Winery in Gardiner. Last fall, she started teaching “Rising Blooms” at the Wildflower Farms resort in Gardiner. “I love teaching at Wildflower because I get to meet so many amazing people from all over,” says Napoli.

Ashley Napoli egg skillet
Courtesy of The Focaccia Flourist

She’ll continue teaching at Wildflower this year, incorporating edible flowers from their garden, in addition to offering private in-home events. You can also find her at the Beacon Farmers Market, and she’s still taking orders for custom focaccia. “I’ve always loved working with my hands, and always wanted to do something on my own,” says Napoli. Her best advice to novice bread bakers: “Be patient. You have to treat sourdough starter like a living being. It will work—don’t give up!”

Related: This Spiced Pear Cake Is the Sweetest Winter Weekend Baking Project

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