The first time I chanced upon a fougasse, was at a boulangerie in Paris. I found them hanging off a rod, just above a basket. I couldn’t get my eyes off them! That leafy structure immediately caught my attention and I had to try it. I sat by the Siene and devoured this crusty, earthy bread with some herbed butter and a piping hot cup of coffee. There is something so deeply satisfying about a hearty loaf of bread. The sound of a crunchy crust!The smell that envelops you! Biting into that crusty exterior and soft moist interior, is one of the most soulful experiences ever. One of my favourite things to do, when I am in Paris, is to feast on the spectacular spread of bread that the French are so proud of. The bread culture in France is something that I could very well get used to. As soon as you walk into a traditional boulangerie, you are greeted with the most divine scent of rustic delicious baked bread. My eyes sparkle with wonder! There are baskets oozing with bread, in all shapes and sizes. Baguettes standing tall and proud, sourdough bread showing off their large holes, croissants with their honeycomb structure and various laminated pastries! Its a gluten lovers paradise!
Fougasse is the humble cousin of the highly popular and delectable Italian focaccia. It is crusty all over and enjoyed with a warm bowl of your favourite soup, some herbed butter or dunked into the classic balsamic and extra virgin olive oil. It originated in the South of France in Provençe. This large bread is usually shaped into a leaf or a wheat sheaf. Traditionally this was the bread that bakers tested their oven temperature with. It is baked in a wood fired oven, under the coals of the hearth. Earthy, crusty and heavenly!The classical fougasse is made with olives and herbs de provençe. Other fillings also include bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, caramalised onions, walnuts and cheese!. It is leavened with either a pâte fermentée or a sourdough levain. I made mine with a Pâte Fermentée ( Pre-ferment).
Bread flour – 140g
Water – 91g
Salt – 2g
Instant Yeast-a pinch
Bread flour – 310g
Whole wheat flour- 50g
Olive oil – 25g
Black Olives – 40g
Thyme – a bunch, finely chopped
Rosmary- a bunch, finely chopped
Mix the yeast in the water, add the flour and salt and mix well together. Cover the bowl with a cling film and let it rest for 8 hrs at 28 C (82 F). It will take longer at cooler temperatures. It will take around 12 hrs at 21C (70 F). When ready it forms a dome, just beginning to fall in the centre.
This can be done either by hand or in a stand mixer. By hand first mix the flour, water and yeast. Once it comes together, add in the pâte fermentée and knead well. Add in the salt and olive oil. Keep kneading till you get a smooth dough with a windowpane (Take a small piece of the dough and stretch it as thin as you can. If it stretches. well, like a window pane, without tearing, it is ready). Add the olives and chopped herbs.
In a stand mixer, add the flour, yeast and water and mix on a low speed for 3 mins. ( reserve a little water as different flours absorb different amounts, add gradually). Add in the pâte fermentée in parts and keep kneading, add water as necessary to get a medium dough consistency. Mix in the olive oil and salt and mix on medium speed till you get a windowpane, approximately another 3 mins. Mix in the olives and chopped herbs at slow speed so that they don’t get mashed.
Empty the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a wet cloth or clingfilm. Leave it out at room temp, for bulk fermentation, till double. Takes around 1 hr at 28 C. It would take longer at colder temperatures.
Divide and Shape
Punch down and divide the dough into 2 pieces for a larger size or 4 for smaller sized bread. On a parchment paper or silpat, use a rolling pin and flatten into an oval shape with one pointed end. Cover with a cling wrap and let it rise till about double. Approximately 1/2 hr at 28C.
Preheat the oven at 230 C (450F).
Once risen, we do the final shaping. Stretch the dough into a long leaf shape. Use a knife or a pizza cutter and cut one long central cut. Add cuts diagonally to the sides to create a leaf or wheat sheaf. Stretch the dough a little so that the cuts open well. Sprinkle sea salt over it.
Put into the oven on a hot tray or preheated pizza stone. Steam the oven with ice cubes in a tray at the base, or use the steaming option in your oven. Bake for roughly 20 mins or so till the bread is crusty and light brown. Brush generously with olive oil.
Perfect for a dinner with friends or to indulge with your family. It teams very well with some olive oil and balsamic, some flavoured butter and a glass of wine. Or lovely to dunk in to a nice generous bowl of piping hot soup! Warm and crusty deliciousness!!!