About a week ago I decided to try my hand at the French classic La Fougasse and so my search began for an authentic and tasty version of this holey bread
In Roman times, the Fougasse bread was a flatbread used to test the temperature of a wood fired oven to see if it was ready for the more temperamental sourdough breads of the time. This then developed into an admired and leavened bread in its own right. As many villages only had one oven, the slashes were a way for different families to identify their loaves.
Back to the search……
My first port of call, the classic cookery bible La Rousse Gastronomique lists Fougasse not as a savoury bread but a sweet dough cake made as one of the 13 desserts of christmas in Provence. This dough cake could be shaped into a ball, loaf or couronne.
Other recipes seemed to take any old dough, put a few slashes in it and call it a Fougasse. Sizes ranged from very flat to the thickness of a sandwich roll. Needless to say I discovered there is no real “classic” version of this bread.
I’m no expert but for me a Fougasse should have 4 qualities
- Flatness – It is a flatbread after all
- Crunchy crust – Crust equals flavour
- Chewy interior – Contrasting texture
- Slashes – Lets be honest they look pretty
So here’s my version of the “classic” La Fougasse
WHAT YOU KNEAD…
250g strong white flour – Plain flour simply won’t do, not enough gluten
170ml room temperature water
5g dry active yeast (fast action)
5g sea salt
Splash of olive oil (For kneading)
1 tsp dried herbs
Handful olives (with stones removed)
HOW YOU KNEAD…
In a large bowl combine the yeast, flour and salt, try not to add the salt directly on top of the yeast as this retards it. Mix well.
Create a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add in half the water and combine in. Slowly add in the rest of the water until you have a sticky but formed dough. Flours have different absorption rates, so you may not need all the water, this is why we add in the water bit by bit.
Transfer the dough onto an oiled surface and knead for about 10-15 minutes until you get a smooth elastic dough. Using oil rather than flour to knead helps to keep the texture of your dough unchanged. Your dough is ready once it stops sticking to your hands and you can give it a good stretch. Try the classic windowpane test.
Form the dough into a ball and put into a clean oiled bowl to prove until it is double in size, this takes roughly an hour but could take longer depending on the temperature of your room.
I love to prove my dough in my Le Creuset casserole dish, it really holds in the heat that the yeast generates so you get a good rise.
Once your dough has doubled in size add the olives and herbs in and fold into the dough. This knocks the air out.
Tip the dough onto a baking tray lightly dusted with flour and polenta. Using your fingers stretch the dough out into a rectangular shape. Don’t be afraid to stretch it too thin. Your dough is elastic and will spring back into itself.
Dust the top of the dough with more Polenta, this adds a nice crunch once baked. Using a sharp knife or dough scraper get creative and slash the dough in whatever pattern you fancy and use your fingers to spread it out some more. Just make sure you don’t slash it all the way to the corners.
Cover the dough with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes. In the meantime preheat your oven to 220C, place an empty baking tray on the bottom shelf and boil some water. To check if your dough is ready to be baked, poke it with your forefinger, if it springs back then you’re ready, otherwise leave for another 15 minutes.
Pour the boiled water into the heated tray, this creates steam which gives the bread a beautiful crust. Put your dough in and bake for 18 – 20 mins depending on your oven.
Your bread should come our beautifully browned with a nice hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.
There you have it! A “classic” Fougasse.
All you have to do is tear and share, no bread knives allowed!
Until next time kitchens…..