According to the unimpeachable source that is Wikipedia (snarky, me…why ever would you think so….?), “fougasse” is defined as follows: “In French cuisine, fougasse is a type of bread typically associated with Provence but found (with variations) in other regions. Some versions are sculpted or slashed into a pattern resembling an ear of wheat”.
Well. Aren’t you glad you asked? I know *I* sure am.
What that definition, accurate though it may be (technically) doesn’t tell you is that fougasse is damn tasty, and damn easy to make, even if the recipe tells you the dough is going to be more of a batter than a dough, and will be very soft and sticky and stretchy and clingy (sort of like a couple of dogs I know, well, the soft and clingy part at least….) and you’ll have a hard time shaping it into anything that resembles a loaf of flatbread that has a “pattern resembling an ear of wheat”.
Phew. I even lost my self there in that ramble. Sorry about that.
All that was my attempt to explain why it took me so damn long to make this recipe (I’d originally clipped a version of it from the November 2009 "Bon Appétit"). The recipe, by Dorie Greenspan, whom I love, read as though you needed to be a Ph.D. in bread baking to make the thing. And I’m not, not by a long shot. But it sounded SOOOOOOO GOOD ! I mean, black olives, rosemary and a hint of orange zest, in a crispy, yeasty flatbread. Sounds like seriously good eats to me. And so the recipe kept calling to me, and calling to me, and calling to me, and finally I broke down and decided to give it a try.
What’s the worst that could happen? I waste a morning in the little kitchen and some ingredients. Nothing I’ve not done before on manys an occasion (ohhhhhh, you’ll be seeing a real splendid failure coming up in the near future. It was a doozy.) And if it worked….well, I’d have a nice loaf of bread to nibble on, and that’s always a plus.
And, like most things that I’ve “pulled on my big girl pants” to try recently, it wasn’t all that hard. And it wasn’t that difficult (at all) to make a pretty respectably shaped and slashed fougasse.
One that had a flavor that was out of this world.
So, as usual, we’ll do the step-by-step of the critical parts, and then I’ll give you the recipes. Yes, recipes. Although I made the olive/rosemary/orange version, the one I’d originally clipped from that old "Bon Appétit", with sun-dried tomatoes instead of the orange, sounds just delicious also, and I’ll be trying that version very soon.
First up, the class photo:
That’s all purpose flour, olive oil, an orange, some oil-cured black olives, dried rosemary, yeast and sugar. Not shown is a hit of salt, and some water. Key players, but you knew that, didn’t you?
Before we do anything to actually make any kind of doughy thing, I prepped the flavoring ingredients. Pit and coarsely chop the olives. Grate the zest off of half of an orange, preferably using a Microplane (another indispensable kitchen tool) and mince the rosemary.
Now. I didn’t happen to have fresh rosemary that day, so I used dry, and that don’t mince too good. So I took my mortar and pestle, and ground it up a bit. Fresh, would, I’m sure, be better, but the dry worked fine.
Oh, and you *DO* know that if you're going to eat/drink anything that has citrus zest in it, you should wash the fruit before you remove the zest, don't you? A run under warm water will suffice.
The easiest way to pit the olives, by the way, unless you have a fancy-schmancy, hippty-dippty olive pitter is to take the broad side of your chef’s knife, lay it flat on the olive, and gently push down. Be careful of the edge ! The olive will split slightly, and you can easily pull the pit out.
Here’s the prepped savory stuff:
Then you want to take some lukewarm water, and sprinkle in the yeast and sugar. Stir them in with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Let the mix stand for about 5 minutes, and even with instant yeast like I used, you’ll see some noticeable bubbling and the solution will start to look a bit creamy.
At that point, add in the rest of the water and some olive oil.
In the bowl of your KitchenAid, dump in the flour and salt, and stir them around to distribute the salt. Pour in the yeasty water, attach the dough hook and mix on medium/low for about 2 minutes. We’ve all seen this, no need for pics, move along people, just move along.
When the flour is thoroughly wet, turn up the speed to medium, and knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. Now…both versions of the recipe say the dough will be “batter-like” and will “pool in the bottom of the bowl”. Mine didn’t. As a matter of fact, my dough was initially so dry, I added drizzles of additional water to soften it up. But it sure never was “batter-like”. I assume that I needed more water because the humidity the day I made this was really low, as it usually is in my neck of the woods (and when it’s high, I SURE ain’t makin’ bread...or doing much of anything else). So, use your judgment. You do want a soft, fairly slack dough. You may need more water to get there. And if your flour has lower protein content than mine did, or your area is more humid, you may achieve “batter-like”. Just don’t freak if you don’t, it’ll be fine.
Add in the chopped olives, the minced rosemary and the grated zest. Let the dough hook work that in for a couple of minutes, but it won’t be able to get the olives thoroughly distributed. You will have to do that by hand with a sturdy spoon or a heavy-duty spatula.
When you’re done, it should be something like this….
I did some hand kneading as well, folding in any olives that were trying to escape, to be sure they were well integrated.
Then plop the dough into an oiled bowl (or your doubler), turn it around to oil all the sides of the dough and cover with plastic wrap. Let it stand in a warm place until it doubles. That’ll take an hour or two. Gently deflate the dough, cover it again, and stash it in your fridge for at least 6 hours, or overnight. I actually kept mine for 2 days, and the recipe says you can go up to 3 days with no harm. It may hit the top of the bowl, if it does, just gently deflate it again, cover and let go until you’re ready for it.
The day you want to bake it, line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat. Take the dough from the fridge, it’ll be nice and puffy.
If you’re making the full recipe (which, of course, I didn’t), divide the dough in two. Lightly flour your board and a rolling pin. Roll and stretch the dough into a rectangle that’s about 12 inches long
by 8 or 9 inches wide.
Put the dough rectangle on your prepped baking sheet, and cut about 4 slashes, each about 2 inches long, on each long side of the rectangle, at a slight angle.
Use a really sharp, small knife, a single-edge razor blade or Xacto knife. A small paring knife worked for me. Cut another slash vertically near the top.
Using your fingers, gently nudge open the slashes until the holes are about an inch wide. You can try to stretch the dough into a bit of a leaf shape that tapers at the top, but that was a little outside my skill set. I was just happy my slashes didn’t tear !
Take a clean kitchen towel and cover the dough for about 15 or 20 minutes to let it relax.
Then, take a fork and prick the dough all over. That’ll help keep it from rising too much in the oven, remember fougasse is a flatbread.
Then take some more olive oil and water and mix together. Paint that all over the surface of the bread, and sprinkle with kosher or other, coarse salt.
Slide into the oven, bake to the ubiquitous golden brown and delicious, and then let cool and eat.
This bread really is best the day it’s made, but it’s acceptable the next day, and really lovely with a bit of good cheese or salumi in between two small chunks.
Enjoy. Here’s the recipe/proportions (with the swap out of the sun-dried tomatoes).
Provençal Olive Fougasse
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan Around My French Table and "Bon Appétit", November 2009
Makes 2 flatbreads, each serving 6
1&2/3C plus 2 teaspoons lukewarm water, divided use
1&3/4 teaspoons yeast (active dry or instant)
1 teaspoon sugar
5&1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
4C all purpose flour
1&1/4 teaspoons salt
1C oil-cured black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
Grated zest of one lemon or 1/2 an orange –OR—1/2C drained, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped, with 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
Kosher or other coarse salt for sprinkling
Pour 2/3 cup warm water into a measuring cup and sprinkle in the yeast and sugar. Stir, and let sit for about 5 minutes. The mixture should bubble and look creamy. Then add 1 more cup water and 4&1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Put the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to combine. Pour in the yeast solution, attach the dough hook and beat at medium/low speed until the flour is thoroughly moistened, about 2 minutes. Turn up the speed to medium, and knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough clears the side of the bowl. The dough will be very soft and sticky (and could be batter-like). It may pool at the bottom of the bowl, or may not. Adjust water in tiny drizzles if needed (or add flour by teaspoons-full if the dough is too wet) to get a soft, rather slack dough.
Mix in the olives, rosemary and zest (or olives, rosemary, tomatoes and zest). Beat another couple of minutes with the hook, and finish mixing in the olives by hand, either with a sturdy spoon or by kneading.
Lightly oil a bowl or doubler, and scrape the dough into it. Oil the top of the dough, then oil a piece of plastic wrap. Cover the dough and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled, about one or two hours.
Gently stir down the dough, cover again, and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or up to 3 days. If it starts to overflow the bowl before you’re ready to bake it, just gently stir it down again.
Preheat the oven to 450° and place racks to divide the oven into thirds. If making only one loaf, bake it on the middle rack.
Remove the dough from the fridge, stir it down and divide in half. Turn one piece of the dough onto a lightly floured surface, flour the top and roll out into a roughly 12x9-inch rectangle. Lift the dough to make sure it’s not sticking to the board. Keep the second piece of dough covered while you’re shaping the first one.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or a Silpat. When the dough is rolled out, transfer to a prepped baking sheet. Using a sharp blade, make 4, slightly angled slashes, each about 2 inches long, on each long side of the dough. Then make another slash, about 2 inches long, at the top. You want the slashes to resemble veins on a leaf. Using your fingers, gently tug and stretch the slashes open until they’re about 1-inch wide. As you go, try to stretch the top a bit so the shape tapers toward the top, as a leaf would.
Repeat with the second piece of dough on a second baking sheet.
Cover the doughs with clean towels and let rest for 15 or 20 minutes.
Mix the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining 2 teaspoons of water together. Dock the dough all over with a fork, and brush the oil/water mixture over the top of the fougasse. Sprinkle with the coarse salt.
Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back, and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the bread is golden. It won’t ever get too dark. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for at least 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
If it's bread (or made with yeast), the cool place to be is Yeastspotting !
If it's bread (or made with yeast), the cool place to be is Yeastspotting !