Fougasse

You see Fougasse all over France – It has a distinctive shape, and its name (if you give a monkeys) is derived from the Latin “Panic grasse focacius” which means “bread to be baked under the hearth”. Why am I telling you this? It’s not a history lesson. I’m telling you because the “panic” bit made me laugh, and you might panic when you make it, but just follow the below, and you’ll be fine. It’s a great crowd pleaser for when you have mates round for dinner. See? I even made the effort to take a “proper” shot of this – you can call me a genius later when you’ve made it. Yes, that is my kitchen floor, and yes, I will be eating them.

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Before we get to the recipe, you should know that this dough is “wetter” than your basic loaf recipe so it’s a little more sticky. Don’t worry though, follow the instructions and it’ll be fine, just flour your work surface lightly rather than oil it for the kneading process.

So, the recipe:

200 grams of leaven (you’ve got this amount because you’ve made sure you’ve added at least 100 g of flour and 100g of water and left it out of the fridge the day before)
400 grams strong white bread flour
250g water
25 g good olive oil
2 tsp (or 10 grams) of salt
some fine semolina
2 stiff pieces of cardboard – about 20 inches by 24 inches
large upturned metal baking tray or baking stone (or two metal trays if you have a normal sized oven)

weigh out the flour and salt and mix with a fork
stir the water and oil into the leaven and mix well. Start this by chopping through the leaven with a spoon – persevere, no whinging now.
dump the flour/salt mix into the water/leaven mix and combine – use a spoon or fork until you can’t see any dry flour left.

cover with a tea towel or cling wrap and leave for 10 minutes, it’ll look like this when you cover it

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clean then flour your work surface (do NOT under pain of torture, use anti-bacterial spray to clean with – think about it, you’ll potentially kill your wild yeast)
knead for 10 seconds (you know how to knead, watch the video on the basic recipe page)
cover and leave for 10 mins
knead again for 10 seconds
cover and leave for 10 mins
knead again and leave for 30 mins
knead again and leave for an hour
Put the oven on max – make sure your  tray ( or stone) is already in (if you have a normal sized oven you’ll need two shelves/trays)
Take your dough out of your bowl and form into a ball (remember how to do this from the basic recipe page)
Place on the work surface, cover with a tea towel and leave for 30 mins

clean your work surface (dont use antibacterial sprays of any kind)
make sure its dry then add a good sprinkling of flour

weigh the dough and split it into 4 equal pieces (yes yes, I know there are only three fougasse in the image at the top, you can do three or four, up to you), then form each into a ball. cover them all with a tea towel and leave for 10 mins.

taking one ball of dough, squash and pull it out into a rough triangle but try to keep the air in it as much as you can (yes, I said rough, stop laughing at my efforts)

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lightly dust one of your cards with semolina, then place the triangle on it. you must do this, don’t try to do the next bit on your work surface or you’ll probably have a disaster. Scrub that, you WILL make a balls up, so put it on your card the moment you’ve made your rough triangle. If you don’t do this, and you take the next steps, you’ll be in deep shit because you won’t be able to lift the dough onto the card without the holes closing up, or it tearing.

With a credit card or similar plastic card (actually don’t use a credit card, might bugger it up when you wash it), make a vertical cut by placing the card near the top of the triangle and just pressing right through the dough. Don’t use a cutting motion, it’ll drag the dough, just press the long edge of the card right through the surface, then pull the sides apart so you have a hole. Then do the same again underneath to make a longer hole, and pull apart. Look at the image below, this is what you’re aiming for

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The bottom cuts are made with the short end of the card – MAKE SURE you pull the dough apart, as it will want to close up once the heat of the oven gets to it and it expands. Don’t be scared about being a bit rough with it when you pull, it’s pretty resilient and you’ll feel it want to spring back. Now you’re ready to stick it in the oven, so open the door, give it a good spray with your water mister – watch this and you won’t balls it up

You can do each one on its own if you want but clearly it’ll take ages, and demonstrate that you have no balls, so the idea is that you put two fougasse on each card, then slide them in one card at a time, so two fougasse in at once. Just make sure that when you do the first one that they go to the back of the oven else you won’t get the other two it, and you’ll feel like a muppet. Just make sure that you slide both cards quickly, because if you fanny about your oven temp will rapidly drop, and your dough won’t expand in the same way.

Cook for 12-15 minutes on 240c or until the tops are golden brown. If you do what I did and do one big one and two small ones, then just wait 5 minutes after the first big one has gone in, then when the others go in, you can time for another 15 mins ish, and you’ll be fine.

Take out, allow to cool
Impress your friends, and devour

You can do variations of this using different types of flour. So using the strong white as a “base”, instead of 400 grams of white you could do 300 of white, and 100 of mix grain flour, or rye flour (get that in health shops) or wholemeal – upto you, as long as you keep the main weighting towards the white.

If you want to impress your mates (you do have mates, right? You’re not sitting there rocking back and forth whilst watching re-runs of “Pyscho”, are you?) part bake them for about 8 minutes, then take them out, let them cool and bag-up then freeze. When you want to cook them, pre-heat the oven to 200 and stick them in for about 15-20 mins straight from the freezer – just bear in mind that ovens and their temps vary, so don’t moan to me if it’s still frozen in the middle when you take it out.

See those holes in the “crumb” of the bread below? That’s your leaven at work. Looks a bit like one of those Rorschack (can’t remember the correct spelling) diagrams. Hm, a psychiatrist would have a field day with me, my first thought was “it’s a fanny”

split

The recipe above is my own (get me), and as it has oil in it, your fougasse will keep for a day or 3, but to get them at their best, eat them when the crust is crunchy, don’t leave it three days or they’ll be soft. Of course, you can always stick them in a hot oven for 5 mins and this will “refresh” the crunchy crust. So now you’ve made fougasse, and you are a fully fledged bread god. Give yourself a big glass of wine, and feel smug.

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