I'll be the first to admit that my last post, a showstopper croquembouche, was on the complicated side. This time I'm simplifying things with an herb fougasse: less complex but equally as satisfying, especially for summer nights with friends or a BBQ potluck.
Let's talk about bread
Scenario one: it's summer and you're growing lettuce in your garden. Said lettuce needs to be eaten, and you decide to take a salad to work for lunch. You feel healthy and happy with yourself. It's a fresh, cheap, and easy meal. But 4pm rolls around and you're starving and all you want are carbs. As much bread as possible, with all of the butter you can possibly find in your fridge slathered over it (there is a lot of butter in my fridge).
Cue this herb fougasse. This will satisfy any bread craving, and you should eat it for dinner. It's even better with white wine and cheese or dipped in olive oil. The salad fiasco will inevitably lead to mass consumption of bread, but it doesn't really matter because bread is delicious and because you feel quite sophisticated and French with your wine and cheese pairings.
The fougasse, similar in crumb to a focaccia, originates from Provence in France. It is light and flavourful, and making it is reminiscent of making pizza dough. It's a great tear and share with your friends type bread that is both crunchy and chewy. There won't be any leftovers, so no need to concern yourself with storage. It's quick to make. And despite its simplicity, the beauty of this bread will wow your friends. You will most certainly be the guest of honour at any event with this contribution.
The recipe below will yield two fougasse leaves and can be done in under two hours. It is best made right before you want to eat it and won't store that well, so make sure you're hungry. The recipe is also easily halved if you prefer to make just one leaf. You can also experiment with shaping and opt for different patterns than the leaf.
Adapted from BBC Food
Total active time: 30 minutes
Total time before consumption: 2 hours
Servings: 2 fougasse leaves
500g bread flour
10g instant yeast
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing and drizzling
350ml warm water
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano, for sprinkling
semolina or flour for dusting
sea salt (I use Maldon sea salt)
Tools & equipment
parchment paper or silicone mats
pizza cutter, optional
stand mixer, optional
two baking sheets
Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone, and lightly grease a large bowl with olive oil.
Chop rosemary, sage, and thyme, combine in a bowl, and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment in place, add the flour. Add the salt to one side of the bowl.
Add the yeast to the other side of the bowl, away from the salt.
Heat the water on the stove until the temperature is between 120ºF – 130ºF (this is the optimal temperature range to activate instant yeast).
Add the olive oil and three-quarters of the water to the flour mixture and begin mixing on low speed.
If the dough is still dry, add the rest of the water. You may not need all of the water. You’re looking for the dough to become sticky and elastic.
Increase the speed to medium and knead for 8 minutes. At the end of 8 minutes, the dough will be sticky and elastic.
Add the fresh herbs and mix on low for 1 minute, until the herbs are evenly distributed in the dough.
Place the dough in the oiled bowl and let rise for one hour or until doubled in size. Oil your hands to make handling the dough a little easier!
Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
Mix some bread flour and semolina and use to dust your work surface. I don’t usually have semolina on hand, so I just dust with flour.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place on your work surface. Divide in half. I use a scale for precision here.
Place each dough onto a baking sheet and spread out into a flat oval by rolling, pressing, and pulling as you see fit. Because of the elasticity of the dough, this will take some persistence.
Use a pizza cutter or a knife to score the dough with two lines down the middle length-wise and six lines along the sides, width-wise. Try stretching out the dough at the cuts to emphasize the holes, which will prevent them from closing over during the bake.
Prove the leaves in a warm place for 20 minutes.
Drizzle olive oil on top of each loaf and sprinkle with dried oregano and sea salt.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the bottoms are hollow when tapped.
Remove from oven and while still hot, drizzle with more olive oil.
Let cool as long as you can resist.
Tear and enjoy.
Fougasse is best the day it is baked. To enjoy the next day, wrap in plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight. Crisp it up in the oven at 300ºF for 10-15 minutes.
*Special shout out The Urban Lumberjack for this awesome personalized cutting board*