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How to make French fougasse bread

Fougasse loaf with tomato and herb topping with a bunch of thyme

Fougasse is a flat bread from Provence in the south of France though it has its origins in the days of ancient Rome. French bakers in years gone by would pop the flat bread into the wood-fired oven to test the temperature before placing the bread in. The fougasse was the bakers snack. It’s traditional to eat it with cheese, olives, anchovies and bacon. You can also get sweet fougasse bread. How to make French fougasse bread with  sun-dried tomatoes and herbes de Provence…

Makes 1 large or 2 small fougasses

Active time: 20 minutes
Bulk fermentation: 2 hours
Resting: 30 minutes
Proofing: 1 hour
Cooking: 15–18 minutes

INGREDIENTS

⅔ cup (9 oz./160 g) water
1 tsp (0.2 oz./5 g) salt
2 cups (9 oz./250 g) bread or white whole wheat flour (T65–T80)
0.2 oz. (5 g) fresh yeast
2 tsp (5 g) dried herbs and/or spices (thyme, oregano, herbes de Provence, etc.)
2 tbsp (1 oz./30 g) extra-virgin olive
oil + 1 tbsp (0.5 oz./15 g) for brushing
1.75 oz. (50 g) pitted and coarsely chopped olives and/or thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes (optional)

Toppings (optional)

1.75 oz. (50 g) bacon, cut into thin strips (lardons)
Grated Emmental cheese

METHOD

Place the water, salt, and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Crumble in the yeast in very small pieces and add the herbs/spices. Knead for 5 minutes on speed 1, followed by 5–7 minutes on speed 2. About halfway through the 5–7 minutes, drizzle in the 2 tbsp (1 oz./30 g) olive oil with the mixer running. At the end of the kneading time, add the olives and/or sun-dried tomatoes, if using, and mix for 1 minute on speed 1, until well incorporated.

Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for 2 hours. Fold the dough twice during the rise time (bulk fermentation).

Meanwhile, if you’d like to top your fougasse with bacon, fry the bacon in a skillet until browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels and let cool completely before using.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. For two fougasses, divide the dough into two equal pieces using a bench scraper. Shape each piece into a bâtard (oval shape), cover with a damp towel, and let rest for 30 minutes (resting).

Shape and bake

Using the palm of your hand or a rolling pin, flatten the dough into one or two ovals with a thickness of about ¾ in. (2 cm). Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a bench scraper or a spatula, make several diagonal slits in the dough, cutting all the way through and making a pattern that resembles a palm leaf. Stretch the slits open with your fingers, making them wide so that they won’t close up during baking. Cover with a damp towel and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour (proofing).

If you’re adding toppings, brush the dough with water to moisten it and sprinkle with the bacon and/or cheese.

Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C/ Gas Mark 8).

When the dough passes the poke test* (see below), bake the fougasse(s) for 15–18 minutes, until golden. Slide onto a rack with the parchment paper underneath and brush with a little olive oil.

Serve warm or at room temperature

POKE TEST

If the proofing time is too short, the dough won’t build up enough CO2 to rise correctly during baking. Conversely, if the proofing time is too long, the gluten network weakens and the bread may fall during baking. Even professional bakers use the poke test to evaluate the dough’s resistance and determine when it is ready for the oven. Gently press your finger about ½ in. (1 cm) into the dough. If the dough is ready to bake, it will spring back slowly but retain a small indentation where you poked it. If no indentation forms, the dough is not ready. Leave it to proof a little longer. If the indentation doesn’t spring back at all, it’s too late—the dough is over-proofed.

Book jacket Upper Crust Homemade Bread the French WayExtract from Upper Crust: Homemade Bread the French Way, by renowned food writer Marie-Laure Fréchet. Published by Flammarion and available at Amazon, online and high street bookstores (where it can be ordered if it’s not in stock: ISBN 9782081517073). Step by step techniques to turn you into a successful bread maker, 100 recipes include delicious desserts and savoury specialities which feature bread. Plus French bread history and fascinating facts… 

More French bread recipes

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Goats cheese and honey sandwich – a taste of southern France

Croque Monsieur by Michel Roux Jr.

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