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Fougasse is a kind of flatbread, French style. If you are a novice to bread making, this is relatively simple but impressive bread to make. It’s ideal for breaking off by hand and dipping into olive oil, dips or to eat with soup. I also made a few rolls, with the same dough as this dough is very versatile.
The fougasse is also excellent eaten on its own, especially when made with robust add-ins like olives or sundried tomatoes. My favourite variations are:
Green olives (black olives can be harder to use as they colour the dough too much if over-mixed)
Finely chopped red onion
Fennel seeds and some finely chopped figs
Mixed fresh herbs
The combinations are endless and it depends on what ingredients you have handy. In this one, I have combined onions and olives.
The dough can be easily made by hand or in a stand mixer. Either way, add the flavouring ingredients by hand at the end, as it’s much easier. If using hands to knead the dough, remember to wet your hands before handling the dough. That’s the way best way of ensuring that the dough doesn’t adhere to your hands. It’s much better than using flour.
The recipe can be made without the pre-ferment, but if you have time do make the pre-ferment the day before, do make it. It does significantly improve the taste and texture of the finished bread. If not, skip the pre-ferment step and mix all the ingredients (including the quantities of flour and water from the pre-ferment portion of the recipe) and proceed.
Make the pre-ferment a day in advance. Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl to form a dough. Knead until the dough comes together and transfer to a lightly oiled container. Cover tightly and leave overnight at room temperature (20-25C; not in the fridge) to ferment, at least 12–16 hours.
Next day - To make the dough by hand: Uncover the bowl with the pre-ferment and add all the remaining ingredients for the dough (except the onions / olives). Stir with a plastic dough scraper or a large spoon until it comes together and looks like a shaggy dough. Tip dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10–15 minutes, resting or 1 minute every 2–3 minutes, until it feels smooth and elastic. Use the “slap and fold” technique as shown in the” Cheese onion & bacon rolls” recipe.
If using a stand mixer – use the dough hook and combine all the ingredients with the pre-ferment (except the onions/olives) and knead on medium speed for 6-8 minutes until the dough looks smooth and elastic.
With either method, stretch a piece of dough to see if you can form a thin film without breaking (the windowpane test). If the dough breaks, knead some more.
Once this is done, transfer the dough onto a floured counter and flatten it lightly. Add the onions or olives on top and then bring in the edges to enclose.
Use the slap and fold technique to incorporate the onions/olives into the dough. The dough might appear sticky at first, but this will disappear with time.
Place the dough back into the mixing bowl and cover tightly. Leave in a warmish place (23–25C) for 1 hour. After this give the dough a “turn and fold” in the bowl by folding it back onto itself by brining in the corners to the centre. Cover again and leave for 30 minutes.
After the rest, the dough should be well-risen.
To shape the bread: See shaping video by Richard Bertinet’s baking school, (link above).
Transfer dough out onto a work surface sprinkled with some fine semolina. Pat it out lightly and using a dough scraper, cut dough into 4 equal portions. Gently and loosely mould each dough piece into a tear shape. Lay the pieces back on the floured work surface, cover with a tea cloth or cling film, and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to its highest setting (usually 250C).
After ten minutes, using the palm of your hand, flatten each dough piece on the floured work surface, keeping the tear shape, to approximately ½” thick. With a sharp knife or dough scraper, make one cut down the centre of the dough making sure you don’t go right to the edges of the dough, but cut all the way through the dough to your work surface. Then make a few diagonal cuts down each side of the central cut. Put your fingers into the slits and gently open them out to form holes to resemble a leaf.
Cut 2 pieces of baking parchment to fit 2 baking trays. Place 2 fougasse on each baking parchment. Pull apart and adjust the cuts to ensure they remain open. Allow about 2-3”gap between each dough piece. Cover baking trays with a tea cloth and leave in a warm place to prove for 10-15 minutes.
Place baking trays in a preheated and use a spray bottle to spray the inside of the oven about 10 times before shutting the door quickly. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 200°C. If necessary, rotate trays, and bake for a further 8–10 minutes, until the fougasse is golden brown.
Remove from oven and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
Left over fougasse freezes well. Defrost and reheat or reheat from frozen in a hot oven for 5-8 minutes for perfectly good fougasse anytime!