Here is one of my favorite bread recipes….fougasse. Fougasse is actually made with a focaccia bread recipe. A specialty of southern France and Italy, flavor this focaccia bread dough with herbs and shape into the traditional tear-drop leaf shape. Refrigerating the dough overnite gives the dough its chewy country texture – and makes it easier for you to make and serve hot to your guests without having to spend the whole day making the dough! Serve with olive oil, a good quality balsamic vinegar and grated Parmesan cheese for dipping. This is a great bread to serve with a hearty winter soup or stew!
- 2 1/2 cups warm water (about 105 to 110 degrees)
- 2 tablespoons dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- approximately 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh herbs (such as basil, sage, oregano, tarragon)
- or -
- 2 tablespoons dried herbs
- olive oil for brushing the bread
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- coarse sea salt, for topping
- a spray bottle filled with water
To prepare the dough
Whisk 1/2 cup of the warm water and sugar (or honey) a small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside until the mixture becomes foamy – about 6 to 8 minutes. The mixture will rise so make sure your bowl or cup is large enough to accommodate it. It is important to have the water at the correct temperature. If the water is too hot, the yeast will be killed. If the water is too cool, it won’t be warm enough to activate the yeast. Use an instant read thermometer to make sure the water is between 105 and 110 degrees).
Put 5 cups of the flour in the bowl of a mixer fitter with a dough hook. Add the salt and fresh (or dry) herbs. Have the additional 2 cups of warm water and 1/4 cup olive oil ready.
Add the proofed yeast/water mixture to the flour. Place mixer on a low speed and slowly add the 2 cups of water and the oil. The dough will be very wet. Slowly add the additional flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough just comes together in a ball (see photo). The dough needs to be fairly sticky but not wet. You may not need all of the flour.
The first rising
Remove dough from the mixer. Place on a lightly floured work area and knead for several minutes. If the dough is too sticky, you can use this process to knead in just enough flour to make the dough tacky but not wet. Remember, it is always easier to add more flour than to add more water!
The second rising and refrigeration of dough
Place the dough in a bowl which has been lightly oiled with olive oil or sprayed with non-stick food spray (such as PAM). Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
Take dough out of the bowl and knead again on a lightly floured surface. Place dough back into the bowl and cover tightly with new plastic wrap. Again, place in a warm area and let rise until doubled in bulk.
When doubled, take dough out and knead again. Place back in the bowl (re-oil if necessary) and cover with plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and let sit overnight.
The multiple risings and subsequent refrigerated rising helps give this dough a chewy, country bread texture.
When ready to make the bread, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and dust it lightly with cornmeal.
Knead the dough for a minute or two and shape into a ball. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a long oval, slightly larger on one end than the other. The dough should look like an elongated tear-drop.
To shape the dough
Using a single-edge razor blade, sharp knife or kitchen scissors, cut 3 vertical slashes in a line down the middle of the bread. With these asw your guide, cut 3 slanted cuts in a line down the center of the teardrop. Work with your fingers to separate the slashes and to slightly “open” the cuts in the middle of the bread. The bread should now have the shape of a leaf.
Let the bread “rest” for 10 minutes before placing in the preheated oven.
To bake the bread
Place the bread in the middle rack of your pre-heated oven. Using the water bottle, spray the inside of the oven with two good sprays. Do not spray directly on the bread, rather spray above and below the bread to create a “steam oven.”
Repeat the water spraying two more times during the baking process. The bread will take between 15 and 18 minutes or until golden brown. Midway through baking, turn the baking sheet the bread browns evenly.
Remove the bread from the oven when golden. Again, lightly brush the bread with additional olvie oil. Let rest for about 20 minutes before serving.