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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fougasse Bread

This bread finds it's roots all the way back in Rome, where is was called "Panis Focacius". You would say that by the name, this is "Focaccia", and not Fougasse. Well it depends where you are from, and which variation adapted from the ancient recipe you are following. In ancient times, it was a flat bread which was baked directly in the ashes of the hearth. From there, the Spanish have called the bread "hogaza", the Italians "focaccia" and the people of Provence, "fougasse". And this brings us to today's recipe and the French version of this bread.

The French version, known as fougasse, usually contains an additive to the basic bread dough, commonly seen as olives, cheeses and herbs. In it's early days, a wood fire oven's temperature could be assessed by putting a loaf of fougasse in the hearth. Depending on the time it would take to bake, they could tell if it was appropriate of not to slide in the rest of the breads. Since those times, many many variations of the fougasse has serviced. Some fougasse are found with being a flat bread, in the shape of a large leaf (see below), or some to a more oval loaf with a filling and scoring on top. Many combinations of toppings and filings have been created to create more of a pizza type of bread. Some of these include; red peppers, caramelized onions, multiple cheeses and of course lardons.

In the following recipe, the fougasse contains black olives and a blend of dried Provence Herbs. Here's the recipe.

FOUGASSE (Makes 4 small loaves)
- 2 Tsp Dried yeast
- 1 Tsp Sugar
- 500g (4 Cups) White Strong Flour
- 60ml (1/4 Cup) Olive Oil
- 185g ( 1 Cup) Black pitted olives, chopped
- 1 Handful chopped mixed herbs, such as parsley, oregano and basil
(For the herbs I put in 1/8 of a cup of dried Provence Herbs)

Step 1:
Put the yeast, sugar and 1/2 cup warm water in a small bowl and stir until dissolved. Leave in a warm place for ten minutes, or until bubbles appear on the surface. It will become frothy and will increase in volume.

Step 2:
Sift the flour and 2 Tsp of salt into a bowl and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, olive oil and 3/4 cup of warm water. Mix to a soft dough and gather into a ball.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, or until smooth. Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap of a towel. Let rise 1 hour or until it has doubled in size. ( I leave my bowl on top of the warming oven and the heat shortens the rising period and saves me time.)

Step 3:
Punch down the dough and add the olives and herbs.

 Knead for 1 minute. Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions.

Press each portion into a large, oval shape about 1 cm thick and make several cuts on wither side of each. Lay the dough on large floured baking trays, brush lightly with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to rise for 20 minutes.

Step 4: Preheat the oven to 415F (210C). Bake the fougasse for 35 minutes, or until crisp.

***Tip of the day***
To make the crust crispy, spray the inside of the oven with water after 15 minutes cooking, with a clean spray bottle.
This bread is amazing with any kind of soups. Even better, serve it at your next dinner party as an appetizer with a marinara dip! Impress your friends with this beautiful looking bread!

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!


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