Richard Olney’s Pompe è L’Huile

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


Appears in

The Feast of Christmas: Origins, Traditions and Recipes

The Feast of Christmas

By Paul Levy

Published 1992

  • About

This recipe, taken from one in Simple French Food, can also be the basis of fouaces or fougasses. In Provence they sometimes add orange-flower water to the liquid, and in Nice they add saffron to the dry ingredients. I sometimes make a savoury version, leaving out the sugar and lemon peel, and substituting some thick-cut chopped bacon or bits of ham or crumbled cheese. Olney says pompes are traditionally cut into large rounds of 15 cm (6 in), but he prefers a more manageable 10 cm (4 in). In our village in the Var they are not rolled out so thin, but simply made into large ovals and slashed across three times with a razor, which produces something more like a bread than a pastry.


  • 1 pkt fast-action dried yeast
  • 750 g ( lb, cups) bread flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 200 g (6 oz, 1 cup) brown sugar
  • 4 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 8 Tbsp olive oil
  • about 300 ml (½ pt, 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp) tepid water
  • 2 medium eggs


In a mixing bowl or in the food processor fitted with the plastic blade, combine all the dry ingredients, the sugar and lemon zest, and mix thoroughly. Add the olive oil and mix or process briefly, then add the water and process or mix until the dough forms a solid mass and leaves the sides of the bowl cleanly. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour. If still crumbly, a tiny bit of water. Turn out on to a floured board and knead well until the dough is elastic. Put it in an oiled stout plastic bag, or back into the mixing bowl, covered, and put it in a warm place to prove until it doubles in volume.

Cut the dough in half. Knock each half down again on the floured board, knead lightly (but not so much that it becomes difficult to roll out); flatten with the heel of your hand, turning it repeatedly to keep it floured, until you achieve a thickness of ½ cm (¼ in).

Olney now uses an opened tin can or a bowl 10 cm (4 in) in diameter to cut out rounds; but you can make 2-large pompes with each half of the dough. If you cut out rounds, put them on an oiled baking sheet. Collect the scraps, make them into a ball, ‘roll’ them out again with the heel of your hand, and cut into another round or just press into an oval. Olney slits the surface of each 10 cm round with two razor slits each way in a criss-cross.

Leave the dough on the trays in a warm place, covered with tea towels, for an hour or so; they should only increase in size by about a third. Beat the eggs with a little water to make egg wash and brush on the dough. Bake in a preheated 200°C (400°F, gas mark 6) for about 20 mins. They should be a rich, crusty brown. Cool on a rack, and serve as part of the 13 desserts.