Fougasse

Pierced French Flatbread

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    two

    triangular flatbreads

Appears in

A fougasse is a unique flatbread in that is pierced through to the bottom in a series of slashes to increase the quantity of crust. There are two principal shapes associated with the fougasses of southern France, a pierced leaf, as in the recipe here, and a long rectangular shape that resembles a ladder. The ladder shape is impractical to prepare in a home oven because the largest size baking pan available still won’t make the 2- to 3-foot (61- to 91-cm) long fougasses associated with that shape. Finally, there is also a sweet version, flavored with fennel and orange zest, and encrusted with sugar before baking, usually made in an individual size.

Ingredients

  • cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons ( envelopes) active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm tap water, about 110°F (45°C)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Olive oil for brushing the outside of the fougasse
  • 2 cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans lined with parchment or foil

Method

  1. Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and stir well to combine.
  2. In another large mixing bowl, whisk the yeast into the water, then whisk in the oil.
  3. Use a large rubber spatula to stir about 2 cups of the flour and salt mixture into the liquid. Beat for a few seconds until smooth. Stir in the remaining flour mixture about 1 cup at a time, beating smooth after each addition. After the last of the flour has been absorbed, cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes.
  4. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a floured work surface and use a bench scraper to fold the dough over onto itself several times to make it smoother and more elastic.
  5. Place the dough in a clean oiled bowl and turn it over so that the top is oiled. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the room temperature.
  6. After the dough has risen, invert it from the bowl onto a floured work surface. Use a bench scraper or a knife to divide the dough into 2 equal pieces.
  7. Place the first piece of dough on a lightly floured work surface and gently press and stretch it into a triangle, about 8 inches (20 cm) across at the base, and about 12 inches (30 cm) long from the base to the top point. Fold the dough into thirds and transfer it to one of the prepared pans. Unfold the dough and even out the shape again (see figure a). Use a pizza wheel to cut 3 to 4 diagonal slashes on either side of the median strip that bisects the triangle from top to base (see figure b). Cover the fougasse with a towel and repeat with the remaining dough.
  8. Let the fougasses rest for about 10 minutes, then gently pull in both directions to make the fougasse a couple of inches wider and longer and to open up the slashes. Brush the fougasse with olive oil and cover again. Let the fougasses rise until they have doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  9. About 20 minutes before the fougasses are completely risen, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 450°F (230°C).
  10. Bake the fougasses for about 10 minutes, then switch the pan in the lower third of the oven to the upper third and vice versa, turning each pan from back to front at the same time. Bake the fougasses until they are deep golden and firm, 10 to 15 additional minutes. Slide each fougasse onto a rack to cool.

Serving

Though this is a fine bread to serve with a meal, I wouldn’t serve butter with it.

Storage

Keep the fougasses loosely covered at room temperature on the day they are baked. Wrap in plastic and freeze for longer storage. Defrost and reheat them at 375°F (190°C) for 7 to 8 minutes and cool before serving.

Variations

Part Whole-Grain Fougasse: Substitute 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup whole-grain rye flour for 2 cups of the all-purpose flour. If you wish, dust the outside of the fougasses with whole wheat flour instead of painting them with olive oil.

Each of the following variations may be made with either the white flour or whole-grain dough.

Bacon Fougasse: Slice 4 ounces (100 grams) thick-cut bacon into ½-inch (1-cm) wide strips. Cook the bacon over low heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the fat with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain and cool. Gently stir the cooled bacon into the dough right before adding the last cup of flowur.

Rosemary Fougasse: Stir a tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves into the dough right before adding the last cup of flour.

Olive Fougasse: Stir ½ cup pitted Niçoise olives into the dough right before adding the last cup of flour.

Cheese Fougasse: Stir 1 cup (about 3 ounces/75 grams) coarsely shredded Gruyère or Gouda into the dough before adding the last cup of flour. Sprinkle each fougasse with 2 tablespoons shredded cheese immediately before baking.

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