This month’s Fresh From The Oven challenge, set by Claire of Purely Food, was to make fougasse.
“Bof,” I said to myself as I planned what to eat for a pre All Blacks vs France match dinner on Saturday night. “It will be a piece of gateau!”
Claire gave us two recipes to choose from, one from model-turned-baker Lorraine Pascal, the other from French chef Richard Bertinet. I made a rosemary-scented, olive-studded homage to Lorraine’s version on Saturday afternoon, but the yeast didn’t spring into life and they turned out more like Frenchified pretzels.
The next day, less distracted by le rugby, I had another go, remembering what I’d read from Bertinet’s recipe about “showing the dough who is boss”. These ones were much better, despite some woeful dough shaping on my behalf, resulting in some rather freeform fougasse. I might have taught the dough a lesson, but it was obviously determined to teach me one right back.
This is essentially Bertinet’s recipe, though my measurements are a little different and I’ve added a soupcon (note: that’s different to a soup spoon) of olive oil to enhance their keeping qualities. Silly really, because when these come out of the oven it’s impossible not to devour them immediately.
500g strong flour
350ml lukewarm water
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1Tbsp olive oil
Pour the water into a mixing bowl and add the yeast. Stir to dissolve, then leave for five minutes to start frothing. Add the flour, salt and oil and mix together, then turn out onto the counter and knead. Following M. Bertinet’s instructions, I did this all by hand, but it is a very sticky dough and it would be a lot easier in a freestanding mixer (I know, I am lazy). Either way, you want the finished dough to be smooth, springy and not too sticky when you have finished kneading/mixing it. Resist the temptation to add too much extra flour. Scrape into a mixing bowl and cover with plastic. Let rest for an hour or so in a warm place.
At this point, turn your oven to its highest temperature and put in an oven tray.
Gently tip the risen dough out onto a floured surface, then dust generously with flour and cover again with a teatowel and let rest for five minutes.
Slice the dough in half with a very sharp knife or plastic scraper, then cut each piece again into three triangles. You’re aiming for a fern shape – whether you get there or not is another matter.
Slash cuts into each piece of dough – I used a pair of kitchen scissors – and gently open the cuts up with your fingers. Flour a large sheet of baking paper and place the slashed dough on top. Gently press olives or any other toppings into the dough.
Take the hot baking tray out of the oven (remember it’s hot!) and slide the dough and paper on top. Put in the oven and then splash in a little cold water on the walls (of the oven, not your kitchen) to create steam. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden.