Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Bread Baking Babes bake Fougasse!

We are all about the shaping this month, and Bread Baking Babe Elizabeth has challenged us to shape the wonderful French Fougasse. A cousin to focaccia, fougasse is usually shaped like a leaf or a ladder for optimal crustiness. I like it hot, right out of the oven, and have been known to devour half a loaf before it cools.

You can use your favourite French bread recipe for this, or even Italian- I won't tell. I used Jeffrey Hamelman's baguette with poolish. I mixed sliced green olives right into the dough and sprinkled the olive oil-drizzled dough with Maldon sea salt and fresh black pepper before baking. Yum!

Truly a delicious bread, and perfect for tearing and dunking.

If you'd like to bake along with us this month, and earn yourself a Bread Baking Buddy badge, see Elizabeth's post for details.
In ancient Rome, panis focacius was a flat bread baked in the ashes of the hearth (focus in Latin). This became a diverse range of breads that include "focaccia" in Italian cuisine, "hogaza" in Spain, "fogassa" in Catalonia, "fugassa" in Ligurian, "pogača" in the Balkans, "fougasse" in Provence, "fouaisse" or "foisse" in Burgundy. The French versions are more likely to have additions in the form of olives, cheese, anchovies etc, which may be regarded as a primitive form of pizza without the tomato. There is also in Portugal the "fogaça", a sweet bread.

Fougasse was traditionally used to assess the temperature of a wood fired oven. The time it would take to bake gives an idea of the oven temperature and whether the rest of the bread can be loaded.

Wikipedia: Fougasse

Fougasse - recipe and notes from BBB Elizabeth
inspired by Chad Robertson's fougasse recipe on page 139 in "Tartine Bread" and Patricia Wells' fougasse recipe on page 191 in "Patricia Wells at Home in Provence"


    Your favourite French bread dough
    Corn meal
    Pizza stone


  •     Mix, knead and allow your favourite bread dough to rise to double. If you are adding anything like olives, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, caramelized garlic cloves and/or walnuts, mix them into the dough near the end of kneading it or on the first turn of the dough. If you are wanting herbs/spices on top, please add them just before baking.
  •     Shaping: About an hour before baking the fougasse, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and press it out into an oval (or a rectangle; or a circle). Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is about 1 cm (1/2 in.) thick.
  •     Sprinkle corn meal (to act as ball-bearings) on the peel - or an upside-down cookie sheet. Lay the shaped dough on the peel. Using a pizza wheel and "swift, decisive strokes" cut a design of a leaf or ladder into the dough. Take care not to cut through the outer edges. From the edges, pull the dough outwards to make sure the cuts are spaced. Cover with a clean tea towel followed by a plastic grocery bag and allow to rise. (Robertson allows the shaped bread to rise first and does the slashes at the last minute. Naturally, because of my stellar reading skills, I didn't notice that until I had already made fougasse several times by slashing it directly after shaping it.) ³
  •     Just Before Baking: Drizzle with olive oil and scatter coarsely ground sea salt over top. (You can also do this step just after the bread is baked; that is what Robertson suggests. Or you can forget to add the olive oil at all, as I did the last time.)
  •     Baking If the weather is fine or just too hot to be turning the oven on, fougasse can be baked in the barbecue. If it's raining or just too cold and dark, of course the fougasse can be baked in a conventional oven.
  •         Baking in the Barbecue: Put a pizza stone over the half of the barbecue you will turn on and preheat the barbecue to high. Transfer the fougasse to the pizza stone that is sitting over direct heat. Close the lid of the barbecue and bake for about 8 minutes, rotating the stone once or twice or thrice to account for uneven heat in the barbecue (Hot Spots!!!). Then move the stone over to cook with indirect heat (lid down again) until the fougasse is done (about another 8 minutes)... our gas barbecue can be turned off on one side. Watch for hotspots and move the fougasse around to keep it from burning on one side. Because of the heat from the bottom, we like to turn the fougasse over. Just make sure to wait until the top crust is relatively well-formed.
  •         Baking in the Oven: Put a pizza stone on the middle or top shelf of the oven and turn it to 400F (200C). Transfer the fougasse onto the hot stone and bake for about 15 minutes, turning it around at least once to account for uneven oven heat.
  •     When the fougasse done, remove it from the heat and allow to cool on a well-ventilated rack. To serve, break it apart and dip it into good quality olive oil with herbs if you want.

 Elizabeth's Notes
1.) Corn Meal: This is to make it easy to move the shaped fougasse from the peel to the hot stone. We use a medium-grind corn meal. I've heard that semolina flour works as well and apparently, rice flour may be used as an alternate. Parchment paper is definitely a viable alternative with the advantage that it can be placed in the oven and slipped out once the fougasse is half baked.

2.) Pizza Stone: pizza stone Pizza stones are available at most kitchen supply stores in the larger cities (and possibly the smaller ones too?) in Canada. They cost about $10 and often come with a pizza wheel inserted in the box. They may be a little lighter weight and thinner than a conventional bread stone but the advantage is that they fit easily into a barbecue and they work pretty much as well to protect bottom crusts from burning to cinders.

3.) Shaping and slashing: Robertson shapes his fougasse and allows it to rise (covered with a tea towel) for 2 to 3 hours. Wells shapes and slashes her shaped fougasse at the same time and allows the fougasse to rest for about 10 minutes before baking it. Beranbaum also shapes and slashes at the same time, allows it to rest for about 15 minutes before baking and suggests using scissors (and gentle pulling with fingers) to open up any of the slashes that have closed during that time.

The Bread Baking Babes

This bread has been YeastSpotted!