There are a lot of different varieties of breads in France, but this one is certainly one of the most unique and tasty breads of France. Fougasse bread is a flat-bread originally belonging to the Provence region of France. The most wonderful and unique thing about this bread is that it looks like a flat leaf. Sometimes it is also prepared in different ways to resemble the structure of a whole tree.
The dough is mixed with vegetables, meat and olive oil before baking the breads. Olive oil is one of the most important ingredients in this recipe, as it gives the bread its crispiness and its wonderful flavor. So, follow this recipe to prepare your own fougasse bread.
Difficulty level: Medium
Yields per recipe: 4-5 breads
Preparation time required: 4-4 ½ hours
Baking time required: 20-30 minutes
1 standing mixer with a dough hook
1 large bowl
1 medium bowl
2 small bowls
1 rubber spatula
4 parchment papers
4 baking trays
1 dough cutter
1 wire whisk
Plastic cling film
1 razor or knife
1 baking pan
1 rolling pin
180 grams of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of active dry yeast
165 grams of water, at room temperature
310 grams of bread flour
4 strips of bacon, diced
2 ½ tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
2/3rd cup of sun dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of active dry yeast
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
1 cup of water (at room temperature)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves
Method of Preparation
1. Take a small bowl and put 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast in it. Pour the water over the yeast and then stir the mixture with a wire whisk or a spoon until the mixture becomes a little frothy. Now pour the solution into a large mixing bowl and top that with the flour.
Then slowly combine the flour with the yeast mixture until you get a soft and sticky mixture. The mixture should neither be too runny nor too tight. Once done, cover the bowl with a plastic cling film and allow the dough to rise up for 2 hours.
2. In the meantime, chop the bacon strips into small bits, so that they can be easily mixed with the dough. Then put the sundried tomatoes, tomato paste, bacon bits, ground black pepper and the olive oil into a medium sized bowl.
Add the dried rosemary and dried thyme to the mixture and then stir all the ingredients together until they are nicely mixed. Once done, let the mixture sit for 2 hours before mixing it with the dough.
3. Now take out the risen dough from the bowl by unwrapping it and then put it into the bowl of an electric mixer. Attach a dough-mixing hook attachment to the mixer and then add the bread flour, salt and the remaining 1 teaspoon of yeast to it.
Set the mixing bowl in the mixer and then mix all the added ingredients first on low speed for 2 minutes and then on medium high speed for 6-7 minutes or until a soft ball of dough forms.
4. Once that happens, add the sundried tomatoes and bacon mixture to the dough and then mix it all up together with the help of the mixer. Next, take out the dough from the mixing bowl and transfer it to another large bowl. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic cling film and let the dough rise up for another 1 hour. When the dough doubles up in size, unwrap the bowl and transfer the dough to a lightly floured working surface.
5. Then cut the dough into smaller pieces and then roll the pieces into small balls by pulling up little films of dough from all the sides and then pressing them down onto the top of the dough balls, converging at one point. Once done, flip the dough balls and then cover them up with a plastic film.
Let the dough balls rest undisturbed for 15-20 minutes before starting to work with them. Now lightly flour your working surface and then take a dough ball. Pat the dough 2-3 times to flatten it out and then lightly stretch it vertically to make it elongated like a leaf. The top of the dough should be a little tapering and the base should be a little flat, just like a leaf.
6. Then roll out the dough with a rolling pin to widen it out. The rolled out dough should be 1/4th inch thick. Do not make the dough too thin as then it won’t remain spongy. Once the dough is rolled out, slightly stretch the base horizontally by holding the two sides of the dough to widen out the base slightly more than the tip.
Then make a small and straight slit at the center of the rolled out dough just like the main vein of a leaf. Then slit the dough on the two sides of the vertical slit 2-3 times to make the secondary slits. Pull the dough a little to open up the slits and then transfer the dough to a parchment paper lined baking tray.
7. Repeat the same procedure to roll out and slit the rest of the dough balls. Put each of the preformed breads into separate parchment paper lined baking trays and then put them in a proofer. If you don’t have a proofer, take another baking pan and put 18-20 ice cubes in it. Insert the baking pan into a 480 degrees Fahrenheit preheated oven and place it on the lowest rack. The ice cubes will melt and generate steam, which will help proof the breads and will give them a crunchier crust.
8. Then insert the other baking trays containing the breads into the oven and bake the breads for 15 minutes. Then open the door of the oven to change the positions of the baking trays containing the breads. Place the top rack baking trays on the middle rack and the middle rack trays on the top rack.
Also rotate the trays 180 degrees to facilitate even baking on all sides. Then lower the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the breads for further 10-15 minutes or until the top of the breads turn into a beautiful golden brown color.
9. In the meantime, pour 4-6 tablespoons of olive oil into a small bowl and add few fresh leaves of thyme to it. Mix the ingredients together and then set aside. Once the breads are ready, take them out of the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool them down for 10-15 minutes. Then brush the olive oil and thyme mixture over the breads before serving them warm.