Having returned from a wonderful festive trip to the UK only the day before, going out on New Years Eve did not hold as much appeal as staying in on my sofa did. Good food, wine and the company of Mr Colonial Cravings was going to serve my jet-lag far better.
I’ve wanted to have a go at making a fougasse ever since I saw Richard Bernitet make one during a baking demonstration at my local Waitrose back home. The recipe below is for his basic white dough, I’ve just thrown in some additional flavourings to compliment the cheese that I planned to serve it with.
I also used his method of kneading the dough, by stretching it rather than pummeling the life out of it. It’s a little hard to explain in writing but essentially you scoop up the dough from underneath, pull it towards you and then fold it back over itself. It’s surprisingly therapeutic.
500g strong white bread flour
1/2 tsp dried yeast
365g tepid water
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary
zest of 1/2 lemon
Stir together the flour, salt, lemon zest and yeast. Add in the water and mix together by hand until you have a slightly sticky dough.
Turn this out onto a clean work surface. Don’t worry about flouring or oiling the surface, as you work the dough it will become less sticky. Knead the dough using the method I described in the introduction. Once the dough has become smooth and stopped being sticky (it should all pull away from your hands too) pop it into a clean, warm bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a draught-free place for an hour to rise.
Whilst this is happening you can pre-heat your oven to 250°c. Put a couple of large upturned baking trays in the oven to heat up too.
Peel the garlic and blanche it in boiling water for a few minutes, this will take away the raw garlic taste as it won’t actually have that long in the oven to cook. Cut the garlic into little shards once it’s cooled and strip the leaves from the rosemary.
The good thing about a fougasse is that it doesn’t need too be knocked back and left to rise for second time so it’s a bit quicker than making a traditional loaf. Carefully turn the dough out onto a generously floured board and divide into two equal pieces.
One at a time, stretch each piece out into a semi-triangular shape. Don’t be too rough with it, you don’t want to knock too much air out of it. Flour the top of the dough too. Cut a slit down the centre of the triangle and then make three slashes down each side. Stretch these out a little to create holes. If you have a plastic scraper this does it pretty easily. For extra prettiness and crunch you can also snip the edges with a pair of scissors. Poke the little shards of garlic and rosemary leaves into the dough.
Carefully transfer each fougasse to a board and then as quickly as possible slip it off the board and onto the heated tray, you need to be quick so that you don’t lose too much heat. Reduce the oven temperature to 230°c and bake for 15 minutes in the top of the oven until the crust is browned and crunchy.
Leave to cool a little before serving. It’s really good dunked in baked camembert or oil and balsamic vinegar.