Fougasse: Pierced French Flatbread
Contributed by Abby.
As with the quick breads, we each had a chance to choose a bread to blog about; there were a lot in this section that looked tasty (pita bread, instant sandwich bread, seven grain bread, prosciutto bread, and many more). I eventually settled on one that I’d never heard of before: fougasse (pierced French flatbread), found on page 74. Nick Malgieri writes, “a fougasse is a unique flatbread that is pierced through to the bottom in a series of slashes to increase the quantity of the crust.”
Nick Malgieri gives several intriguing variations: whole-grain, bacon, rosemary, olive, cheese. The recipe makes two fougasse; I planned to make one plain and one with bacon and cheese. Unfortunately, the leftover bacon that was in the fridge wasn’t good anymore, so I halved the recipe and just made one plain fougasse.
It started simply enough, with active dry yeast whisked into warm water, and then an addition of olive oil. In a separate bowl, I combined all-purpose flour and salt; then added this mix by cupfulls into the liquid. The instructions say to use a large rubber spatula to stir the flour in and beat for a few seconds until smooth. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to use my paddle attachment on my stand mixer to beat it, or the spatula, or . . .? So I just mixed it with my dough whisk, and it seemed to work just fine.
Once all of the flour was incorporated, I let the whole thing autolyse for 20 minutes. Then I dumped it onto a board, kneaded it a few times, and put it in an oiled bowl to rise. The suggested time is one to two hours. It is so hot here, even with our a/c running, that the dough had more than doubled in forty minutes; thinking back, I probably should’ve decreased the amount of yeast used.
I gently dumped it back onto my board and stretched it into a triangle, then folded it in thirds and transferred it onto a pan. I used a pizza wheel to cut seven slashes into the bread, let it rest for ten minutes, pulled it gently out a couple more inches, brushed it with olive oil, and then let it rise for another hour.
I baked the fougasse for twenty minutes, while reheating our favorite spaghetti sauce (a bolognese) and making some pasta. I also heated up some butter and added some frozen roasted garlic and a bit of salt and pepper.
Once the fougasse came out of the oven, I cooled it for a few minutes, then broke it in half. One half, we left plain. I cut the other part in half, and spread the garlic butter mixture on it, to make a quick garlic bread.
The verdict? Plain, this was a quick, tasty bread. I think it took three hours from mixing to eating. And it’s convenient to have a recipe for a French-type bread that uses active dry yeast and all-purpose flour (especially if I were someone who didn’t always have bread flour and instant yeast on hand). Hubby described it as tasting like a normal French bread, but with a coarser texture, much more crust and more crumbly. It was good plain, but hubby discovered the ultimate: he took the make-shift garlic bread, filled it with the bolognese, and ate it as a sandwich. Yum!