Friday, February 11, 2011

Fougasse: Crispy, Salty Olive Bread (a farewell ode)

Television cooking programs can be a great inspiration for the home cook, but as we all know the results can vary substantially from what is shown by the celebrity chefs. I was recently such inspired by an episode of French Cooking at Home on Cooking Channel. The show opened with a delicious looking loaf of fougasse, a Provençal version of focaccia with niçoise or oil-cured olives that is formed and slashed into an interesting leaf shape. But woe! The recipe was nowhere to be found on Cooking Channel’s website. Laura Calder, the show’s hostess and cook, prepared three or four other dishes on the episode which were easy to find under the show’s title, but the fougasse was bewilderingly left out.

Focaccia is extremely popular in the US, prevalent everywhere from café menus to Panera Bread paninis; but the related fougasse is relatively unknown. One of the main attractions of fougasse is instead of topping the bread with herbs and olives, they were contained inside the bread. A long-time lover of olive bread, I set off in a search for a suitable recipe immediately. My first stop was to review the fococcia recipe in my bread bible, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. A quick Google search revealed very similar recipes, and so I fixed upon this Provencal Olive Fougasse on Serious Eats, originally from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan (soon to be added to my own library).

I made a few other changes to use up my pantry stash and modify it for taste. Instead of the 5 ½ TBS of olive oil, I used 4 TBS of herb oil from a large container of marinated fresh mozzarella bocconcini and the remaining 1 ½ TBS of extra virgin olive oil. I didn’t have oil-cured black olives, but I had tons of kalamata olives. I thought a mix of olives would be good, so I also threw in some green olive tapenade from Trader Joe’s that I had sitting around for a while. Overall I put in about 1 ½ cups of chopped kalamatas and tapenade combined. I doubled the rosemary and added some dried Herbs de Provence. Jeremiah and I prefer strong, bold flavors, and we have also been cutting down on our bread and other simple carb consumption (it’s a pity, I know. But there are just too many compelling reasons). This gave me incentive to really pack as much scrumptiousness as possible with really intense flavors into the dough. If you prefer more subtle flavors, you can cut down on the herbs and olives a little bit, but don’t sacrifice too much.

Another great advantage of this type of bread, in addition to using lots of items squirreled away in my refrigerator, is that it doesn’t require a starter to make. Most breads in my repertoire require a pâte fermentée, poolish, or biga; pre-ferments made ahead of time or from a leftover piece of dough to develop the flavor and structure of the dough as the yeast ferments. These pre-ferments, also known as sponge, are nice to have on hand but only last in the fridge for about 3 days, so some planning ahead is required. This recipe also requires some planning ahead, but the dough itself ferments overnight, requiring no pre-ferment, so in the end it eliminates the extra step of making the dough twice.

Shaping the dough was surprisingly easy and the dough was wonderful to handle. The flavor was fantastic and the texture was unlike any other bread I’ve tasted. Because of the slashes to make the leaf shape, when we tore the bread into pieces it was more like a crust of chewy pizza or breadstick with a crispy, salty exterior. This one's definitely a keeper for my 20% and special occasions.

And with this, I now say good-bye to all things bready. I have been moving closer and closer to a Primal or Paleo way of living, but I am now embracing it all the way. It's been a hard transition in some ways, and dead simple in others. I am doing this for my health and healing, Jeremiah's health, and our future. Non-Primal readers, please don't jump ship just yet. I will still be posting amazingly yummy recipes and you may not even notice the lack of grains or legumes.

Herbs de Provence & Olive Fougasse
Days to make: 2
Serves: 2 loaves that serve 6 each

1 2/3 cups warm water (water should be very warm but not hot, ideally 110° F)
1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
4 cups bread flour
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup herb oil (recipe below)
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1/2 to 1 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/2 cup prepared green olive tapenade
1-2 TBS minced fresh rosemary (about 5 short sprigs)
1 TBS dried Herbs de Provence
Zest of one whole lemon or half of one orange


Proof the yeast by sprinkling the sugar and yeast into a measuring cup filled with 2/3 cup warm water and let sit until yeast is frothy and creamy in appearance, about 5 minutes.

Combine flour and salt in stand mixer fitted with flat paddle and stir to combine. Add yeast, 1 cup warm water, olive oil and herb oil add mix until combined. Switch to bread hook and beat for 10 minutes, or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. The dough will be very stick and my pool at the bottom of the mixing bowl, but that's fine.

Add the olives, herbs, and zest and beat for another 1-2 minutes. Don't worry if all the olives aren't completely incorporated.

Lightly oil a large bowl and scrape the dough into it. Lightly oil the top of the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place until the dough doubles in volume, 1 to 2 hours, depending upon the warmth of your kitchen.

Stir the dough, cover it again, and refrigerate it for at least 6 hours, or for as long as 3 days. (I prefer to let the dough rest overnight.) If you’re keeping it in the fridge for a while, it will probably rise to the top of the bowl again, in which case you can stir it down, or not—it’s not crucial.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, stir it down, and divide it in half. Turn 1 piece of dough out onto a floured surface and flour the top of the dough. Roll the dough into a rectangle that’s about 12 inches long and 7 to 9 inches wide. Precision isn’t important here. As you’re working, lift the dough and flour the counter again if the dough is sticking. Transfer the dough to a large nonstick baking sheet or one lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Using a pizza cutter, a single-edged razor blade, or an X-Acto knife, cut about 4 slashes, about 2 inches long, at an angle down each long side of the rectangle, rather like the veins on a leaf. If you’d like, make another 2-inch vertical slash near the top of the rectangle. Again, don’t worry about precision. With your fingers, gently push and pull the slashes open, tugging the dough a little as you go. Try to get the holes to open to about an inch wide. As you cajole the dough, you might want to tug a little more at the base than at the top, so you end up with a bread that’s flat at the bottom and tapers toward the top, like a leaf.

Repeat with the second piece of dough on a second baking sheet (or cover that portion and return it to the refrigerator to bake later).

Cover the dough with a dish towel and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 450°F. (If you’re baking just 1 bread, bake it on the lower or middle rack.)

Mix the remaining tablespoon of olive oil with the remaining 2 teaspoons water in a small cup. Prick the dough all over with a fork and, with a pastry brush, lightly coat the fougasse with the oil and water mixture. Sprinkle the bread all over with kosher or other coarse salt.

Slide the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the bread is golden—it won’t get too dark. Transfer the fougasse to a cooling rack and let rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Storing: You can keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, but once baked, the bread should be eaten the same day.

*Apologies to my Paleo/Primal readers. I began this post in February and then got stalled. It was a great recipe to cook at the time, but Jeremiah and I are thoroughly Primal from now on.

No comments:

Post a Comment