In an attempt to prove that I don’t live on cake alone, I thought I’d give artisanal French bread a whirl for a change. The Fougasse flat loaf is a traditional French bread that is often shaped and slashed to resemble a fern leaf and left hanging elegantly in the windows of French bakeries. Well, fern leaf might be pushing it this time around, but fresh out of the oven, torn into pieces and slathered with good butter, I quickly forgot about my artistic failings. You will too.
This recipe is taken from Lorraine Pascale’s Baking Made Easy.
- 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting.
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp fast-action dried yeast
- 250 – 300ml water
- Leaves of 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 50g ready-to-eat chorizo sausage, finely chopped
- vegetable oil
- 3 tbsp milk, for brushing
- Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6 / 200°C and dust a large baking tray with flour.
- In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt and yeast and then make a well in the centre. Pour half of the water into the well and begin to combine the dough together. Continue adding the rest of the water mixing with your hand. The dough will feel pretty wet and sticky at this stage but don’t worry, this is one of those instances when you should mentally chant, ‘the wetter the better;’ thanks Paul Hollywood, I took note.
- Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a good 10 mins, if you have the luxury of a mixer with a dough hook, then five minutes should do the trick. Next up you push the thyme leaves into the dough and knead again for 30 seconds, followed by half the chorizo and a final minute of kneading. Now you have to shape the dough into a ball and then roll it into a rough oval shape. When you’re happy with your shape, slash the loaf to look like a leaf and then open up the slashes quiet wide as they will close up a lot as the bread is left to rise. Push the remaining chorizo into the dough, cover the loaf with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place to double in size. I left mine sitting comfortably on a chair in front of the oven for an hour.
- Time to bake! Remove the cling film , brush the loaf with the milk and then bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and well risen. This is a great tip, throw some ice cubes onto the bottom of the oven as you shout the door, this makes sure that your loaf will have a good crust whilst remaining light and fluffy on the inside.
- Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool, but as soon as you can man-handle it, I say go for it, you can’t beat warm bread, fresh from the oven.
You can try out any number of fillings for your Fougasse. I’m thinking feta and olives next time for a veggie version, and one of these lovelies would make a great party piece for sharing with friends.