Fougasse is a type of flatbread from the South of France. In ancient Rome, fougasse was traditionally used to assess the temperature of a wood fired oven. The time it would take to bake gives an idea of the oven temperature and whether the rest of the bread can be loaded. It is related by pedigree to focaccia and pizza, which come from just over the border in Italy. But unlike focaccia, fougasse gets an elegant twist: after being stretched and flattened, the dough is given a series of cuts, usually in fanciful geometric patterns, to create multiple openings in the finished flatbread.
So the process of making fougasse is a bit different from other breads. There is no pre-dough here, and all ingredients are rather being mixed together and left in the fridge to “cure and ripen”. Make this flatbread with anchovies, olives, bacon or any type of cheese. Or try my variation, with Provencal herbs.
Plus, as pretty as the sculpted breads are, the openings are not just aesthetic, they dramatically increase the crust-to-crumb ratio so that nearly every bite includes an equal share of crisp crust and tender, airy interior. The cuts also help the bread bake very quickly.
The recipe makes 2 flatbreads
- 1/3 c/ 1.41 oz/ 40 g whole wheat flour
- 3½ c/ 14.82 oz/ 420 g all-purpose flour + for work surface and baking sheet
- 1½ t salt
- 1 t/ 3 g active dry yeast
- 1½ c/ 12.35 oz/ 350 ml water
- 4 T olive oil
- 2 t dried Provencal herbs
- 2 t salt
- ½ c/ 100 ml boiling water for steaming in the oven
- Sift the whole wheat flour into a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook or paddle attachment. Discard the bran left in the sieve. Add the flour, salt and yeast to bowl. Mix on low for 30 seconds. Add the water and mix on low until a sticky dough forms. Continue mixing for 15-20 minutes more, until elastic and relatively strong. If mixing by hand, follow the sequence and knead the dough for 25 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to a clean bowl brushed with some olive oil, cover with cling film and leave for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Wet your hands in water and, working in sequence, stretch and gently pull one side of the dough up and outwards, and fold it to the center. Rotate the bowl 45º and repeat the stretching and folding. Continue rotating and folding remaining sides of the dough until all sides are stretched, pulled and folded. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Repeat the process of stretching and folding 3 more times at 30 minute intervals. After the last, 4th series of foldings, cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for at least 16 hours, but not more than 48 hours.
- Dust the working surface with some flour, transfer the chilled dough onto it and, trying not to deflate it, gently stretch it into a rough 8″/ 20 cm round. Cut it in half using a sharp knife.
- Gently stretch either roundish side outwards and fold it over to the centre, making a rough triangle shape. Repeat with the second semicircle. Cover both dough triangles loosely with cling film and leave at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Line a baking sheet with a 12×16″/ 30×40 cm parchment paper, dust it with some flour.
- Dust the working surface with some flour. Transfer the first dough triangle and gently, not pressing much and trying not to deflate, roll it out into a larger triangle with a 8″/ 20 cm base and 10″/ 25 cm sides, 0.4″/ 1 cm thick. Transfer the dough ie to the prepared baking sheet.
- Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, make a long cut through the centre of dough from top to bottom leaving about 1″/ 3 cm on both sides intact. Make 3 more diagonal cuts on either side from the long cut repeating the leaf veins shape. The small cuts should also stop ~1″/ 2.5 cm from the border and should not connect with the long vertical cut.
- Gently lift sides of fougasse one after another and stretch them outwards, opening the cuts and emphasizing the leaf shape.
- Lightly oil the cling film and loosely cover the fougasse. Leave to proof at room temperature for 45-60 minutes, until visually doubled.
- Preheat the oven to 445ºF/ 230ºC classic or 410ºF/ 210ºC fan forced. Place a medium ovenproof pan at the bottom of oven.
- Brush the proofed fougasse with olive oil, sprinkle 1 t of the Provencal herbs and 1 t of the salt over it. Place the baking sheet with the fougasse in the oven and immediately our the boiling water into the pan at the bottom of the oven. Close the oven door and bake the fougasse with steam for 10 minutes, then remove the pan with water from the oven and continue to bake for another 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
- Leave the fougasse to cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.
- Repeat with the second piece of the dough.
- The best texture and taste of fougasse is on the day of baking. Store in an airtight container for 1-2 days.