Fougasse — Bread or Munitions?

August 12, 2012

Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.
~Albert Einstein

Sometimes, culinary inspiration is gleaned from the bucket seat right next to you while musing and jawing about favored eats at beloved faraway lands. A sweetly absurd kind of waking moment, where creative osmosis just happens and a craving follows. Such was the case with fougasse this weekend while hurtling down a bleak stretch of the interstate. Thanks for that, and all else.

In ancient Rome, panis focacius was a flatbread baked in the ashes of a hearth (“focus” in Latin). The loaves later blossomed into a diverse range of breads spanning many borders that now include focaccia in Italy and fougasse in southern France (originally fogatza), as well as fouace or fouée in other régions. Almost a primitive form of pizza, fougasse is a luscious Provençal flatbread traditionally rolled into the form of a leaf or ear of wheat. Oddly, it is also the name for an antiquated, improvised land mine formed in a hollow filled with explosives and projectiles.

FOUGASSE AUX OLIVES ET HERBES

1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1 1/3 C warm, but not overly hot, water

4 1/2 C flour
1 t sea salt
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Cornmeal or flour, for dusting

Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
3/4 C kalamata olives, pitted and minced
2 T fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 T rosemary leaves, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 500 F about 20 minutes before baking

Put the yeast and sugar in the bowl of a large stand up mixer which is fitted with a paddle. Stir in the warm water and allow to sit for about 10 minutes so the yeast blooms. There should be an opaque, bubbly surface on top of the water. Then, add the flour and salt, and right afterward the olive oil. Mix together, then knead for about 5 minutes on medium high, until a firm, dry dough develops.

Round the dough into a rough ball in the mixing bowl. Cover with a few damp paper towels and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Once the dough has risen, uncover and press with your hands so the air bubbles are released. The dough should be rather dry and should not stick much to your fingers. Transfer it to a floured work surface. Flatten it with your hands into a thick disk and with a sharp knife, divide the disk into 5 equal wedges. Roll out each dough wedge into an 8″ x 5″ isosceles triangle about 1/4″ thick. Place each triangle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly dusted with cornmeal or flour. Make three lengthwise slashes in each triangle, as well as one smaller slash below the middle slash. Gently pull the dough apart so it gapes. Cover dough with a damp towel and again allow to rest, this time for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop up the olives and herbs. Uncover each dough piece, lightly brush with olive oil and then sprinkle with toppings, taking care to distribute them evenly and to avoid the gaps. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Pourboire: with fougasse, there are numerous variations on a theme, so consider studding or gracing the loaves with with whatever suits your fancy — other herbs, lardons, gorgonzola, roquefort, walnuts, pine nutes, sundried tomatoes, pesto, tapenade, citrus zest, coarse sea salt, anchovies, etc.

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