Ingredients for the Yeast-Starter, or “Sponge”
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1/2 cup warm water (105–115°F)
• 2 teaspoons active dry yeast (from a 1/4-oz package)
• 1/2 cup of unbleached white flour
Ingredients for the Dough
• 1 more teaspoon of sugar, or a teaspoon of honey if available
• 1 tablespoon of dried herbes de Provence
• 2/3 cup of lukewarm water
• One teaspoon of lemon juice
• 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for brushing your pans and loaves
• 3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus another half-cup on-hand for the counter, and kneading
• 1 1/2 teaspoons of flaked (Fleur de Sel) sea salt, Himalayan salt crystals, or coarse sea salt
Preparation of Savoury Fougasse
Make the Yeast-Starter:
Stir together sugar and warm water in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast, and let stand for about five minutes, until bubbly. Using a whisk, incorporate the half-cup of unbleached white flour into this mixture. Let the starter rise, loosely covered with plastic wrap, 30 minutes.
To Make the Fougasse Dough:
Add sugar, salt, herbes de Provence, water, lemon juice, 1/3 cup of olive oil, and 11/4 cups flour to the prepared starter, and beat the mixture until smooth. Mix in the remaining 2 cups of white, unbleached flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to form a soft dough.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, regularly sprinkling the dough’s surface with flour, until smooth and elastic (dough should still be a bit sticky), for about 8 minutes. Form this into a ball and transfer to large bowl with enough olive oil in it to coat the fougasse dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at warm room temperature until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down the dough (do not knead), then, with a light hand, divide it into two sections. Flatten each one into an ovate leaf-shape (about 12 inches long and 1/4 inch thick), and then transfer them to baking sheets that have been brushed with olive oil.
With a very sharp knife, make 2-inch incisions at angles, alternating left-to-right, down the length of each oval “leaf,” cutting all the way through. Leave an inch at the outside edges as uncut area. Gently pull the incisions open with your fingers, so that they don’t close during baking. Let the dough rise for about 40 minutes.
Heat the oven to 375°F.
Brush the two fougasse loaves with olive oil, and sprinkle with your preferred salt. Bake until the fougasses are golden brown, and sound hollow when tapped—this should take approximately forty minutes. Remove fougasses from oven and place on a rack to cool. A French rule: never cut and eat bread until it has cooled to room-temperature.
RECIPE COPYRIGHT M-J de MESTERTON 2009
Photo and Recipe Copyright M-J de Mesterton 2009