Updated: Oct 13, 2021
One of the thing I love about Fougasse is how beautiful they look. Traditionally Fougasse are almost always shaped like the head of a wheat and this flat bread has a crisp crust with a chewy centre. The idea of cutting lines to make holes across the flat bread makes it easier for family and friends to tear the bread apart when they feast together. It is a flatbread that symbolizes sharing.
There are many ways to make Fougasse and usually requires a preferment in the process to accentuate flavours. These preferments are prepared at least a day ahead before you can use them in your final dough.
In this recipe, I am going to show you how to create flavour in your Fougasse Flatbread without the one day extra process for preparing the Preferment before you can make the Final Dough and have your bread ready by the morning.
HOW TO MAKE FOUGASSE
In the recipe below, flour and water are mixed to autolyze for an hour before the rest of the ingredients are added to make the final dough. The autolyze process allows the enzymes in the flour to breakdown complex sugar and give the protein time to align itself and reform into gluten strands. The result of an Autolyze then reduces the mixing time required for kneading the dough and this prevents the tendency of over oxidizing the dough due to over kneading, which can compromise the flavour of the bread.
Although Autolyzing is an initial and separate step, it is a step that can save baker's time from kneading.
Autolyzing can be done from 15 minutes to up to a day ahead before other ingredients are added to make the final dough. Usually for a smaller batch of dough like in this recipe, 30 minutes to an hour will suffice.
After the the autolysing is complete, yeast and salt are added into the dough for the final mixing process until some gluten has been developed. To know if gluten has developed, you will notice an obvious appearance that the dough will start to look shiny and has some elasticity to it.
You will also notice that the mixing time to get to the fully developed stage is short compared in general bread making. This is because the Autolyse has allowed the protein in the flour to align during the process which creates gluten strands without any kneading.
Although autolyse developed gluten strands, at this stage the gluten are still really weak and needs some kneading to strengthen it further. The strengthening of gluten is important to ensure that when the dough are being baked, it is able to hold on to its structure and air pockets that the yeast has created without collapsing, giving you a soft and airy bread.
Once gluten has developed and strengthened through kneading, the dough is left at room temperature to kick start some yeast activity ( to approximately 30% of increase in the dough volume) and then the dough is covered in a bowl and left in the fridge that sits between 3˚C - 5˚C overnight or up to 18 hours.
The Cold Proofing is the part that gives the dough the best flavour. You can leave the dough to bulk ferment at room temperature until it fully increase double in volume, shape and then bake on the same day if you are short of time. It is however recommended that you do not skip the cold proofing process if you want to have the best quality in flavour.
When shaping the Fougasse, ensure that you do not work the proofed dough too much to prevent from degassing the dough more than you need to. This can cause the dough to deflate and lack the volume when baked in the hot oven. The trick is to go gentle with the dough at all times.
When baking the Fougasse, it is important to pre heat the oven at a high temperature of between 220˚C - 240˚C. The high temperature helps with oven spring (rise quickly once it hits the hot oven) before crust forms prematurely which can prevent the dough from rising and make a dense bread.
HOW TO GET EVEN CRUST COLOUR ON THE TOP AND BASE OF THE FOUGASSE
Traditionally, Fougasse is baked in a Dutch oven with a stone base which gives the base of the Fougasse a nice dark brown crust colour. Domestic baking trays may not give you this result. There are however several things that you can do to achieve a nice even crust colour on the top and base of the Fougasse. One of the option is to use a pizza stone. Place the pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven and the stone in gradual increments in temperature. Do not at any point place a cold pizza stone straight into a hot oven as this can cause the stone to crack.
Another option I find works for me every time is to use a heavy base dark baking tray. Darker tray absorbs heat better than lighter colour trays and this can help the dough to create a nice crust colour. A heavy base also holds on to heat better for the same purpose.
If you do not have either the pizza stone or a heavy base black baking tray, you can bake the Fougasse as usual, then towards the end of the baking process when the top has achieved the desired crust colour, flip the Fougasse over and return to the oven to bake for several more minutes until the base has browned.
Yield: 2 Fougasse
Equipment: Heavy base dark baking tray
Bulk Proofing - 1 hour at room temperature, then cold proof in fridge overnight or up to 18 hours.
Baking Time: 20 - 30 minutes
400g 80% White Bread Flour
100g 20% Whole Wheat
375g 75% Water - reserve a small amount when salt is added
15g 3% Olive oil
9 1.8% Fine Salt
3.5 g 0.7% Instant Yeast
Water temperature 32˚C
DDT = 26˚C
*Equal amount of baker's flour and corn flour for dusting
1. Place the flours and water (reserve 20 g) into a mixer bowl and mix with a dough hook attachment until there are no dry bits of flour in the mixture. Leave the mixture to autolyze for 1 hour.
Prepare the Final Dough
2. After the dough have autolyze for an hour, whisk the instant yeast into the reserved 20g of water and add into the autolysed dough and mix until just combined. This process will only take approximately 2 - 3 minutes. Cover the bowl well again and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
3. Once the 15 minutes is up, sprinkle the salt on top of the dough and mix the dough once again on medium speed, this time until it starts to pull away from the side of the bowl and feels elastic. This process will take approximately 5 minutes. When you are able to stretch the dough without it breaking too easily, the dough is ready.
Transfer the dough on to a lightly greased bowl, larger enough for it to rise slightly in volume. Cover and leave the dough to bulk ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes. The dough will rise 20%- 30%.
4. Transfer the bowl into the fridge at 4- 5C, ensuring that it is covered with a lightly greased cling film on top. Leave to cold ferment overnight or for up to 18 hours.
5. The next day, pre heat the oven to 220˚C.
Remove the Fougasse dough from the fridge. Generously dust your work surface with some flour. Tilt the bowl over to release the Fougasse, ensuring that you do not degas the dough too much.
Divide the dough to two triangle portions for large Fougasse or four portions if you are making smaller Fougasse.
6. Working with each Fougasse at a time, gently stretch the dough from the centre out until you get a triangle shape. You do not have to worry too much about stretching it out wide enough to fit the tray at this point. Be careful not to degas too much of the dough at all times.
Dip the shorter side of a flat edge scraper in some flour, cut a straight line in the centre without cutting all the way to the edge of the triangle. Continue to cut lines across both sides from the centre line to create a leave pattern.
7. Line your baking tray with non stick parchment paper. Gently, with both palm, lift the cut Fougasse onto the prepared baking tray. Stretch the Fougasse slightly to open up the cut lines you have created earlier.
8. Brushed the top generously with the some olive oil mixed with some garlic and rosemary. Alternatively, you can dust the top of the Fougasse with equal amount of bread flour and corn starch and cut lines on top to create patterns.
9. Bake the Fougasse in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until the top starts to turn golden brown in colour. If the base looks slightly pale, carefully flip the Fougasse over and bake further for another 5 minutes.
10. Remove the baked Fougasse from the oven and transfer onto a wire rack to cool slightly.