Doughy Cousins Italian Focaccia and Provencal Fougasse
Baking requires decidedly more precision that cooking. Making bread with yeast can be downright scientific. The first time I attempted focaccia, let’s say the results were less than perfecto.
Focaccia is Italian or more precisely comes from Geona. The Ligurians consume this thin bread (approximately 2cm thick) all day from coffee time to the apéro hour. The dough is baked on a flat cooking sheet, and the result is a slightly spongy, airy bread with crusty edges. Rosemary focaccia is the most common version of this bread (see recipe below).
Made with similar ingredients (flour, water, oil, salt and yeast) to focaccia, Provencal fougasse is slightly different. The Provencal version often includes savoury additions like black olives, lardons (bacon pieces), onion or cheese. Slashed with a knife before baking the fougasse shape loosely represents a shaft of wheat. Here, is a recipe for fougasse.
- 1 1/4 cups warm water
- 2 1/4 tsp Yeast 1 packet
- 2 tbsp Powdered Milk
- 3 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour plus an extra 1/4 cup
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil plus extra for topping
- 1/3 cup White Wine at room temperature
- 2 sprigs rosemary stripped and coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp Coarse sea salt such as Maldon
- Measure the water in a shatter-proof beaker and microwave for 30 seconds. It should be slightly warm to the touch.
- Add the yeast and milk powder and stir to combine.
- Place 3 1/2 cups flour in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
- Add the salt, olive oil, and wine, and pulse 5 times to combine.
- With the motor running, add the water/yeast mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream, but do it quickly so the flour doesn’t have a chance to clump.
- Once all the ingredients are combined, process for an additional 30 seconds until it has formed a smooth and shiny ball around the blade.
- Spread the remaining 1/4 cup flour on your board or countertop, and knead the dough for a minute or so to absorb just the right amount of extra flour. Make a smooth ball,
- Oil a large mixing bowl. Place the dough ball rounded side down into the oil, then turn. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free place and allow to triple in volume - 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
- Meanwhile, brush the bottom of a 12-inch by 18-inch jelly roll pan with olive oil. When the dough has tripled, spread it evenly in the pan to create a rectangle. Use the palms of your hand, as fingertips can easily tear the dough.
- Brush the top of the dough lightly with olive oil, then cover with plastic and allow to rise/rest again for 30 minutes. Set the oven rack to the bottom third, and preheat to 400°F.
- When the dough has finished its final rise, poke it all over with your fingers to create little dimples, then drizzle with olive oil.
- Spread the oil gently with a brush, but leave the oil in the dimples.
- Sprinkle evenly with the rosemary and salt, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or - as the recipe states - until golden.