Fougasse is the French cousin of focaccia and you can see the French flair in this pretty and flavorful herb loaf. This herb fougasse comes together more easily than you might think and the result is a delicious aromatic bread.
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Despite baguettes being the iconic French bread, it's far from the only one. And in fact, I'd argue some of the others are at least more interesting, if not tastier, like one of our favorites pain de campagne and this lovely loaf.
As I mention, this bread has a lot of similarities to focaccia, with it's use of olive oil and in many versions, herbs. But there are a few differences Focaccia is typically cooked in a pan with dimpling on the top of the loaf.
Fougasse, meanwhile, is cooked more like a pizza and typically slashed to look like a wheat sheaf. The result is more crisp edges, but equally delicious.
Where is fougasse from?
Fougasse is from the Provence area in Southern France. However its origins are believed to lead back to Rome, which probably accounts for the fact it has a close Italian cousin.
Provence is an area known for its herbs and dishes like ratatouille, bouillabaisse, tapenade and Niçoise salad. If you know those, then it's likely no surprise that variations in this bread add things like olives and anchovies. And being France (plus lots of places, to be honest), some include ham or cheese.
Ingredients for this herb loaf
The basic bread dough here is fairly typical with flour, yeast, water and salt. It includes some olive oil in the dough as well as brushed on top before baking. Make sure you use a good extra virgin olive oil here as you will taste it.
Here I've gone for a relatively typical combination of herbs that you'd find in Provence by including rosemary, thyme and oregano. You can vary as you have, but these are certainly a lovely combination. You can use all fresh if you have them, but you can also use dry for most, as I have here. Rosemary, though, I do think is best fresh in this.
Shaping the dough
Don't be intimidated by the shape of this, it's actually a lot easier to form than you might think. If you have a dough cutter, this works well, but otherwise just a sharp knife will be just fine. Start with the middle slash then cut three smaller lines on each side.
Ideally, you want to make single slashes in the dough to avoid ragged edges, but as you'll see in the video my knife wasn't quite sharp enough and didn't cut right through on the first go. After making the cuts, gently pull apart the bread so you have distinct holes. Remember, they will fill in a bit as the bread rises a little more during the second rest and bake.
Be relatively generous in brushing with oil before you bake as it all adds to the lovely flavor of the loaf. You typically sprinkle a little coarse salt on top before baking as well which. This adds flavor as well as giving a bit of texture on top. You don't need too much, but a little definitely adds that something.
Between the different toppings and shape, this bread is perfect for snacking on, maybe dipped in oil or spread with soft cheese.
This herb fougasse is a wonderfully elegant looking and delicious tasting bread. It's aromatic from the herbs with a lightly salty top. The texture is that great balance of crisp crust and soft inside. In other words it's definitely one to try soon and enjoy often.
Try these other tasty breads:
- Manakish (another tasty bread with herbs and oil, in this case za'atar)
- Sage and caramelized onion sourdough bread
- Adjaruli khachapuri (a delicious Georgian bread topped with cheese)
- Plus get more cracker and bread recipes in the archives.
For bread dough
- 210 g all purpose flour plain flour (1 ½ cups)
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast (see notes)
- 1 teaspoon salt 4g
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 135 ml warm water ½ cup plus 1tbsp
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (approx)
- ¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt (approx)
- Mix together the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl. Add the oil, water and herbs and mix everything so that it is mixed and all comes together. If you still have excess flour in the bowl, you may need a little more water but only add a little at a time.
- Transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface and knead around 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky. If needed, add a little more flour but try not to add too much initially as you can end up adding too much. Bring together in a ball.
- Lightly oil a medium-large bowl and add the ball of dough. Cover with cling wrap/film and place in a warm room temperature place and leave to double in size, around an hour.
- Once the dough has doubled, remove form the bowl and lightly knock it back as you stretch it out into an oval shape, around ⅔in/2cm thick. Place the dough on a lined baking sheet.
- Using a dough scraper or sharp knife, make a large cut down the middle of the dough then three cuts on either side, each without cutting through the outside of the dough. Gently stretch open each of the cuts to leave a set of slits in the dough in a leaf-like patter (see pictures above plus video).
- Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave to rest/rise slightly around 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 430F/220C.
- Remove the cloth and brush the top of the loaf with the additional oil so that it is well coated. Sprinkle over some coarse salt to give a light dusting.
- Bake the loaf for 15-20 minutes until gently golden and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom. Allow to cool slightly before slicing or (as is easier) tearing into pieces.
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