French Connections
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Fougasse bread is a French flat bread, a typical staple of Provence. It comes from the Latin panis focacius meaning bread baked in the ashes as it was once used to assess the temperature of a wood fired oven. The time it would take to bake gave the baker an idea of the oven temperature and whether the rest of the bread can be loaded. It’s a flat bread and traditional to make it in a grain of wheat shape

You can make it plain or add a few chopped olives and/or sundried tomatoes to the mix. It’s also really good with toppings like grated cheese (25g per loaf in this recipe), minced garlic, grilled bacon, caramelised onions, anchovies, and a sprinkling of herbs like rosemary or thyme.

Simply bake the bread as below but take the loaves out 5 minutes early, add the toppings and bake for 5 minutes more.

Ingredients: Makes 3 loaves

400g strong white bread flour

1tsp salt

1 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast

100ml olive oil

200ml warm water

Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas mark 5.

Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and water (plus herbs if you’re using them) in a mixer and use a dough hook to form a dough, starting on a low speed. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 5 minutes. It should feel smooth and elastic. Then put it in a large, oiled bowl and a warm place for about an hour in which time it should rise to about double in size.

Split the dough into three pieces and spread them out in flat oval shapes. Make 3 slits across the bread with a knife, cutting right through the dough. Stretch the bread to emphasise the holes. You can make a leafier shape than in the photo, and you can also make 2 loaves instead of one, with more cuts in. You need to not have too much bread without a cut, it keeps it crispy.

Put the loaves on to greased baking trays, cover with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place to prove until doubled in volume. Allow 20 minutes to an hour.

Drizzle a little olive oil over for extra crispness. Bake for about 20 minutes but check at 15 minutes. The loaves should be a beautiful crispy golden colour when cooked.

If you’re adding the cheese or another topping, take the bread out of the oven 5 minutes early, sprinkle the toppings evenly, and return to the oven for 5 minutes.

If you’re not adding a topping, for extra flavour you can brush a little olive oil over and some sea salt when the bread is still hot from the oven.

Eat warm or cold. Great dipped in olive oil or dips, and it makes for excellent sandwiches!