After a couple of unusually hot days in California, I couldn’t help but feel some anticipation for summer. I spent the weekend by the pool, bbq-ing, indulging in my favorite ice cream, and watching travel videos of the French Riviera. I love watching those travel guide films, especially when they share views of the beautiful lavender fields of Provence and glimmering turquoise waters of the Cote d’Azur. To quell my pressing need for a dose of Southern France, I made this Provencal olive bread called fougasse. Eating the flavorful bread, warm out the oven, I could almost feel the sea breeze on my face and smell the lavender trailing through the air.
Fougasse is the French equivalent of Italian focaccia bread, as it’s made with fresh herbs and good olive oil. Fougasse differs, however, in that it usually has more than just herbs in its dough. Additions can range from chopped olives to lardons (bacon) and fromage (cheese). In this classic version, I utilized rosemary, thyme, and oregano, along with some delectable mixed olives. The combination is absolutely intoxicating.
This recipe yields 2 “loaves” of fougasse, but no one can be sure since it always seems to disappear faster than one can count. You’ll notice the fougasse is also shaped a bit differently, but it’s nothing to be weary of. The dough is simply stretched into an oval shape and then slashed in specific areas to make the bread look like an ear of wheat. I’m never too concerned with how the bread looks. Instead, I enjoy the pattern of the bread for the ease it lends to tearing this bread apart into bite-size pieces. This is the kind of bread that’s perfect for a tapas gathering, where the group is intimate and everyone can enjoy picking at this delightful bread throughout the evening.
- 14 oz. all-purpose flour (just under 4 cups)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp chopped rosemary
- 1.5 tsp chopped thyme
- 1.5 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 250 ml warm water (a little over 1 cup), 115°F
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing
- 2 tbsp chopped olives
- To a measuring cup filled with the warm water, add the yeast. Give it a gentle stir, then let it rest for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the flour, salt, and herbs in a large bowl. Once the yeast is frothy, pour the yeast mixture into the flour, along with the olive oil, and stir the dough with a wooden spoon until it starts coming together into a ball shape.
- Grease your work surface with olive oil and turn the dough out onto this surface. The dough may still look somewhat shaggy, this is OK. Use the heel of your hand to knead the dough into a smooth ball. If it's still looking shaggy after a couple of attempts to make it look smooth, drizzle a little more olive oil and knead again.
- Grease a large bowl, then transfer the dough into the bowl. Cover the bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap and place in a warm area to rest for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or grease with olive oil. Regrease your work surface (if needed) and turn out your dough onto the surface. Slightly stretch the dough out into rectangular shape. Add the chopped olives, then fold the dough corners in to sort of "seal" the olives in. Knead the dough, turning it over every now and then, to evenly disperse the olives throughout the dough.
- Split the dough in half. Loosely cover one half with a sheet of plastic wrap and let it be. Take the other half of dough and transfer it to your prepared baking sheet. Stretch out the dough into an oval shape. Take a pair of kitchen scissors and make a vertical cut down the center of the dough (not enough to split the dough in half, but just create a divide in the center - refer to photos). Make 3 separate, smaller cuts along each side of the center (again, refer to photos). Brush the bread with some olive oil.
- Bake the bread for 16 to 20 minutes, until golden throughout. Repeat the shaping and slashing for the remaining half of dough. Then bake as instructed.