Fougasse is a stuffed, crusty bread from the Provence region in southern France with a texture similar to Italian focaccia. Here’s a recipe with two quick and tasty fillings, black olive/lemon zest and fresh Herbes de Provence, but the possibilities for stuffing these loaves are endless.
It has been quite a while since I last visited Provence. I will always remember the warmth emanating off the stone houses and abbeys, the bucolic countryside replete with sunflowers and olives, and, of course, the famous light which envelops everything with hues of safflower and gold. Local Provençal cookery is equally vibrant; herbs, olives and their oil, and garlic are the prominent flavors in this simple, fresh cuisine.
I was fortunate to be there during the summer lavender season when fields of the aromatic purple flowers are buzzing with bees and harvesters alike. The flowers are gathered and then steam-distilled to produce an intoxicating, yet relaxing essential oil that is used in soaps, shampoos, and lotions. Some of the flowers are also bundled, dried, and sold in markets all over Provence for use as a culinary herb. For me, no blend of Herbes de Provence is complete without a pinch of these fragrant buds.
This fougasse can be made plain, without stuffing, for an appealingly rustic loaf. I like it better, however, when it is stuffed with ingredients that reflect the local flavors of Provence. I’ve included two classic stuffings, but here are some other ideas to help you decide what you want to stuff your fougasse with:
- caramelized onions or roasted garlic
- lemon or fennel confit
- zaatar and olive oil
- chopped walnuts or hazelnuts
- apricot or cherry preserves
Mettons-nous aux fourneaux!
- 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1¼ cups warm water (around 105°F)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3¼ cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup olives, pitted and roughly chopped (can be black oil-cured, kalamata, picholine, or any good olive variety)
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest (I like to use a vegetable peeler to remove long pieces of lemon zest and then thinly slice these into slivers of zest)
- 2 Tablespoons chopped parsely
- 1 Tablespoon chopped basil
- 1 Tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 1 Tablespoon chopped oregano or marjoram or both
- 1 Tablespoon chopped thyme
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon dried lavender flowers
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Combine warm water, yeast, and olive oll in a bowl and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- In the meanwhile, combine flour and salt in an electric mixer equipped with a dough hook attachment. You can also make this bread using a food processor or by hand in a large bowl.
- Pour the yeast mixture into the flour and mix until well combined and a ball of dough forms. Knead this dough for 2 minutes in an electric mixer or 6 minutes by hand. If you find the dough to be too wet and sticky, add extra flour 1 Tablespoon at a time.
- When kneading is complete, put a teaspoon or two of olive oil in a large bowl and roll the ball of dough in the oil until it is thoroughly coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and set aside in a warm place to proof for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- After proofing, remove dough onto a floured surface and roll out into a rectangle measuring approximately 16 inches long and 12 inches wide. Be sure to keep checking to see if the dough is sticking to the surface and dust with flour accordingly.
- Spread the filling over the top half of the rectangle (the top 8 inches), leaving a ½ inch of space on all sides. Dab a little water along those edges with your fingers. Pick up the half of dough that is closest to you (the bottom 8 inches) and fold it directly onto the side that you just spread with filling and pinch down the three edges to seal it. Now pull down the two corners of dough closest to you to make an upside down V-shape.
- Using a sharp knife, make long slits through the two layers of dough and spread open these gaps so they don't close up during baking.
- Transfer the fougasse to a baking sheet and brush the top lightly with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and set aside to proof in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Once the fougasse has proofed and appears to have doubled in size, put it into the oven and bake for 22-25 minutes. It should be crispy and golden brown on the top and bottom.
-This recipe makes one large fougasse, but you can make a couple of smaller ones if you prefer.