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Fougasse is nothing else than a French version of focaccia. Are the French better at it? Are the French better at anything related to baking and cooking than the Italians? Oh what a dangerous, inflammatory question.
I’ll say sometimes they are. Yes, I can hear the indignant chorus vilifying me on Twitter, demanding a death sentence and hanging dogs and cats and the horse heads upon my hashtag. You see I think Italian cuisine, strictly as in the pan-European interpretation, has lost its bite. Any old Dick or Harry opens an Italian these days, serves up pasta and pizza and steak, all in the same joint (a cardinal Italian sin) and claims to be called Ricardo or Enzo.
This with full respect to authentic Italian cuisine – the stuff that your average European would sniff at, like Roman tripe or Florentine salad of fresh porcini (are they poisonous? how can you be sure??).
So fougasse we're having today, comme les françaises, and it can be salé or sucré,with lardons, olives, both, Roquefort – or covered with a thick layer of crisp, almost caramelised sugar. All strictly Provençal. All fantastically tasty, freshly bought from the market or your favourite boulangerie. This recipe features Roquefort and it's borrowed from Les recettes d’Alexandra.
fougasse roquefortServings: 3-4 loavesTime: about 2 hours
- 300 g warm water
- 1 tsp fine salt
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 500 g strong white flour
- 20g fresh or 2 tsp instant yeast
- 150 – 200g Roquefort or another soft ripe blue cheese
- a few sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped
Place the water, salt, sugar and oil in a large bowl or in a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment. Sprinkle the flour over gently and crumble in the yeast. Knead by hand or use the dough hook on your mixer for at least 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic and quite firm. Cover and prove in a warm place for an hour.
When risen, turn out the dough onto floured surface and divide into four pieces – or three if you wish, or just make one enormous fougasse.
Roll out each piece quite thin, bearing in mind that when folded, it should form an oval, elongated shape. Crumble a quarter of the cheese on half the surface, top with thyme and fold in half. Roll it out lightly with a rolling pin so the cheese flattens and is distributed more evenly. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and slash parallel lines in the top layer along the length of the loaf. Sprinkle with more thyme and some grated cheddar or gruyere if desired.
Continue with each piece, placing no more than two loaves on each baking sheet. Cover with tea towels and leave in a warm place for about half an hour.
In the meantime preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Bake the fougasse for about 20 minutes until deep golden, crusty around the edges and the cheese bubbles through the cuts in the dough. Cool on a wire rack.