As you probably know, I tried many, many new things last year: some good, some bad, and some I didn’t get quite right. There’s a few that I’m happy to leave behind and accept I didn’t get it right first time, but some eat away at me until I have to try them, again and again, to end up with a good result. My first attempt at sourdough bread is one example: this really took a long time to master the basic loaf, and I’d say it’s only the past few months I’ve actually come out with something tasty. Another example is baguettes. My first try ended up in a hilarious boomerang shape, but I was so determined to get them right that I’ve tried to make them over and over again. In yet another attempt to learn the correct form, I signed up for a Bread Ahead Bakery French bread class to try and finally nail this seemingly simple bread. Luckily for me, the class covered more than just baguettes and I got to try making focaccia’s French cousin, the fougasse.
The fougasse and the baguette are linked through their history. I learned in the class that bakers used to tear a bit of the baguette dough off, flatten it, and bake it to see if the oven was hot enough to put the baguettes in. The baguette being the crowning glory of French bread, it was worth sacrificing a bit of dough to make sure conditions were perfect. They soon realised that the fougasse was actually a delicious creation in itself, and can now be found in bakeries all over France.
I’m familiar with the leaf-like shape of the fougasse as I’ve copied it to make a similar provincial bread called the la pompe à huile – a sweet, olive oil bread, flavoured with orange blossom water and traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve in Provence. This time, however, I was looking forward to creating the thinner, savoury version, that like the Italian focaccia, can be studded with herbs and olives to make a delicious flatbread.
To make things easy during the class, we simply halved the baguette dough and let it double in size before shaping. The leaf shape is made by gently flattening the dough, and then as you cut a slit down the middle, gently teasing and stretching the sides apart, continuing with the pattern until the leaf has almost doubled in size. As the dough is very thin, we only had to leave it to rest for 10 minutes before drizzling olive oil over and baking in the hot oven.
I have to tell you, this tasted as good as it looked. I loved that it had some crunchy bits, but also some soft, bready bits, making it a perfect bread for tearing and sharing. I enjoyed mine with some hummus and olive oil and demolished it in no time at all. Next time I make baguettes, I’m definitely going to make a bit extra so I can have one of these golden flatbreads to look forward to. Oh, and speaking of baguettes…
They worked and were delicious! Finally! I’m forever grateful to Bread Ahead for enhancing my bread knowledge, and finally providing me with an edible, straight baguette that I can show off.