It turns out you can’t judge bread by how it looks.
Case in point: the American Sandwich Bread I blogged about a little while back looks kind of plain, but it tastes wonderful. (I’ve baked it twice this week.)
It goes the other way, too. Sometimes, a show-stopper looking bread tastes a little underwhelming. That’s the case with the fougasse I whipped up this week.
The good news is that baking fougasse is EASY PEASY. It’s in the “raising the bar” chapter of the Bread Illustrated cookbook (a.k.a. my bible). That’s the advanced chapter – but this is not an advanced bread.
However, with its pretty leaf shape, it looks fancy – so if you’re trying to wow guests with your bread baking skills, this might be a recipe to bust out.
Baking fougasse is a two-day affair. Day one is simple and very similar to other loaves I’ve baked: you mix the flour, salt, yeast, and water, do four rounds of fold-and-waits, then pop it in the fridge for 16 to 48 hours. Gotta love a recipe that gives you a bit of wiggle room!
Day two is for shaping and baking. You split the loaf in half and shape it into two triangles. One recipe, two loaves – another win. You let the triangles rise for an hour or so, then you whip out the pizza cutter and slice leaf designs into the dough. This is very, very easy. Once the incisions have been made, you just stretch the dough out with your hands to emphasize the holes.
The recipe staggers the shaping and rising of the two loaves so that you only have to bake one at a time.
The main recipe in the book is for a rosemary sea salt fougasse, but there are also variations for asiago and black pepper (yum), bacon and gruyere (yum), and olive (yuck). I think the latter two would be good (assuming you like olives) because the accoutrements are baked INTO the dough. My qualms with the fougasse is that it’s bland – the rosemary seems like an afterthought and it really doesn’t add a lot of flavour. I think something baked into the dough – like the sage polenta loaf I made – would make more of a statement.
I think I might think too much about bread.
The texture of this bread was a little meh, too. That might have more to do with the baker than the recipe – it can be hard to tell. It was pretty chewy (read: it gave my jaw a serious workout) and I feel like it got stale way faster than other breads.
If you’re going for an herby savoury bread from Bread Illustrated, I’d suggest opting for something like the focaccia instead. (Actually, fougasse is like the Provencal version of focaccia – the more you know!) However, if your heart is set on fougasse, consider one of the more flavourful combinations.