Fougasse is another of those excellent regional flatbreads found in many countries; you may be more familiar with Foccacia from Italy. There are many other similar types of bread as well; hogaza in Spain; fogassa in Catalonia; fugàssa in Ligurian even a pizza-style bread Fugazza from Argentina. All are similar and derive from ancient Roman bread called panis focacius, a flatbread cooked in the ashes of the fire.
The Fougasse hails from Southern France, notably from Provence where you will find the bread in the Boulangerie or even in the local bar on the counter as Fougasse makes a great sharing bread as an appetizer. The bread is easily recognisable by the distinct slashes across the dough resembling an ear of wheat.
Here in this recipe, the surface of the bread is sprinkled with softened red onion which is purely optional, there are many other varieties and you can see recommendations at the end of this recipe.
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 4 cups (500g) strong, plain bread flour
- 1/2 oz. (10g) fresh yeast, or 1 dessertspoon (1 x 7g) sachet of dried, fast acting
- 1 1/2 cups (350g) tepid water
- 3 tsp. salt
The Fougasse dough can be made either by hand or in a mixer using a dough hook.
- Before starting the bread, place the thinly sliced onion into a small bowl of cold water with one of the teaspoons of salt. Soak the onions while you make the bread, this soaking helps to stop the onion from burning when the bread is baked.
- Place the flour into a large bowl, or the bowl of your mixer. Add the yeast and if using fresh, crumble into the flour and then rub the yeast and flour lightly together. If using the dried, simply stir into the flour.
- Add the water and finally the salt and mix thoroughly. Then either mix until a soft, smooth dough is formed in a mixer, or tip the contents of the bowl onto a work top and knead by hand until smooth, then return the dough to the bowl.
- Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in a warm, draught-free place until doubled in size, this should take about an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 475 F/240 C/Gas 9
- After the rising, gently tip the dough onto a floured work surface. Handle the bread carefully and try not to flatten too much.
- Flour the surface of the dough then it cut into two, then into two again (three if you want smaller pieces of bread).
- Using a very sharp knife cut a slit through the dough diagonally across each piece. Be careful not to cut the bread into two; it should remain joined. Then from this central slit, slash three or so slits diagonally.
- Using your fingers open out the slits, as much as you dare to!
- Carefully lift each piece of dough onto a lightly floured, upturned baking tray. Drain the red onions and pat dry with kitchen paper. Sprinkle the lightly dried onions over the surface of the bread.
- Place into the preheated oven and, if you have one, spray a fine mist of water into the oven. Bake for 10 – 12 mins until golden brown.
- To keep the Provencal theme going, try this bread dipped into a rich, tomatoey Provencal Sauce.
Alternative Toppings for Fougasse Bread
The type of toppings for your bread will be limited only by your imagination. Use fresh herbs, cheeses (blue is fabulous) even a small amount of dried fruit and spices for a sweeter bread.