My father was particular about baked goods. His grandmother came from a family of confectioners in Swansea and standards were high.
Like you, probably, I have until now bought fougasse at an up market bakery chain. And it is very good. But lately I have been having a go at making my own. Not as professional, but it tastes nice, appears in a couple of hours or so and I can use up leftover vegetables and flavourings in the mix.
- Ingredients for two loaves: 1-1 1/2 lb/ 450-675g plain white flour and extra for dusting. One 7g sachet of easy bake dried yeast or twice as much fresh yeast. Half a pint/250ml tepid water, a smidgeon of honey, 2Tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper. Egg for glazing.
- For the fillings: 2-3 slices of bacon, finely diced. 2 cloves of garlic, one diced chilli, one small grated courgette. Possible alternatives include sun dried tomato, red onion, chives, olives. One whole egg may be added to the dough if desired. Note that the amount of salt needed in the dough depends on the filling ingredients.
- Method: Put the yeast in a large bowl with the honey and a little tepid water. Leave to ‘wake up’. Mine hardly ever goes frothy but it generally does its job later on. Then, in the same bowl, combine 2/3 of the flour with the oil, salt and water. This should make a thick batter which you can beat for several minutes. Then add the rest of the flour and turn out onto a flat surface. Knead for at least 10 minutes. As well as pushing the dough with the balls of your hands, stretch it out until the skin breaks. If it is too firm to do this, rub water on your hands and keep going. If too wet, sprinkle on more flour. The end product should be a very soft, pliable dough. Form a ball, rub some oil on your hands and smooth them over the dough, leave in the bowl, covered with a damp cloth in a warm spot until doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl, knead for a few minutes and leave as before. Meanwhile dice the filling ingredients and sauté in butter or olive oil until cooked.
Remove the twice leavened dough from the bowl and cut it in half. For each half proceed as follows: Spread the dough out on a piece of baking paper. Sprinkle almost all the filling on top. Then gently fold up the dough and roll it out into a leaf shape. Put the last of the filling on top and brush with a little egg and oil. Carefully cut slits in the dough and pull them apart slightly. Think of a Swiss cheese plant. Transfer the baking paper to an oven tray and leave for 10-15 minutes before baking in a pre heated oven at 220°C or thereabouts for 12-15 minutes. Leave to cool. Eat with just about anything, or by itself.
‘Bread of heaven … feed me ’til I want no more’ he would sing while watching the rugby.