Roquefort and pear fougasse
The first time I ever left England’s shores was in my late teens and I went on my first proper holiday with friends to the island of Menorca. We stayed in the lovely holiday home of my friend’s Mum’s friend and spent the days lying on the wide sandy beach and the evenings eating the gorgeous food that was cooked for us. I thought I’d reached paradise as for me, a beach meant Weston-super-Mare. The local gin made to an old English recipe and the slightly mad fiestas helped too.
One evening we went out to a smart restaurant (very different to the tavernas in the village of Santo Thomas) run by an ex-monk; that’s all I can remember about it. Well not quite all, I remember the starter like it was yesterday (rather than decades ago) – a perfectly ripe pear in a Roquefort sauce. I’ve loved that flavour combination ever since.
Fougasse is a French relation of focaccia, sometimes stuffed with cheese and olives, sometimes plain, usually slashed in places so it cooks quickly and this makes it look like a bit like a Celtic rune or a cheese plant leaf.
For this month’s Fresh From the Oven challenge, set by Claire from Purely Food, I decided to make a simple version and the most complex I could find. The simplest recipe (inspired by Richard Bertinet and Lorraine Pascale) used very wet dough with cuts in it. The more time-consuming was from Dan Lepard.
I adapted both recipes but as expected the first was simple and quick to make – more like French stick in a pretty shape and the second took the best part of the morning, on and off.
The first version was made with strong plain flour, water, yeast and salt and the teens fell upon in when they came in from school. It was a show stopper. I divided the second dough into three and added sun-dried tomatoes, black olives and mozzarella to one and Roquefort and poached pear. The texture of these loaves was much more like focaccia and almost a meal in themselves. Fresh pear rather than poached would have probably worked better but the flavours were perfect. I would make it again as an alternative to focaccia.
Makes 3 Fougasse
500g strong bread flour
350ml tepid water
5g dried active yeast
10g sea salt
Olive oil (optional)
- Preheat your oven to its highest setting (around 240 C).
- Put the flour and sea salt into the bowl of a mixer or food processor with a dough hook. Measure the tepid (lukewarm or blood temperature) water into a jug and add the yeast. Whisk with a fork until combined and foamy. Add the water mixture to the flour and knead slowly for 10 minutes (you can also do this by hand). The dough is ready when it is smooth and not sticky.
- Lightly flour the work surface, place the dough on the flour and form the dough into a ball. Put the dough into a clean large bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film.
- Leave the dough to rise for at least one hour. Turn out gently onto a well-floured surface; let it spread across the work surface. Sprinkle some flour over the top of the dough and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave for about 5 minutes.
- Use a sharp knife or dough scraper to cut the rectangle of dough into three triangles (by cutting in a V-shape). With the point of the triangle at the top, make a slash down the middle. Make three smaller diagonal cuts on each side of the one in the centre. Gently ease open and enlarge the holes with your fingers. Drizzle a little olive oil over the surface of each loaf if you like.
- Gently lift onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.
You can find the second fougasse recipe in Exceptional Breads by Dan Lepard and Richard Whittington (or online here). I used wholewheat flour instead of rye and cut the dough into three prior to adding the fillings. I put 70g Roquefort with 50g pear into one piece and 60g mozzarella, 40 g sun-dried tomatoes and a small handful of black olives. Be very gentle when you fold the dough to incorporate these ingredients.
Do pop over to the Fresh From the Oven site in a few days to see what everyone else came up with. The Well Seasoned Cook Black and White Wednesdays is a fabulous collection of monochrome food shots and well worth a visit.
Which flavours have your holidays inspired?