When I go into a bakery, there’s difficult temptation to overcome. Fresh baguettes are the least of my problem. The variety – mutli grain, whole wheat, bâtards, white bread loaves, corn bread rolls, baguettes dusted with sesame or poppy seeds, – is almost endless. Those are the everyday loaves, the bread people eat during meals, tearing off chunks with their hands to accompany anything. I’ve had bread served to me with pasta and sandwiches in restaurants.
Then there’s what I call “the fun stuff.” The breads that are not for the every day. Ficelles, little baguettes stuffed with olives, sausage, or cheeses. The quiche, croissants, brioche, pain chocolate, pain aux raisin, tartes and pizzas. If it’s made with flour you can find it there. The temptation doesn’t stop at sight. Who can resist the smell of fresh baked bread, still warm from the oven in your hand. Melted cheese and butter wafting out onto the street.
To make matters worse, each region has its own specialty, of course. Though I have yet to indulge in anything truly Angevin, I have already visited several bakeries, weighing their price, the quality, taste, freshness of the baguette. It seems like everywhere I turn there’s another. Some mediocre, some plain fabulous. Many organic: a plus in my book.
In my search for the perfect bakery, which I may have found, I haven’t been spending too much time making my own bread. There was too much to see, smell, and taste and though some French families of two or three might go through 2 baguettes in a day, I can barely get through one in three.
With the sudden warm weather and sun that the Pays de la Loire has had recently, I wanted to bring a little bit of Provence into my studio and make a traditional Provençal bread known as the fougasse.
As with all things Mediterranean, the fougasse has a well-known brother – focaccia. The two are not far apart. Both are dense, moist loaves with a soft crust. Though it is common in Provence to find fougasse filled with more than just olive oil and herbs. Olives themselves make an appearance. Strips of ham, whole tomatoes, and rounds of goat cheese are folded into the loaf, then the top of dough is sliced open to let the surprising treat reveal themselves during baking. Fougasse also tend to come in strange shapes from flat ovals.
To figure eights.
There are all sorts of variations and I plan on bringing you more in the future, but as I wanted to make this fougasse reminiscent of the things I’ve left behind, I decided on green olives and sundried tomatoes.
This was a sticky dough. We battled it out during shaping time when the dough felt it would rather stick to everything than go into the shape I wanted.
What appeared was yes, a focaccia like loaf, savory and salty, thanks to the addition to the tomatoes and olives. It’s a perfect bread to have alone or spread with a mild cheese like Brie, Camembert or a soft goat cheese.
Yes, Camembert is a mild cheese.
The fougasse can allow your imagination to run wild. There are traditional shapes, traditional add-ins but you can really do what ever you like. Think of it as the type of bread you pack with yummy surprises to take with you out on the fishing boats or into the vineyards to snack on while laboring under the hot Provencal sun.
Meanwhile, my classes have officially started today. My first class: marketing. Six hours of it. In fact that’s all I’m doing. French universities I’m finding out immediately, are not like their American counterpart.
This entry is a break from study. I’m sitting in the library, overlooking the River Maine reading Marketing et Gestion (Management) de la Restauration trying to get ahead with a vocabulary and subject that’s all foreign to me. You would have liked to see my expression at the example budget charts. I haven’t taken a math class in 12 years.
C’est la vie.
- 250 grams flour (I used whole wheat, white is fine)
- 150 mL tepid water
- 1 package yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 40 grams sundried tomato, not packed in oil if possible, chopped
- 40 grams olives, black or green, seedless, chopped
- ½ tbsp olive oil
- In a small bowl combine a little bit of flour, water and the yeast. I used about 25 grams of flour, 2 tablespoons of water. Mix and let sit for an hour.
- In a large bowl combine all the ingredients until the dough is mixed and shaggy. Knead for about 3-5 minutes. The dough should be tacky, sticky and shiny. Cover and let the dough rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
- Dump the dough on to a floured surface. Gently break it into two parts and shape it into your desired form. Let it rise again for another 30 minutes.
- Preheat over to 200°C/400°F. Bake the bread on an oven-lined cookie sheet for 30-40 minutes.