Provençal Fougasse

I invited my parents (and my roommate’s parents) to dinner this weekend as my way of saying thank you for tolerating the obscenity of Manhattan rents. It struck me as a bit odd that we never had them over when we were living in our old apartment, but of course, this year’s abode is much more suitable for entertaining (translation: it is actually big enough to put real furniture in). Anyway, the menu for the evening is as follows: spinach and tomato timbales, roasted chicken with garlic, a sort of eggplant-and-peppers dish (aside: I love eggplant, and my mom makes this Sicilian dish called caponata, and I think it is probably one of the best things I have ever had.), fougasse, and, for dessert, a fig and raspberry galette, which I will post a recipe for tomorrow. This menu basically made my kitchen smell like the lyrics to Scarborough Fair (“Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…” + GARLIC!).

Fougasse is the Provençal variation of the ever-popular foccacia – a traditional Mediterranean flatbread. Fougasse is more likely than foccacia to have additions, such as cheese, olives or anchovies, although I have left these out. One fougasse feature that I really like is that it is common to slash it to resemble an ear of wheat.

Typically, I avoid making things with yeast in them because I am too impatient to wait for things to rise but, having tasted the final product, I’m glad that I did this time. Although, I should add that there was a panicked phone call to my mother: “Mom, I don’t think the yeast is foaming! Oh, wait, it looks like it’s making little mushroom clouds, fun! Oh, no, now it’s flat!” “I’m sure it’s fine.” “No, I don’t think so, it just looks like milky water, it’s not foamy at all, I think I need to do it over, because it says that the water should be between 105 and 115 and my thermometer says it’s only 102!” Result: it was fine.

Provençal Fougasse
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
about 1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary (a bit more of the herbs certainly doesn’t hurt)
about 1 tbs chopped fresh oregano
about 1 tbs chopped fresh thyme
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
1 package (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
1 3/4 c warm water (105oF to 115o or 40o to 46oC)
4 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tbs salt
semolina flour

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the garlic, rosemary, oregano, thyme and olive oil. Bring to a simmer and cook until the garlic is tender, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. In a large bowl, dissolve the year in warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil mixture, flour and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together in a rough ball. Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly oiled work surface and knead until the dough is elastic and no longer sticky, about 5-7 mins.
3. Shape the dough into a ball, transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, and cover it with a clean dishcloth. Let it rise in a warm spot until it doubles in bulk, about 1.5 to 2 hours.
4.. Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Cut it in half using a sharp knife, and shape each piece into a loose ball, cover with a dry towl, and let rest for 5 mins.
5. Dust 2 half-sheet pans or baking sheets with semolina four. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each half of the dough into a rectangle about the same size as the prepared pans. Transfer each rectangle to the pans, spreading them with your hands if it shrinks. Make 6 slits (3 on each side) pointing towards the center of the dough. Gently pull on the dough to widen the slits into ovas.
6. Cover the dough loosely with a towel and let it rise again until it is doubled in bulk, 25-30 mins.
7. Position a rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven and preheat it to 425oF. Bake the breads until they are lightly browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, 15-20 mins. Tranfser to wire racks and let cool completely in the pans.

Makes 2 large flatbreads

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