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Recipe for family meals :

Fougasse
 

This recipe has been published with the kind permission of Alex Mackay who, among other things, runs Le Baou D'Infer cookery school. Alex is the former director of the cookery school at Raymond Blanc's world famous Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons. He has also worked in the kitchens of three two-star Michelin restaurants in France, making him as informed about French cuisine as he is fluent in the language.

For part of the year Alex runs Le Baou D'Infer, a cookery school with a difference. Located in the heart of the breathtaking Provençal countryside, yet just twenty minutes from St Tropez, the school is in the grounds of a working vineyard, steeped in the dappled light and the fragrance of herbs which make this area of France so unforgettable. The great thing is that anyone can enrol for a week with Alex.

Le Baou D'Infer is a unique cookery school, in particular because of its intimate class sizes. There is a maximum of six students per course, which means that you will have Alex Mackay's undivided attention, whatever your culinary questions or requirements. Personal encouragement and Alex's total involvement are assured for every guest, which means you get the ultimate enjoyment and a sense of confidence and achievement from your time there.

"Fougasse or Foccacia as it is known in Italy, is a basic bread dough with added olive oil. Flavoured with strong herbs, or stuffed with sun dried tomatoes / preserved artichokes / olives - it is always delicious!"

Ingredients

500 g strong white flour
16g dried yeast (the one I use is the exact equivalent of fresh)
325 ml lukewarm water
2 1/2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
12g salt

For Fougasse Farci - add:
4 Preserved Artichoke hearts
8 sun dried tomatoes
8 Anchovy fillets

Method
  • Preheat the oven to 240°C / 475°F / Gas mark 8
  • Sift the flour into a bowl.
  • Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, being very careful that it is not too hot as this will kill the yeast. A little colder is no problem, all this will mean is that the dough will take a little longer to prove.
  • Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the water and oil, mix well until you form a dough then transfer this to your work surface.
  • Knead for 2 minutes then add the salt and knead for a further 6 or so minutes until it is very smooth. (The salt is added at this stage so that there is absolutely no danger of it killing the yeast)
  • At this stage place the dough back into the bowl and cover it with a damp tea towel. Leave it to prove in a warm, but not hot. place for an hour or until it has doubled in size.
  • Once this is done knead the dough again to knock out any air bubbles.
  • Separate the dough into three pieces, then with a rolling pin, roll each piece out in to an oval shape about 15 cm long and 8 cm wide, dusting with flour as and when necessary.
  • Slice three deep lines down each on the diagonal, or if feeling very daring make eight lines to resemble a leaf.
  • Gently place the loaves onto a tray, then cover with a cloth and allow to prove for about 30 minutes until they have almost doubled in size.
  • Before baking you can either drizzle a little olive oil over the top and sprinkle with rock salt or give a very light dusting of flour through a sieve.
  • Bake in the very hot preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the Fougasse sounds hollow when tapped. Transfer it immediately to a rack to cool.

Olive or Rosemary Fougasse:

  • Knead in either the chopped olives or rosemary after you have proved the dough for the first time. Prove for the second time then bake as before.

Fougasse Farci:

  • After the first proving, knead the dough then cut it into 2 pieces.
  • Roll each out into slightly oblong circles of about 20 cm diameter.
  • Place the artichokes, dried tomatoes, and anchovies in the centre then fold the dough over and seal the edges well.
  • Slice three lines through the dough to the point that you can see the ingredients in the middle, place a clove of garlic in each hole then brush with the olive oil, sprinkle with the grated cheese and rock salt, then bake without proving in an oven heated as before for 15 - 20 minutes until it sounds hollow when tapped.

Variations:

The three suggestions here are just a drop in the bucket. Any hard herbs can be used to flavour the bread, they should be added just after the second proving so that their flavour doesn't become overpowering and they don't colour the bread. The same goes for sun dried tomatoes or olives or why not a few anchovies. But just remember you want to taste the bread so don't overpower it, just give it a hand.

Olive Fougasse - add:

  • 15 black olives (stoned and finely chopped) per recipe

Rosemary Fougasse - add:

  • 2 Large sprigs of finely chopped fresh Rosemary.

Makes 3 medium size

Alex Mackay

 
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