JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fougassse and breadsticks

Making fougasse and breadsticks is quick, easy, and deliciously life-enhancing. You can use your usual dough recipe. I use my bread machine to mix up dough for flatbreads. Everyone here is particularly keen on breadsticks, twisted with flavourings, perhaps a little cheese, some seeds, or a few chopped olives. And I like making fougasse because I live in hope that one day I will make one that doesn't look as if it was made by a child.

I got a masterclass in this type of baking from Richard Bertinet just before Christmas. But, try as I may, my handmade bread dough is too variable to be our staple, so I make the dough in my Panasonic bread machine, rather than using his slap and fold method.

Step 1: making the dough

If I'm in a hurry and I don't need much dough, I use the pizza setting (45 minutes), with 1/2 tsp dried yeast, 300g strong white flour, a slug of olive oil, a large pinch of salt, and 170ml water.

If there's more time, I use the basic/dough setting, with 1 tsp dried yeast, 550g strong white flour, a pinch of sugar, two pinches of salt, two slugs of olive oil, and 320ml water. This takes a couple of hours.

Richard Bertinet's hand made dough (don't knead it, slap and fold) is made with 10g fresh yeast (ask for it at the bakery in Tesco, they really do give it to you), 500g strong white flour, 10g salt, 350g water (which is 350ml, but bakers like to be accurate, and you get better accuracy by weighing rather than measuring liquids). He says that you should know your basic recipe by heart. And he's right. But I don't.

Step 2: shaping the dough - fougasse

You should get a couple of fougasse from the smaller quantity of dough, although I usually make one, and then use the rest for breadsticks. Divide the dough into manageable quantities. Flatten it and slash it through. Don't go for anything too complicated, because smaller slashes will close in the oven. Open up the holes. Experiment: dough is pretty forgiving, and it all tastes wonderful, however rustic it looks. I seem to be the only one who sees primary school art: everyone else sees delicious bread.

RB has a lovely shape, shown on the cover of his book Dough (which has just come out in paperback). This is made by cutting the dough into a triangle, making a long slash from point to base, then making two or three smaller cuts on either side at 45 degrees and pointing upwards. If you see what I mean. The book comes with a DVD, not surprisingly.

Bake in a very hot oven: heat it to 240C, and turn it down to 230C when you put the fougasse in. You need the dough to cook on a hot upturned shelf (you really don't need an expensive stone to get a good result), so you throw it into your oven using a peel. This doesn't have to be a fancy/expensive wooden thing; I use cheap old Tesco flat metal trays which I have had for years - and Richard Bertinet uses exactly the same ones in his cookery school.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a rack. OR part bake for 6-7 minutes, cool, freeze in bags, then reheat from frozen at 200C for 10 minutes.

Step 2: shaping the dough - twisted breadsticks

Flatten the dough into a rectangle. Sprinkle on any flavouring you are using (grated parmesan last night), fold over and flatten. Cut into strips. Braid two strips together to make a twist. Cover with a tea cloth and leave to prove for 10-20 minutes. Bake as for fougasse.

This is my entry for Bread Baking Day 7: flatbreads, hosted this month by Petra at Chili und Ciabatta ... the deadline isn't until Saturday, so you've still got time to take part. Round-up next week.


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I think it's wonderful for primary school are to masquerade as fabulous fresh bread! I say that's joy in my day.
Love those bread sticks. Not ever done those.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Once again I am in awe of anyone who makes a fougasse -- the only time I tried it, the holes closed up and I ended up with something that looked more like a foccacia. I must work up the courage to try again...

Joanna said...

Lydia, you have to be bold with it - once you've made the slashes, pick it up and stretch the holes out. Richard Bertinet literally throws the dough into his oven, and if it doesn't land right, he stretches it out again before closing the oven door. So you need quite a robust dough, not the sort that runs around all over the worktop ;)

Do try it again - it's SO delicious, and easy once you've got the hang of it (although I know well how a bad experience can make you nervous of trying again)

Good luck


Aparna Balasubramanian said...

That looks lovely, Joanna. I made fougasse (with onion and its on my blog)and it was lovely. Got eaten up so quickly.
Never made bread sticks at home so far, though.