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Fougasse Bread with Tomato and Olives

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Prep: 30 min // Rest & Prove: Overnight // Bake: 12 min


What is it?

Put simply, fougasse is the French artisanal version of the Italian focaccia. Taste-wise, it is the most flavoursome, gooey and fragrant bread I've ever eaten! I bet most of you who travelled and walked through a Provencal market found it hard resisting to the charms of a freshly baked fougasse. Well, now with this recipe, you can make it at home. All you need is some pretty staple ingredients and some... patience as it takes a while to prove the dough. The result is really worth all the efforts in the world. It looks like a crusty flatbread and is served as an appetiser along with dips and spreads or paired with a nice cheese board and red wine. In our house though, this bread never makes it to the table. It’s so tasty and fragrant that we stuff our faces as soon as it comes off freshly baked from the oven (dipping it in olive oil).


Origins

The origins of this bread go back to ancient Rome (called ‘panis focacius’) but it looks that the recipe was spread and altered across the empire’s neighbouring regions. No wonder nowadays you find versions of this in France (like the fougasse), Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Turkey and the Balkans too in forms of cheese bread or cheese biscuit. In Greece, there’s also a variation that we call “Payneerlee” and resembles a lot this kind of enhanced flatbread but it is shaped and stuffed in a different way. I will post this recipe very soon, that’s a promise.


Recipe

Fougasse can be made with many different ingredients, from the humble rosemary, used in focaccia, to more complicated combinations of your own ingredients. There’s a lot of space for improvisation here (at step 4 of the recipe below). For this recipe, I went conservative and used the typical Provencal recipe with olives and dried tomato but used oregano and parmesan instead of gruyere and rosemary. At the end of this page, I have some product recommendations (mostly Greek that I know and trust) since I haven’t been introduced to the French equivalents yet.


Equipment

1 small bowl (for the starter), 1 big bowl (for the dough), baking tray, wooden working surface (a large wooden cutting board is fine, wood is the best material for kneading and rolling dough).


Ingredients (makes 1 loaf – 6-8 servings)

For the starter:

  • 75g strong bread flour

  • 75ml hot water

  • ½ tsp dried yeast

For the bread:

  • 200g strong bread flour (plus some more for working with the dough)

  • ½ tsp salt

  • ½ tsp dried yeast

  • 1 tbsp honey

  • 50g sun-dried tomatoes

  • 4 tbsp infused olive oil (use as much oil from the dried tomato vase or use any other infused olive oil)

  • 30g pitted black olives (Kalamata olives)

  • 70g parmesan cheese, grated

  • 1 tsp dried oregano


Substitutes

  • Gruyere with Parmesan or Greek Graviera: I have already substituted gruyere cheese (that the original recipe yields for) with parmesan but Greek Cretan graviera works also really good with this as it’s salty and ripe enough to resemble parmesan.

  • Infused Oil: As for the olive oil, feel free to use plain extra virgin olive oil if you don’t have any infused left, just go for a very good aromatic quality (like one of the best Cretan oils you can find around in the UK: Terra Creta).

  • Herbs: As I mentioned, this can be made with any Mediterranean dried herb, rosemary, thyme and oregano being in the top 5.


Method

  • The night before baking, prepare the starter. It’s a quick one: In a small bowl mix the flour with yeast and the water until well blended and sticky. Cover with cling film and set it aside in room temperature overnight (10-15 hours). As your starter activates, it will grow high, almost double in size, so make sure you’ve got this space reserved in your bowl.

  • 3 hours before baking, start your preparation: dissolve the honey in a glass of hot water (no more than 80-100ml). In a big bowl mix the flour, salt, yeast and slowly incorporate your starter and water/honey solution until you have a smooth and slightly sticky dough. If you feel the dough is too soggy, add some more flour and knead again.

  • Use 1-2 tbsp of the olive oil to coat your hands and the kneading surface and start kneading the dough vigorously for 1-2 minutes to absorb the oil. Then let it rest for 10 minutes and repeat the same process one more time and let it rest another 10 minutes.

  • Press the dough down to flatten and spread your filling ingredients (olives, sun-dried tomatoes, oregano and parmesan). Fold up and knead again for 3-5 minutes until everything is distributed in the dough, transfer it back to the bowl, cover with cling film and let it rise for 1 hour (will almost double in size).

  • Sprinkle your working surface with some flour and stretch your dough down to a flatbread size (around 1-2 cm thick). Give it any shape you like and with a sharp knife slash a few times to open holes on the top (see photo below). Cover with cling film and let it rise for another 1 hour.


  • Preheat your oven to 200c (180c fan) and stretch the dough a little bit to redefine the shape. Bake for 10-12 minutes until a crust is formed (keep an eye in your oven - don't let it burn as mine in the cover photo unless you like it really crusty :-).

  • Let it cool down for 5 minutes before serving... et voilà!!!




Recommended Products

Below are my favourite authentic products I used to cook and shoot this recipe. If you can't see the icons and links, please deactivate your ad-blocker and refresh the page :-)


Kalamata Olives. Before I moved from Greece to the UK, I never had the chance to try any other olive from any other country. Reason being the abundance of olives in Greece. Even if you wanted to, there were no olives imports from another country. Come forward some years and I live in the UK where you can try olives from different countries. Well, after a long trial and error adventure with olives from all over the Mediterranean basin, I came down to the realisation that the most balanced, juiciest and fully flavoured olives are Kalamata and Halkidiki plus some types of Turkish olives that they come pickled with herbs and spices. It might be my personal taste and East Med developed palate but Kalamata is my nr.1 choice and worth every penny. Below are some great Greek products that I found on Amazon and appreciated them.












Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Cretan Olive Oil is undoubtedly one of the most virgin Olive Oils in the world. Be it the Cretan climate, the skills of Cretans delivering exceptional extra virgin oil over the centuries, or both, this is one olive oil you should be giving a try. During my visits to Greece, I used to bring a 3L pack of Cretan (or Spartan) oil over to the UK but I stopped as soon as I realised how good Amazon's price is (not to mention the space I saved in my luggage)! I use this oil for all my recipes, savoury or desserts.


Sun-Dried Tomatoes: There are plenty of dried tomatoes out there in the mainstream supermarkets, some of them pleasantly tasty I must admit. But for me and my cooking, it's always going for the best results, i.e. the best ingredients. Well, within a reasonable price of course. When it comes to dried tomatoes, I totally am up for whatever is coming from Santorini. Tomatoes there have such a distinct flavour (from the micro-climate and the rich volcanic soil) but unfortunately, it is hard to find in the UK, even in Greece! However, I've tried several other different brands, mostly local producer brands from Greece as I 100% support small businesses and this 'Mparmpa Gianni' brand sent me to the moon!


Alternatively, the Odysea products here in the UK offers a decent quality of Greek products and you can find them in premium supermarkets like Waitrose or Wholefoods.


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