Saturday, January 10, 2015

Fougasse, a crusty bread for your Fall soups #jesuischarlie

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and January is in swing over here in Eastern Oregon. This means cold, overcast weather. It snowed a few times but not enough to really play in, so if we want to sled, we have to drive up into the hills.
 Meanwhile, we had our traditional tamale making, and invited lots of people over for the eating part. Even though tamales freeze okay, we made a double batch so we had at least a hundred of three different varieties. Party time!
Bu now that the holidays are over and the cold weather is still hanging on, my thoughts turn to soup (like Missy's butternut squash soup, or Jan's tortellini soup which I made on Monday). But with soup, I always like a nice crusty French bread. My second oldest, Ana, is our bread maker and although she makes a great baguette, I was craving something I ate many times in France.
Why do I post pictures? Mine never look anything like this. Anyway, this is from the the goodfood website. I didn't use their recipe, though, since I already had one in my head. (Surprise!)

This recipe takes almost no ingredients but it takes almost all day to make. It's not a quickie or a crock pot type dish. Which is why the flavor is unique. There are quick flatbreads out there and some focaccia breads that only take about 30 minutes rising time, but this recipe is a multi-step process for a reason. You can't fake this kind of flavor! So, if you love artisan bread, try this one out. It's perfect with a hot stew on a cold winter's day.

Besides the bread, there are usually some additions like ham, bacon, onion, chives, goat cheese, etc. I had onion and some ham slices. It'll do.
 Chop about a cup of onions. If you like a lot of onion flavor, make the bits largish. I have little ones who don't like onion as much so I minced it.
 About a cup of bacon or ham or what have you. I thought I had sun dried tomatoes but I guess I used them up! Tragedy.
 Sautee these in a pan for a few minutes with a little olive oil until the onions are carmelized and the ham is cooked. 
Mix 1/4 tsp yeast, 2/3 cup water, and 1 1/2 cup flour together and mix well. Place in a warm spot with a towel covering for FOUR HOURS. (No, really. And the first time I made this a few days ago, the dog knocked the bowl over onto the floor, which I didn't realize until I went to check on it three hours later. I had to start over and it was a seven hour wait to step three, haha.) So, set a timer and carry on with your day until it goes off (or your kids remind you that you're in the process of making bread).
During the four hours, the bread will rise and fall (like Rome). Put down that fiddle, Nero, and add 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 tsp salt and 2/3 cup water and knead for about five minutes. Now place the bowl in a warm place (away from the dog) and let it rise for about an hour. We don't want it to fall this time, so if you have quick rise yeast, check on it periodically.
 When it's finally risen, it should look like this. It's all right if the top is a bit crusty. That will mix in just fine.
 Add the ham and onion (or whatever you've prepared for the flavors) and mix very well. It will take a while to get it incorporated since there's a lot of olive oil now. Separate into 3 inch balls.
You should get something like this. Hmmmm.... Interesting.
 This one looks a little more tidy.
 Squash it flat with your palm and make cuts into the bread. The family I stayed with in France (when I was out of school, during the breaks) lived in the North. (The village was is called Verbiesles, but my school was in Chaumont. It's funny... with Google street view, I can actually "walk" up and down the street in front of my friends' house. Isn't that hilarious? They said the Google view of my house is only from up in the air, so apparently, street view Google has made it to their little village sooner than they've made it to mine.) Anyway, their grandma was from Provence. I think there are Northern versions of this to look like trees, but she made hers like leaves, so that's what I'll do. Fougasse is traditionally baked to test the heat of the wood fire ovens before they put in the larger loaves (no thermometers on those things).
 After you've made the cuts, leave the dough to rise AGAIN. (You and this dough are best friends by now. It's going to be a shame to eat it after all the togetherness you've had today.) Preheat the oven to 450F after 45 minutes. In another fifteen, the dough should be ready. Use your fingers to spread out the cuts so there are more gaps. This helps the bread become crusty and separate easily when you take it out of the oven. Brush on olive oil, herbs, (chopped tomatoes if you want) and sea salt. (It should be a little more separated, but such is life. It still tastes yummy.)
 Right out of the oven! Your house will now smell like an artisan boulangerie.
 I'd made a simple carrot, garlic, sausage, crushed tomato soup earlier that day and it was time to add some fresh spinach, let it cook a few minutes and take it off the stove.
 I know spinach is an acquired taste  and in the summer, it's a constant source of complaint, but nobody seems to mind it midwinter.
My camera was fogging up from the steam so I decided to put it down and eat! I hope you all enjoyed the process of making traditional fougasse from start to finish. 
Also, please pray for the people of France as they recover from the recent terrorist attacks. Je Suis Charlie is a phrase people have posted as a sign of support during this time. I'm never sure how much good it does to post a meme or change a facebook picture, but my friends there say it has truly touched them to see such a unified front from people around the world, from instagram to twitter to facebook to imgur. 
Until next time, stay warm and eat good food!


  1. Joining you in prayer and love for freedom of speech, religion and the right to bear arms. “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” (Ben Franklin)

    I love making fun, interesting and different breads. There's something so marvelously earthy about canning food and baking bread! Virginia, I will love trying this multi-step process! One of my favorite cookbooks is James Beard's "Beard on Bread" but there's nothing like this in there.


    My little ones and I are learning the water cycle for science and Colonial America for a back-to-basics education for 4 year olds. We've got baking bread, making candles, making soap, growing food, understanding meat (!!!!) and what America looked like before the industrial revolution, so baking bread is right up our alley! Thank you for this!

    1. Ruthy, you're a homeschooler at heart. You know that, don't you? :)

    2. Jan, you're right. I love seeing their minds develop! It's like a marvelous rush!

    3. Jan, I tell one of my friends that all the time. "You know you're a home schooler in denial." There are people who love to explore and teach and create and whether a child is in "school" or at home doesn't make a bit of difference. :)

    4. Ruthy, so interesting about the water cycle. Something my kids always thought was interesting is the power of heat as an agent of change.
      For 4 year olds, you cut up apples and freeze them. The apples thaw and they're still apples. You put the apples in a pot with water and boil it, the apples become apple sauce... and there is NO COMING BACK from that. Studying heat is a great way to build a base of physics and science. I don't think I understood the physical properties of heat until I was twelve, haha.

    5. Oh, something my four year old said a few weeks ago made me laugh. He asked for a "fire proof microscope" to study flame (we were playing with fire, hahah, for real). I told him we just had a regular one. He said, "If they make them waterproof, they have to make some fireproof. Look on Amazon."
      LOLOL. But Amazon failed us. there was indeed, NO fireproof microscopes.

    6. One more thing, really. If you're serious about introducing young (really young) kids to science, this is my favorite book. It goes through the entire periodic table and has experiments you can do at home, with household materials.
      Example: take an egg and smear it with toothpaste. Leave for 12 hours. Wash it off and mark with an X. Put it in a glass of vinegar. Take another egg and put it in another glass of vinegar. After a few hours, the shell will be dissolving on the second egg, while the toothpaste egg will be fairly okay. You can keep checking on it, and after a day or so, the plain egg will be just a sac and a yolk. COOOL! Flouride in action, and it helps kids understand why we need to brush out teeth,

      Link to the book here. :)

    7. Oh how cute!! I love his reasoning. :)

  2. Falling over with lust for this bread!!!!!!! Must try it.

    1. It's a great Saturday task! You can read while it rises. :)

  3. You're right about Artisan bread, Virginia. You really have to make it part of the family while preparing it. That time and attention are key to bringing out the BEST flavors.

    Which is why I haven't made any for a few years. Every day has become a writing day (or a playing in the Hills day!), and the bread baking has suffered. Much to my family's dismay :(

    You've inspired me, though. I have a revision deadline today, and another one next week, but after that, it's going to be a bread baking holiday!

    1. You know what has curbed mine? Being careful with carbs. I second-guess myself because with more contracts (YAY!!!) and more books overall, I'm on my duff more than ever! But I vow to bake bread at least once/week the rest of the winter. My little peeps love it, even if it's my old tried-and-true white bread recipe! (shh.....) Although my little friends would love to make this one and do the cute little flat-faced loaves! #happykids!!!!

    2. Jan you can write and make this bread, honest. It rises for a total of almost 6 hours. Talk about mutli-tasking!

    3. Ruthy, I've always refused the low carb route because LIFE IS TOO SHORT.
      But this winter I've had to watch my sugar and simple carbs. I just can't eat like I used to when I was 39! So crazy what a difference a year can make. Or maybe it's the longer writing time...
      But this recipe makes palm sized rolls, and they're so flavorful and crusty that it feels like much more. I think the melt-in-your-mouth white rolls are much more dangerous because you can eat 3 without even noticing. These need a little more attention and chewing. :)

  4. Virginia, this looks amazing!! I could eat a few loaves of that, soup or not!

    1. It IS, Missy! And the best part? It's not a loaf. It makes about 8 small, palm-sized pieces, and those break apart, so you can actually share one piece with someone else. And since they're crusty on the outside and that hollow, French-bread inside, they store really well. Fresh rolls can go stale so fast, but these were just as good the next day.

  5. I miss the bread baking in my house but I wholeheartedly agree about keeping the people of Paris and beyond in our thoughts and prayers.

    Stay warm!

    1. We had a little bit of rain today and I feel bad for whining. My friends returned to Montana and it was -40 in Billings!
      Good grief. Too cold for me!