Serves: Makes 1 loaf
- ½ cup (4 ounces) warm water (110° to 115°F)
- ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast, or generous ⅛ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon (4½ ounces) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (4 ounces) warm water (110° to 115°F)
- ½ teaspoon active dry yeast, or generous ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) olive oil
- 1¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon (7 ounces) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ to 1 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped mixture of fresh rosemary and thyme
Procedures:This Provençal bread is rustic, flavorful, and ready for a party. The large loaf (nearly the size of a baking sheet) feeds a small crowd, and the unique leaf pattern cut into the bread before baking gives it a striking presence. Feel free to change the herbs, or add some chopped olives, walnuts, or cheese. The olive oil in the dough crisps the crust and adds an irresistible chewiness to the crumb.
- Make the biga: Pour the warm water into the medium bowl and whisk in the yeast. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and looks creamy. Stir in the flour and mix until it forms a rough dough. Turn onto a work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Return to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 4 to 6 hours (or up to 12 hours) at room temperature, or 24 hours in the refrigerator.
- Mix, rest, and knead the dough: Pour the warm water into the bowl of the stand mixer. Add the yeast, whisk by hand to blend, and let the mixture stand until the yeast is activated and looks creamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the biga and the olive oil and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add the flour, rosemary, thyme, and salt. Knead the dough on low speed until it comes together in a cohesive mass, about 2 to 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate before further kneading. Turn the mixer to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is firm, elastic, and smooth, 4 to 6 minutes.
- Rise the dough (first rise) : Lightly oil the tub or bowl, scrape the dough into the tub, and lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in size, 1½ to 2 hours (longer if the room is cold). If you are using a tub, be sure to mark the starting level of the dough with a pencil or piece of tape so it's easy to tell when the dough has doubled.
- Punch down and shape the dough: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don't knead the dough again or it will be too springy and difficult to shape (if this happens, simply cover the dough with plastic wrap or a lint-free cotton towel and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes to give the gluten some time to relax). Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. If you will be using a baking or pizza stone to bake the bread, place the parchment paper and dough on the bottom of the baking sheet so you can slide them easily onto the stone. Press the dough into a large half circle that is about 12 inches across the flat bottom, 11 inches tall at the peak of the circle, and about 3⁄8 inch thick. Let the dough rest, covered with plastic wrap or a lint-free cotton towel, for 10 to 15 minutes. To make the design in the dough, use a very sharp paring knife or a lame (you don't want to pull or drag the dough) to make a slit down the center, then two or three slits at an angle on each side of the center so they resemble the veins in a leaf. Each slit should go all the way through the dough to the baking sheet. Gently stretch each slit so the cut edges are about 1½ inches apart, making decorative holes in the dough.
- Proof the dough (second rise) : Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel. Allow the dough to rise until it is almost doubled in size and looks like it has taken a deep breath, 30 to 40 minutes.
- Prepare the oven: Place a baking or pizza stone in the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Be sure to allow 30 minutes to 1 hour for the stone to fully heat. Bake the bread: Dimple the dough by gently pressing your fingertips into the dough about ¼ inch deep, taking care that you don't deflate the dough by pressing too vigorously or making too many indentations. Gently brush the surface of the dough with the olive oil. Sprinkle the salt and chopped herbs evenly over the top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the internal temperature registers 200°F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a rack and cool completely. Slice the bread with a serrated knife or simply let guests tear off pieces.
Storing: The fougasse will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for 2 days. Cover any cut areas with plastic wrap. For longer storage, double-wrap in plastic and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw on the counter for 2 hours, or until room temperature. Place the thawed bread in a 400°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the crumb is warmed and the crust is crisped.