Fougasse with walnuts and fig paste (don’t mention the focaccia)

fougasse-1

Fougasse, panis focacius, fogatza, fouace, hougasse, fouasso.

Just don’t say focaccia.

Fougasse is a type of flat bread made in France, with a name derived from Latin and Occitan (the language of the Languedoc region, among others, and apparently a close relative to modern Catalan). The most famous variety is slashed to look like an ear of wheat, and is savoury, though other varieties include a sweet bread flavoured with orange water. Fougasse is baked until it’s very browned, and should have a crispy crust and a soft interior.

The English and French Wikipedia both tell me that fougasse was used by bakers to test if their bread oven was at the right temperature. If the French Wikipedia says so about a French bread, it must be right, right??

I also quickly learned it’s not focaccia. For a variety of reasons, including focaccia is Italian and fougasse is French.

Having got these preliminaries out of the way, I can get on with this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) assignment, sweet fougasse. I’ve wanted to make fougasse, with its distinctive wheat or leaf shape, for a while. Who could resist the idea of slashing dough, pulling on dough, until there are giant holes in the dough? It’s all of my “playing with food” wishes come true.

But.  Like a stroll through Alice in Wonderland, nothing turned out quite the way I expected.

fougasse-3a

Fougasse dough

The dough recipe in Baking with Julia uses a focaccia dough as a base (I’ve made the focaccia here). Rather than break one of the cardinal rules of fougassian identity, I decided to make a walnut fougasse, using a dough loosely inspired by the walnut fougasse recipe in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Bread Bible.

(I say ‘inspired by’ because I was a total cluntz and did everything I could to ensure the bread would fail. It says a lot about the dough’s resilience that it didn’t fail. I left the flour, milk and yeast to pre-ferment even though Rose’s recipe does not contain this step. I poured all of the olive oil into the bowl first time round, rather than adding it by tablespoons and using some to grease the mixing bowl. The dough’s proofing time was probably wrong too, since we lingered over lunch in the sun, but by that point it hardly seemed to matter.)

The dough was surprisingly easy to work with. It began as a shaggy, wet, clingy mess that seemed to stick everywhere except in the bowl. But over a few minutes, kneading in blind faith, the dough suddenly began to come together. Bits of dough began sticking to itself, cleaning the bowl, developing a glossy sheen. Then, I had a beautiful dough on the kitchen bench, lightly coloured from, ahem, all that excess olive oil. It was loose, easy to stretch out to shape, slash, pull and stretch, but was not the almost-liquid dough that is often used to make focaccia.

fougasse-4

Fougasse topping

Having departed so radically from TWD’s recipe, I felt better about making more changes when I realised we had no blueberries in the house. Instead, I used some home made fig paste made with the last bit of that fig honey caramel, and crushed walnuts in the mortar and pestle with a piece of jaggery (a kind of dark palm sugar I find in Indian or Fijian stores). Sprinkled onto fougasse just before baking, these ingredients gave a suggestion, or an evocation, of streusel rather streusel itself.

Fougasse baking

I left the fougass in the oven until it became a darker golden brown, 20-25 minutes. The sweet walnut fougass had most of the characteristics I had read about, but didn’t think I could get from a home oven: crisp on the outside, a little crunchy around the edges, soft and just a teensy toothsome inside. 

In my haste to prepare the topping, I left the walnut and jaggery mixture slightly chunky, so that we had the contrast between sweet, sticky fig paste, toasted walnuts and the occasional crunchy intense sweetness from the jaggery.

As improvised bread goes, this was a very good mid-afternoon snack.

fougasse-5

The last bit of dough became a plain, classic walnut fougasse, sans the evocation of streusel. Saggy dough, wide slashes, spray of water before going in the oven, and we had a ‘rustic’ wheat sheaf on our dining table. The plain walnut fougasse became part of dinner, alongside a strange-sounding but comforting lavender, saffron and cinnamon chicken.

Other TWD bakers

This week, TWD bakers have the choice between a blueberry muffin and blueberry streusel fougasse, so please check out everyone else’s efforts – and the real Baking with Julia recipe! Below is the walnut fougasse recipe I tried to follow.

fougasse-2

Walnut Fougasse

(Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe adapted and published here)

Ingredients

3 1/4 cups or approx 450 grams strong flour (the recipe says you can use plain/AP flour)
1 3/4 tsp instant dried yeast
1/2 tbsp table salt
1 1/4 cup scalded and cooled skim milk (I used full fat milk, warmed it over a stove until it was just about to boil and form a ‘skin’, and cooled the milk)
1/2 cup walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cups chopped walnuts (I pounded the walnuts in a mortar and pestle until it was a mixture of coarse walnut meal and smallish chunks)

Method

1. Mix together 3 cups (420 grams) of flour with the yeast. Add salt and walnuts. Pour the milk and 2 tablespoons of oil into the bowl (note to self, 2 tbsp, not the whole half cup of oil).

2. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, have faith, it will. After it has become a ball of dough, knead the dough on a floured surface for about 5 minutes. Try adding as little as possible of the reserved flour (since I added too much oil, I didn’t really need flour at all). Cover the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes.

3. Knead the dough for another 5 minutes. Coat a large mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of oil. Put the dough into the bowl, cover, and let it rise for 30 to 45 minutes. Knead in another tablespoon of oil, put it back in the mixing bowl, cover, and let it rise for 30-45 minutes. Knead in another tablespoon of oil, put it back in the bowl, cover and let it rise until doubled in size.

4. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 425F / about 220C. Place a baking stone or a baking sheet on the lowest shelf in the oven. Take the dough out of the mixing bowl onto a lightly floured bench, give it a business letter turn (fold it in three), and let it rise for 30 minutes.

5. Divide the dough into a few pieces, if you want smaller fougasse. Brush the dough with the last bit of walnut or olive oil. Score the dough a few times in a wheat sheaf or leaf pattern, lift it onto baking paper (if using), so that the slashes stretch out. At this point, add the sweet toppings, or brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with herbs such as rosemary. Let the dough have its final rise for another 15 minutes. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until crisp and golden brown.

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47 thoughts on “Fougasse with walnuts and fig paste (don’t mention the focaccia)

  1. Experienced Tutors 3 September 2013 at 3:29 am Reply

    Blueberry Muffin – Now you’re talking! One of my favourite activities is to sit in the coffee shop with a latte, blueberry muffin and do a bit writing – is that heaven on earth?

  2. johnnysenough hepburn 3 September 2013 at 8:56 am Reply

    I’ve never heard of this bread. And I’ve been to that region. No excuses, then. Still haven’t quite gotten over my fear of using yeast as yet. Hmm…yet this bread sounds incredible! So I just might have to buy in some yeast. And loving your figs and walnuts. Such a good combo.

    • saucygander 3 September 2013 at 9:37 am Reply

      Give it a go! It’s a flat bread, so less risk of the loaf not ‘springing’ in the oven, which is my fear about baking with yeast. The recipe I failed to follow seemed very forgiving, and the result was beautiful warm from the oven.
      I haven’t made it to Languedoc yet, but with all that cheese, bread and wine, I really, really want to. Maybe next Europe holiday..

  3. Liz 3 September 2013 at 2:39 pm Reply

    oh so pretty :-) Great intro, too. Love that you got such a great result even after all the “issues.” And hip hip hooray, the fig honey caramel appears again!

    • saucygander 5 September 2013 at 12:27 am Reply

      Definitely a love affair with fig caramel on this blog, but I tell Mr Gander there is no need to worry! :-)

  4. Anne ~ Uni Homemaker 3 September 2013 at 3:49 pm Reply

    I’ve seen these bread at my favorite bakery. It’s nice to know I can make them at home now. Thank you for the recipe. They look amazing. Pinning! Have a great week! :)

    • saucygander 5 September 2013 at 12:28 am Reply

      Thanks! Hopefully these will work well for you too. Now I want to try the other recipes in the Bread Bible!

  5. lemongrovecakediaries 3 September 2013 at 9:21 pm Reply

    You are so creative with your flavour combinations – your fougasse sounds delicious!

    • saucygander 5 September 2013 at 12:31 am Reply

      Thanks, it really was being lazy and using what I had in the house, but I’m sure there’s a proverb about laziness being the mother of invention? :-)

  6. beverlyswin 4 September 2013 at 1:11 am Reply

    Did you put the fig paste in the bread or on top? I adore anything figgy!

    • saucygander 5 September 2013 at 12:35 am Reply

      I love anything figgy too! I spread the fig paste on top, though it probably could have been folded into the dough too. There’s an idea…

  7. Dawn 4 September 2013 at 4:47 am Reply

    Ohhh, you did great!! Much braver than I was this week. :)

    • saucygander 5 September 2013 at 12:36 am Reply

      Thanks! Your blackberry and raspberry muffins look so good, I’ll be sure to try them soon.

  8. lovinghomemade 4 September 2013 at 8:27 am Reply

    That really sounds good! Was going to try a savoury fougasse – hadn’t thought of trying a sweet one!

    • saucygander 5 September 2013 at 12:37 am Reply

      Apparently Toulouse or somewhere has a sweet one flavoured with orange water! I’m intrigued by that idea :-)

  9. SandraM 4 September 2013 at 11:10 am Reply

    Your fougasse looks and sounds wonderful!

  10. yummychunklet 4 September 2013 at 12:24 pm Reply

    The fig paste sounds awesome!

    • saucygander 5 September 2013 at 12:37 am Reply

      Thanks! We rather like it here. :-)

  11. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella 4 September 2013 at 12:50 pm Reply

    I love fougasse and focaccia! And adding jaggery on top to simulate streusel is a great idea :D

    • saucygander 5 September 2013 at 12:40 am Reply

      Freshly baked focaccia is the best! As for jaggery, it meant I didn’t have to go to the shops to buy real streusel ingredients, win/win!

  12. Sunshinex2 4 September 2013 at 4:23 pm Reply

    So creative! Glad it worked out and you had a great snack and dinner accompaniment.

    • saucygander 5 September 2013 at 12:41 am Reply

      Thanks, it was a good way to end the weekend!

  13. Pam 5 September 2013 at 2:34 am Reply

    I’ve never had this bread before. It looks and sounds delicious.

    • saucygander 5 September 2013 at 8:45 pm Reply

      It was delicious, thanks for visiting!

  14. Jody and Ken 5 September 2013 at 2:53 am Reply

    Uh-oh, we’ve got a fig focaccia post in the works… Great minds think… and all that. Coincidence notwithstanding, your fougasse looks great. I also admire your intrepid alteration of RLB’s recipe with the preferment (always a good idea, if possible) to give the bread a bit more flavor. Having just returned from fougasseland, I’d make one minor observation–I think fougasse may be a bit denser than many incarnations of focaccia, with a bit more crackle in the crust. Anyway, great post and photos. Also, you raised the bar with clumsiness–a “cluntz”–how dreadful. :-) Ken

    • saucygander 5 September 2013 at 8:51 pm Reply

      A fig-off! Or fig fight! :-)

      Fougasseland sounds like an amusement park for bakers, I’d be signing up. I would agree about the crackle in the crust, it was crustier than my previous efforts at focaccia. It was why I wanted to use a specific fougasse recipe, rather than follow the Baking with Julia approach of adapting a focaccia recipe. Now I’d like to have a ‘real’ fougasse, from fougasseland!

      Signed, the cluntz.

  15. Cathleen 5 September 2013 at 2:40 pm Reply

    Wow! These look and sound amazing! Such striking photos too!

    • saucygander 5 September 2013 at 9:06 pm Reply

      Thank you! Your muffins look delectable too, must make them soon!

  16. galettista (Peggy) 6 September 2013 at 11:03 am Reply

    That sounds delicious. I’m inspired to make the fougasse soon

    • saucygander 6 September 2013 at 11:05 pm Reply

      Hi Peggy, great to hear, I hope you do make it, it was super tasty!

  17. jora 7 September 2013 at 4:55 am Reply

    Gorgeous photos. I’m so impressed by your improvisation skills. Improvising with yeast dough totally scares me. Fig honey caramel sounds excellent!

    • saucygander 7 September 2013 at 7:24 am Reply

      Thanks, glad to hear others also like the idea of fig honey caramel! For the longest time, yeast terrified me, full stop. But after quite a few failed loaves of breads, I started to get the hang of it. It can be lots of fun! :-)

  18. laurasmess 8 September 2013 at 6:57 pm Reply

    Love the rusticity of this post. Gorgeous bread, whatever name you call it! I adore walnuts so this sounds like a perfectly delicious combination. Bring some to our tent feast?!!! xx

    • saucygander 9 September 2013 at 9:36 pm Reply

      Sure, it will be some tent feast!!

  19. TheKitchenLioness 9 September 2013 at 7:17 pm Reply

    Very creative indeed! Your Fougasse with the Walnuts and Fig Paste sound absolutely fabulous and they also look fantastic – I really like the fact that you were so “artisitic” with this recipe! Respect!
    Have a lovely Monday!

    • saucygander 9 September 2013 at 9:41 pm Reply

      Thanks, glad you liked my version. Have a great week!

  20. Ckay 13 September 2013 at 2:24 am Reply

    They look fantastic! Fougasse is definitely on my “to bake next” list.

  21. tinkerbelle86 17 September 2013 at 2:11 am Reply

    I baked my first loaf this weekend and now im a convert! I cant wait to try some unusual and exciting recipes, and I love the look of this one. thanks for sharing

    • saucygander 17 September 2013 at 9:02 am Reply

      Great to hear about your first loaf! Good luck with new loaves, they can be a but trial and error but are worth the effort! :-)

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