This week was Botanical Week on The Great British Bake Off although what they had us baking on the technical challenge looked more like something out of Bread Week.
Botanical week was the first time this week ever featured on the bake off, and I’m still not sold. It’s a hell of a lot better than batter week, though, which made me make stupid Lacy Pancakes. They couldn’t have been less appealing to me if they had been called diet pancakes, although that’s basically what they were as they were half air half food.
After having made these I’m no clearer on how fougasses differ from focaccia other than the weird holes and the significant amount of herbs and oil. It’s supposed to be French Mediterranean but it tasted more Italian to me.
- 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 10g fine sea salt
- 10g fast-action dried yeast
- 2T olive oil, plus extra for brushing/spraying
- 250ml warm water
- 2t chopped fresh rosemary
- 2t chopped fresh thyme
- 2t chopped fresh sage
- fine semolina, for dusting
- 1/2t dried oregano
- crushed sea salt
- Put the flour, fine salt and yeast into the bowl of a free-standing mixer taking care to keep yeast and salt separate. Add the olive oil and three-quarters of the water then start mixing on a low speed. As it comes together slowly add the remaining water and then leave in the bowl mixing and kneading for 6-8 minutes on medium speed until the dough becomes wet and smooth but pliable.
- Add the rosemary, thyme and sage and continue mixing for a minute until evenly distributed. Transfer the dough to an oiled 3-litre capacity square container and cover with clingfilm or the lid of the container. Leave to rise for at least an hour until doubled in size and bouncy and shiny.
- Dust the counter with flour and semolina then carefully tip the dough on to this - don't worry if it's loose. Divide the dough in half then lift each piece of dough onto a baking sheet and gently spread out to a flat oval.
- Using a pizza-cutter, make 2 cuts down the middle of each oval, stopping 2cm away from each end. Then make 6 diagonal cuts in the dough on both sides of this central cut, to form a leaf design as per my picture. Stretch the dough out to emphasise the holes you've cut to ensure they don't close up during rising or baking.
- Leave these to rise for 20 minutes in place on the baking sheets. Towards the end of this time heat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
- Brush each loaf with olive oil then sprinkle with dried oregano. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the fougasses are nicely golden and sound hollow when tapped on the underside. Remove from the oven and while still hot, brush with more olive oil then sprinkle with crushed sea salt. Serve warm, or as soon as possible.
- I left my dough in the square container to prove for about 2 hours in total and it seems to have worked wonders.
- The recipe advised preparing the baking sheets by oiling them but instead I just dusted mine with semolina cos I like that kind of dusting and I didn't want to add any more moisture.
- For the second rise on the baking sheets, the recipe advised proving in plastic bags but I couldn't be bothered.
When I first put the dough into the box below it was about 2 handfuls big but ended up being massive – see the below. Also, this square box that they had us use was the same type of box they tried to make me use a long long time ago when I made focaccia as part of the technical challenge in 2011. 2011!! But I didn’t have one then. I did however finally shell out and buy one when I made ciabatta back in the technical challenge of Bread Week 2014, and I used it again for these. A wise investment then.
They were pretty great I thought, but I did think there were too many spices in there. maybe just half as many as herbs next time.