Fresh from the Oven,
French Hearth Bread
Three Cheese Fougasse
September’s challenge for Fresh from the Oven is one of my favourite French breads, Fougasse ~ I love their casual and unpretentious style and the fact that any topping goes; I have made them before with crispy lardons and fried onions, but for this month’s challenge I decided to make a three cheese version, perfect for accompanying my home-made soup for lunch.
Fougasse is a peasant hearth bread from the Provence region of France, although you will find them all over France in boulangeries and supermarket bakery departments ~ think a primitive form of pizza, a simple bread that was made with odds and ends of dough at the end of the day, and allowed to prove overnight on the hearth, being baked next morning as soon as the fires were lit. It is an excellent “tear and share” bread and I love it with soups and stews, as well as when packed still warm in a tea-towel and taken on a picnic.
This recipe uses three French cheeses which give a distinct flavour and texture to the topping of this bread ~ use any local cheeses that melt well if you cannot source the ones I have suggested; Cheddar springs to mind as well as Parmesan cheese. You can of course add many other toppings, as well as herbs to the dough ~ rosemary is a favourite of mine especially with black olives.
This has been a wonderful challenge and I discovered a new favourite with my three cheeses, all remnants of a cheese board from the night before ~ I will try a chèvre or blue cheese next time with walnuts maybe ~ the possibilities are endless and I am happy to pursue them! So, here with a flurry of floury hands and doughy fingers, is my offering for Fresh from the Oven for September.
See you soon,
Three Cheese Fougasse
(Makes 3 loaves)
400g strong white bread flour
1 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
100ml olive oil
200ml warm water
25g Gruyère, 25g Comte, 25g Cantal, all grated – (75g cheese in total)
Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and water in a food processor. Blend to form a dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a large bowl and set aside to rest in a warm place for 1 hour.
Shape the dough into three rough oval shapes and make 3 slits across the bread on each side with a knife and 1 large one right down the middle, cutting right through the dough ~ you will have 7 slits in total, 3 on each side of the loaf and 1 in the middle. Stretch it with your hands and a rolling pin to about 30cm long.
Put the loaves on to greased baking trays, cover with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place to prove until doubled in volume. Allow up to an hour for this.
Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas mark 5. Bake the fougasse loaves for 25 to 30 minutes. If you’re adding the cheese or another topping, take the bread out of the oven just before it’s done, sprinkle the cheese or other flavourings evenly over the bread, and return to the oven for 5 minutes.Eat warm or cold.
Alternative toppings to try: caramelised onions, other types of cheese, olives, rosemary, minced garlic, grilled bacon or lardons. Press them into the almost cooked loaf and proceed as before, baking them for a further 5 minutes.