Sunday, February 1, 2009

Cooking: Ersatz Fougasse

Don't you just love the word "ersatz?" I've used it in this instance because this fougasse is not traditional; it isn't even made with bread dough, but with left-over dough for pizza crust. I got the idea of using this dough because I often make a pizza bianca with olives and herbs and olive oil, and that got me thinking about savory fougasse. There also seems to be a lot of recipes out there for sweetened fougasse, but I've only ever had one made with olives.

Here's the recipe for the dough I used (I used half of this recipe for a pizza last night).

Pizza Dough
1 Cup warm water (between 85-115°)
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons dry active yeast
3 1/2 Cups flour (I use a combination of unbleached and whole wheat pastry flours)
1/4 Cup olive oil

Pour the warm water into a mixer bowl (I use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment) and add the honey and salt. Mix on low for about 20 seconds, then add the yeast and mix for another 5 seconds or so. Add 1 Cup of the flour and mix on low for 10 seconds. Add the olive oil and mix until blended well, about 20 seconds. Add the rest of the flour a half cup at a time until the dough holds together and forms a ball.

Switch to the dough hook (or start kneading by hand) and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If you are still using the mixer, remove the dough from the bowl, then lightly oil the bowl with a little olive oil. Put the dough back in, turning it once to coat with a little oil. Cover and place in a warm spot to rise (I use the top of the refrigerator).

After about 45 minutes, the dough should have about doubled in size. Punch down, then let rise for an additional hour and a half. The dough is now ready to use. (I put the dough I was using for the fougasse in a sealable plastic bag and put it in the refrigerator overnight; the next day, I let it rise again until doubled, about two hours, before using.)

For the variation that I wanted to make, I chopped enough rosemary leaves to make about 2-3 Tablespoons. I had purchased pitted Ni├žoise olives and herb-brined pitted green olives (combined, about 2/3 Cup) from the olive bar at our local grocery. I drained them and put them on a paper towel to soak up some of the brine and oil, then cut the larger green olives in half. I dumped the rosemary and the olives on top of the dough, then started working it all in with my hands.

When the additions were nicely distributed in the dough, I rolled it out with a rolling pin to an oval about 14 inches long by 10 inches wide. I set it on some cornmeal on a baking sheet, then used a pizza cutter to cut some slashes in the dough (any pattern will do). Using my fingertips, I pulled the edges of the slashes apart to create gaps—I wanted lots of crust. I let it rise again for about an hour, then brushed the top with olive oil and sprinkled on some grey Celtic sea salt (just a little).

Baked it at 375° for about 20 minutes, then let it cool on a rack.

Next time, I will skip the cornmeal as it was too crunchy and I don't think the bread would stick with all of that olive oil. I would also skip the salt; the olives were plenty salty as it were. And, finally, I would bake it at a higher temperature (perhaps as high as 450°) for a shorter amount of time. And using a combination of regular whole wheat flour and bread flour might make for a chewier bread.

How does it taste? Good, if slightly salty. Needs improvement. On the other hand, it was delicious served with some beef and onions braised in beer that we had for dinner, so...

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