“What IS that – thing – sitting on the cooling rack?”
“Man, that is UGGGGGGG-ly!”
“Is it edible?”
I tell you, I got a ration of… teasing from my King Arthur Flour bake-mates last week, when I made this – “thing.”
This fougasse. Despite its ugly-duckling looks, a true swan in the world of classic French yeast breads.
You like crust? This bread has a greater crust-to-middle ratio then probably any other. Interesting flavors? While the typical fougasse is simply topped with olive oil and salt – perhaps a sprinkle of herbs – there’s no law that says you can’t add whatever you like to the dough before you shape it.
I happen to like golden raisins. And walnuts. And cheese. Yes, all at once.
You know, like the fancy salad you can get at your finer restaurants: “Salad of Watercress, Strawberries, Gorgonzola Dolce, and Candied Pecans with a Champagne Vinaigrette.”
My toned-down, middle-class, bread version of this dish features walnuts, golden raisins, and good ol’ American blue cheese. Same idea; different players.
So if you’re not afraid to face the taunts of your beauty-conscious family and friends, give this crusty bread a whirl.
Ugly, after all, is only crust-deep.
Stir to combine. Cover, and set aside at room temperature.
Next morning, you’ll see that the starter has softened and developed bubbles.
Now, if you don’t want to wait for an overnight starter, you can substitute 1 cup of sourdough starter – either fed starter, or unfed (right from the fridge). This is a great use for that cup of starter you’d otherwise discard, prior to feeding your sourdough.
Combine the starter with 1/2 cup lukewarm water, 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 2 teaspoons instant yeast, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Mix to form a rough dough.
Then knead for about 7 minutes, till the dough is smooth. It’ll be a bit sticky; notice the little bit of “cling” at the bottom of the mixing bowl? This is fine; better sticky than dry.
Place the dough in a lightly greased container. As usual, I’m using an 8-cup liquid measure, so I can track its rise.
Allow the dough to double in size. This will take about 90 minutes or so. Towards the end of the rising time, put the crumbled blue cheese in the freezer to firm up; this’ll make it easier to knead into the dough.
Gently deflate the dough, and add 1 cup walnut halves, and 1/2 cup golden raisins.
Knead them in, gently and quickly as you can. You don’t want to break up the walnut halves too much.
Here’s the blue cheese; use a firm variety, not one of the ultra-soft blue cheeses. I bought this one already crumbled, in a plastic container.
Add 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese…
…and knead it in by hand.
Don’t go crazy trying to make the dough smooth; it won’t happen. It should look about like this.
Gently shape the dough into a tapered oval with an indented end, about 10” wide x 12” long.
Allow it to rise for 45 minutes, covered. Then cut a vertical slash all the way through the dough to the parchment or pan underneath.
Cut three diagonal slashes on either side of the vertical cut.
Pull the dough apart at the slashes, then gently pat the fougasse to an even thickness.
Cover it, and let it rise for an additional 45 minutes, till it’s puffed up a bit.
FYI, here’s a simple ladder, if you’d like to do this shape instead.
Since this bread isn’t the best-looking loaf ever to come down the pike, you can add some “makeup” if you like. Just prior to baking, brush it with 1 egg white whisked with 1 tablespoon cold water. This will add a nice sheen to the crust.
Bake the fougasse in a preheated 400°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes…
…till it’s golden brown.
Remove it from the oven. Cool it on a rack, or right on the baking sheet.
Pull off pieces to serve.
Ah, melted cheese… nothing better!
And here’s the interior – nice crumb, tasty filling.
Because of the starter, fougasse will stay fresh for several days. And, feel free to add your own favorite fillings. If you’re a fan of the strictly savory (hold the raisins, please), try our Olive & Onion Fougasse.
Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Walnut, Raisin, and Blue Cheese Fougasse.
Buy vs. Bake
Buy: Hahn’s Bakery, Geneva, IL: Fougasse country bread, $5.00
Bake at home: Walnut, Raisin, and Blue Cheese Fougasse, $4.13