FEELING INSPIRED by a comment from reader Virginia Embry Marx, I recently made Fougasse aux Herbes de Provence. Are you familiar with this French version of Italian focaccia? It’s dense and delicious. It’s powerfully fragrant. And it’s a breeze to make.
I don’t know why that last sentence popped into my head.
Please don’t hold it against me.
My idea of good olive oil? Green and fruity.
I’d mention the brand I use, but I’m afraid someone will tell me it’s the worst brand on the market.
And then I’ll be forced to hang my head in shame.
There are all kinds of mixtures called “Herbes de Provence.” Mine, which came in a bottle, contains rosemary, marjoram, thyme and savory. If you have dried lavender petals on hand, you would not be wrong to add them to the mix. A teaspoonful would be nice.
I grow lots of lavender ‘Munstead’ here in summer, but I never dry the petals. Instead, I use them fresh. They are screamingly-delicious in these shortbread cookies.
Oh, to see my lavender plants again! Just now they are buried beneath 2 inches of ice.
It’s been a long, vengeful winter.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, and set it someplace warm until the dough doubles in volume — about 2 hours. In my old, drafty house, the only warm spot in winter is a common heating pad set to “low.”
The heating pad works like a charm.
And speaking of baking sheets…after dealing with cheap, impossible-to-clean models, I finally bit the bullet and purchased some “commercial” grade sheets. What a difference! With just soap and water, and virtually no scrubbing, they resume their shiny newness.
Shall we make this leaf look a little more…leaf-like? Grab a knife, and cut 6 diagonal slashes into the dough. In the photo above, I’m using a plastic knife in order to avoid scratching my aforementioned baking sheet.
Meanwhile, set the oven rack at the lower-middle position. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Oh. Shape the remaining dough into a leaf, a ghost, a tree, or, heaven forbid, a snowman. There is no limit to the fougasse-forms you can make.
Note: Add a little minced parsley and garlic to the oil, and your mouth will have an orgasm.
And here, for your utter convenience, is a copy-and-paste version of the above recipe:
Fougasse aux Herbes de Provence
As made by Kevin Lee Jacobs (www.kevinleejacobs.com)
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for greasing)
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons dried Herbes de Provence
Special Equipment: A standing mixer outfitted with the dough hook (or, you can knead the dough entirely by hand); 2 lightly-oiled baking sheets; a pastry brush
1. In a bowl or a 2-cup measure, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. When the yeast begins to foam (in 5-10 minutes), add the olive oil.
2. Tip the flour and salt into the bowl of the standing mixer, and blend at low speed for a few seconds. Turn the machine off, and add the yeast mixture. Then resume blending on low speed, and add the herbs. Increase speed to medium, and knead until the dough feels fairly smooth – 5-7 minutes.
3. Coat a mixing bowl with oil. Add the dough, and flip it to coat the other side. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, and set someplace warm until the dough doubles in volume – about 2 hours. Then punch down the dough, place it on your work surface, and cut it in half. Return one half to the oiled mixing bowl.
4. Pat the dough into a 12-inch long oval. Transfer the oval to the lightly-oiled baking sheet.
To create a leaf-design, use a plastic knife to cut diagonal slashes through the dough. Use your fingers to open up the slash marks, so they will hold their shape during baking. Lightly brush the loaf with olive oil, cover it with plastic, and let it sit in a warm place until slightly puffed – about 20 minutes.
Repeat step #4 for the remaining dough.
Meanwhile, set the oven rack at the lower-middle position; preheat the oven to 450°F.
5. Bake until lightly browned and fragrant – 15-20 minutes.
Think you’ll try this beautiful bread? You can let me know by leaving a comment. As always, I cherish your thoughts.
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