This past weekend, our esteemed friend the Baron von Hammer came to dinner.
Now, the Baron is one of my favorite people on the planet to feed, so I always try to put together an extra special, stick-to-your-ribs menu when he comes calling.
I also seem to be making a tradition of stuffing him with brontosaurus-sized slabs of meat.
Last time, it was Steakhouse-Style Pan Roasted Sirloins. This time, I did much the same thing, but with thick, bone-in rib-eyes. There was a cheesy noodle dish. There was a chocolate cheesecake (more on that in a few days).
And there was Fougasse. (Because you can’t invite a baron for a feast and serve him store-bought bread, right?)
Fougasse is a traditional Provencal bread that’s studded with olives and fresh herbs. It’s chewy and flavorful and (you guessed it) totally my new favorite bread.
Since I decided to make this on the fly, I made due with what I had on hand: Marinated green olives and dried rosemary and thyme.
You can definitely do the same. This bread would be fabulous studded with anything from smoked salt to fresh dill or even toasted walnuts.
The bread is rustic and so pretty to bring to the table—and really easy to make. Serve one or two with dinner, and send the rest home with your friends.
To the ovens!
(Provençal Bread with Olives & Herbs)
1 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/3 cups water
4 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for brushing dough
1 tsp. kosher salt
Cornmeal, for dusting
1/2 cup kalamata olives, minced
1/4 cup green olives, minced
2 tbsp. parsley, minced
2 tbsp. thyme, minced
1 tbsp. rosemary, minced
Freshly cracked black pepper
Yields 5 loaves (they’re on the thin side, so it’s not a totally unmanageable amount of bread)
Proof your yeast
Grab your yeast.
Put the yeast and sugar in the bowl of your mixer (or a large mixing bowl if you’re mixing by hand).
Toss in the water. (It should be warm enough to wash your hands, but not hot. Water that’s too hot will kill yeast, and your bread won’t rise.)
Whisk it together. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.
Take the time to do this. It’s the test to check and make sure that your yeast is alive and happy. I always do, even though it seems unnecessary, because I’d hate to add all the other ingredients, then find out that my bread won’t rise.)
After about 10 minutes, your yeast should “bloom.”
In other words, you’ll see a little opaque raft floating on the surface of the water. That means your yeast is alive and happy.
Make the dough
Toss in the flour and salt.
Add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
Give it a quick mix to start the dough. I do this so that the mixer doesn’t throw flour all over my counter when I turn it on.
Knead for about 5 minutes on medium high, until you have a firm, dry-ish dough.
The first rise (about 1 1/2 hours)
Round up the dough in a rough ball in your bowl. Cover with a few damp paper towels and let it rise for about an hour and a half, or until it’s doubled in size.
(I did this in a new bowl, since I was using my mixer for something else and needed the bowl clean. If you’re not, you can just leave it in the bowl you mixed it in.)
(Sidebar: Penelope is really turning into a Kitchen Dog. She loves to hang out with me while I’m cooking! Isn’t she getting big?)
Shaping the loaves
When your dough has about doubled in size, you’re ready to shape your loaves. Line 3 sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside. Toss a little flour on a board.
Grab your dough. Smoosh it around in your hands to get the air out of it. It should be on the dry side (as in, it won’t stick very much to your hands).
Round it up in a ball and set it on your board.
Grab one wedge.
Roll it out so it’s about 8 inches long and 5 inches wide at the base.
Cut 3 long slits and 1 short slit in it like this:
Take the dough and transfer it to one of your prepared parchment lined pans. (Toss a little cornmeal on the paper if you like. I completely forgot to do this.)
When the dough is on the pan, pull the slits apart. This is going to be pretty representative of your finished bread, so be sure you’re happy with how the dough looks.
Repeat with the rest of the dough. I could fit 2 breads on 1 sheet pan.
Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let them stand for about 30 minutes. They will poof up a little, but not dramatically. That’s just fine.
Bake the fougasse
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees about 15 minutes before you’re ready to bake. Chop up the olives and herbs. Like I said, I used dry herbs in a pinch here.
Lightly brush the surface of the dough with olive oil. Sprinkle with chopped olives.
Toss on a little salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Bake the bread
Pop them into the oven and bake at 500 degrees for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.
I split my dough between 3 pans, so I baked 2 pans at once, then did the last pan afterwards.
Let cool on a wire rack, if you can bear to wait to tear into them. Enjoy!