Photograph by Isa Zapata, food styling by Pearl Jones and Thu Buser, prop styling by Sean Dooley
Judging from our reader reviews, you already know and love focaccia. That means you’re going to get on great with its equally chill French cousin, fougasse. It’s pronounced foo-gehs-uh, and it translates to focaccia from French. But instead of being baked into a rectangle or round, this parallel to the Italian flatbread rocks a leaf-like shape and a crackly-crispy crust that’s begging to be dunked in soups, stews, and dips.
The bread’s story supposedly starts in ancient Rome, where it was apparently called panis focacius and served as both a quick snack and rudimentary temperature gauge for ovens. In Medieval Provence, it transmuted into fougasse, adorned with wrinkly olives and dramatic slashes to prevent cracking. And during the Feast of Pentecost, fougasse symbolically took the form of a ladder, representing the descent of the Torah on Mount Sinai for Jewish communities in Provence.
The fluffy dough has survived centuries, now a Provençal staple that’s part of every aperitif and often served as a main course with a green salad. But let me save you the trawl through your library’s culinary archives and instead direct you to this delightfully easy, No-Knead Fougasse recipe by my colleague, our deputy food editor Hana Asbrink. If you’re eager to fill your kitchen with the yeasty smell of fresh bread but feel nervous about shaping a boule (same) or dealing with a needy sourdough starter (same), Hana’s recipe is a glorious entry point.
Traditionally, French bakers wrestled flour, water, salt, and yeast into a pillowy dough. Hana’s recipe is comparably low-maintenance; it calls for a high-hydration dough (meaning it’s wetter and stickier) that comes together in one bowl, without the manual pounding. Though it requires about two hours of proofing, with occasional folding, almost all of that time is unattended, leaving you plenty of time to disappear into a juicy novel.
No-knead breads, like Hana’s fougasse, have been around for a while. On November 8, 1945, The Milwaukee Journal published an article titled: “We Don’t Need to Knead Bread Now: Experts Show New Method.” Popularized again by Jim Lahey’s recipe, published in The New York Times in 2006, no-knead peasant breads, focaccias, and ciabattas have steadily risen to prominence, nudging fussier bakes aside. Their magic lies in the remarkable effort (low) to reward (high) ratio.
“There’s often an intimidating aura that surrounds breadmaking, and what the no-knead technique brings is a level playing field,” Hana says. When developing the recipe, she wanted to create something hands-off and approachable, and she has always felt like fougasse, which lurks in focaccia’s shadow, deserved more love. Hana says, “She’s begging to be the main character but no one really talks about her.”
The stunning design really gives fougasse its edge—but don’t be intimidated. While French bakers of yore shaped their dough into elaborate suns, leaves, or wheat ears with their fingers, this recipe has you flatten yours into a oblong shape and make slashes with a sharp knife or—my favorite—a pizza cutter. It’s a no-stress endeavor. If any of your cuts are less-than-cute, the olives, rosemary, and lemon zest are happy distractions.
Plus, even if she comes out a bit wonky, it’s not like your fougasse will last long. As mine emerged from the oven, steaming and aromatic, I could totally see the Provençal appeal of eating it with a crisp salad. But you’ll forgive me for slamming three pieces right off the cutting board.
No-Knead FougasseHana Asbrink
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit
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