Today I made the bread that changed my life all those years ago in culinary school.
Fougasse (in cover photo) is the bread that changed my life. It’s a large flatbread that’s distinctive because of its deep cuts. My chef-instructor says it resembles a tombstone, and really, its shape doesn’t have to be pretty. Back in culinary school, the Baking class sent up a few of these and we, in the Culinary program, gobbled them up. It was the very first time I’d ever eaten bread fresh and straight from the oven, and it was truly, an epiphany. The very next day, I borrowed some bread books from the school library and I taught myself to make bread.
So it was imperative to me that I make fougasse today, in commemoration of the bread that started my bread baking odyssey. It took me four tries today before I was successful.
Shaped and proofed fougasse, ready for the oven. On the left, I’ve dotted the olive oil-brushed dough with black olives and black peppercorns. The fougasse on the right is a marriage of rosemary and rock salt. All the breads we made today are lean doughs – savory doughs made with very little fat. Most of them use a pre-ferment, which you see in the big bowl on the left. It’s a mixture of flour, water, and yeast and is fermented for three hours before being incorporated into a dough. This extra but admittedly lengthy step imbues the final bread with the fullest flavor. The pre-ferment is thick and gloppy and smells like beer. Some of the doughs we made today had large yields so we mixed them in a large capacity spiral mixer, shown here. It sits on the floor and its bowl is big enough to hide an infant. The dough in the mixer (above) is that of a pain de campagne. French for “country bread,” this is a rustic bread similar to a baguette. It’s made with a small amount of rye flour for extra character and it contributes to a deeply burnished, country-style crust. Here’s the pain de campagne that my group and I made. Notice the slashes and deep golden crust. I learned how to make pizza dough today, complete with the proper technique of stretching the dough using the knuckles of my hand. Quite tricky, something I still have to practice. I prefer simple pizzas and the ones you see here ( also below) are the ones I made: just olive oil, mozzarella, rock salt, and basil leaves. I was quite thrilled that I was able to get my pizza baked in a pugon oven. Just some of the breads we made today. In the photo: focaccia and baguettes, which crackled as they cooled, a sign of moisture leaving the dough.