Fougasse

Gourmet's Adventures with Ruth: Season One: Richard Bertinet's Bath

Serves4
  • Active time:30 min
  • Start to finish:2 hr
Richard Bertinet, The Bertinet Kitchen, Bath, England
October 2009
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  • 4 cups (18 oz) bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon fresh or dried yeast (1/2 oz)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water at room temperature
  • Special Equipment

    a plastic pastry scraper (preferably with a round side and a straight side); a pizza peel or 2 baking sheets.
  • Stir together flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl (if using fresh yeast, crumble and rub it into the flour before stirring in salt). Add water and mix with rounded edge of pastry scraper or your hands until a sticky dough forms. Turn out onto an unfloured work surface and knead dough vigorously at least 10 minutes (your hands will be covered in sticky dough) by slapping it against work surface, then stretching it toward you and folding it in half over itself to incorporate air. Scoop dough up again with your hands and continue kneading in this manner until dough starts to come off surface by itself (it will still be sticky).
  • Scrape dough into a ball, scraping dough off fingers, and dust lightly all over with flour (dough should feel soft and smooth). Transfer to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  • Put a pizza stone or a baking sheet on lowest oven rack and preheat oven to 500F, at least 45 minutes if using stone.
  • Scrape risen dough, without deflating, onto a well floured work surface and dust top with flour. Let stand 5 minutes.
  • Using flat edge of pastry scraper, cut dough in half, coaxing each piece into a rough square or rectangle. Using flat edge of pastry scraper or a flat-edged wooden spoon, make a large diagonal slit in each piece, cutting through dough down to work surface, but not cutting through to corners. Cut 2 to 4 smaller slits on either side of diagonal.
  • Brush flour from top of dough, leaving some on bottom, and transfer 1 loaf to a pizza peel or a baking sheet, spreading slits open so there are decorative holes in the form. Jerk peel or baking sheet once or twice to make sure the bread is not sticking (if dough sticks, sneak some more flour underneath), then open oven and tilt peel on top of stone, jerking and pulling peel back to transfer dough to stone.
  • Bake until deep golden brown all over, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer fougasse to a rack to cool slightly.
  • Bake remaining loaf in same manner.
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