Provençal Fouace, also called fougasse, is closely related to Italian focaccia.  Both are flat breads, often flavored with such Mediterranean ingredients as chopped olives, garlic, herbs, grated citrus zest, or sun-dried tomatoes, and the dough for both is laced with nearly double the usual amount of yeast, so it rises rapidly, giving the bread an open, airy texture.  Fouace is found in many shapes, too, including rounds, ovals, rectangles, wheels slashed with spokes, and this rustic leaf design.

Serves 4

  • 1 tablespoon/10 g dry yeast
  • ½ cup/125 ml lukewarm water
  • 2 ¾ cups/330 g flour, more if needed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup/50 g chopped pitted brined black or green olives, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or rosemary, or grated zest of 1 orange or 2 lemons
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped (optional)
  • 1 egg mixed with ½ teaspoon salt, for glaze

Sprinkle the yeast over half of the water in a small bowl. Sift the flour onto a work surface. Sprinkle ¼ cup/60 g of this flour over the yeast and work with your hand to make a soft, sticky paste. Leave this starter in a warm place until it starts to rise and bubble, 15 to 20 minutes.

Make a large well in the center of the sifted flour. Add the yeast starter, the remaining water, eggs, salt, sugar, oil, olives, and the garlic, if using, to the well. Briefly mix the central ingredients with your fingers, then draw in the flour using a pastry scraper. Work the ingredients with your hand to a rough dough and press it into a ball, adding more flour if it is very sticky. Flour the work surface and knead the dough until smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. Alternatively, mix and knead the dough in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, turn it to coat the top with oil, and cover the bowl with a damp cloth. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough to knock out the air. Flour a baking sheet and turn the dough out onto it. With a floured fist, press it out to an oval about ¾ inch/2 cm thick. With a knife, make diagonal slits like the veins on a leaf, and pull the slits apart with your fingers. Leave to rise in a warm place until nearly doubled, 15 to 25 minutes.  Heat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC.

Brush the bread with the egg glaze and bake until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes.  Serve the bread while still warm, leaving guests to break it into pieces at the table.

photo by France Ruffenach
by Anne Willan, Chronicle Books, 2007.