Bake Off Technical; Botanical Week – Fresh Herb Fougasses

Firstly, let me apologise for the late posting for Pastry Week, I made it a fortnight ago, but just never got round to the write-up until this week. Obviously Dessert Week has now come and gone,  but THAT (ARGH) is an epic mess to come.

Rewind back to last week, when there was the newly-added ‘Botanical Week’, whereby the bakers had to make goods with flavours inspired by nature. Citrus meringue pies were the signature (have to say that was a bit of a copout by the producers), whilst the Showstopper was to be floral-inspired tiered cakes. The technical was an altogether different beast.

I groaned when I saw that it was to be a bread, meaning it was one of Paul’s. YAY. Or not. And as guessed by the preview, it was indeed a Fougasse, flavoured with herbs.

A fougasse is a French leavened flatbread, related to the more well-known Italian foccacia,hailing from the Provence region and usually flavoured with olives and anchovies (YES PLEASE), and slashed to resemble ears of wheat or a leaf. I was familiar with them, having seen them on sale alongside the pizzas in Waitrose.

I took a deep breath, and decided to get on with it without cursing CowellLite Hollywood’s name. Thankfully the recipe required no hand kneading, and you could do the dough entirely in a stand mixer. Thank God for that. It sounded easy enough, so armed with herbs, flour, yeast, olive oil and salt, off I went.

I ran the dough hook-armed Kenwood for the allotted 8 minutes and noted that the dough was fairly wet, but stretched out the bowl as the recipe told me. So far, so good. I placed it an oiled bowl and left in my top oven to rise for an hour at least. Upon my return, I saw the dough hadn’t risen a lot (maybe I’d left the bottom oven too warm) , but deciding to press on, I scattered semolina and flour over the worktop and split it into two balls, flattening them out on two baking trays lined with greaseproof paper.

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The recipe stated you needed a pizza cutter to make the fougasse’s signature slashes – I don’t own one, as I don’t ever buy chilled pizzas (only choosing to have them delivered if I didn’t want to make one myself) and rather than keep buying utensils for these one recipes, I stuck to a sharp knife. However, although I managed to get 14 slashes on each dough oval, they took a good few goes with the knife and weren’t very open and emphasised. Undeterred, I placed them back in the top oven for 20 minutes for a second prove.

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When it was time to bake, I removed the uncooked loaves and tried to open the holes a bit more, with only moderate success. I was then instructed to drizzle with olive oil and scatter with dried oregano, which I duly did. They then went into the oven for a 20 minute bake.

Perhaps I should have got some steam going in there as star baker Tom did for this, as although the loaves baked through in that time and got a decent golden colour, they still had very narrow holes. Oh well, they were cooked, sounded hollow and weren’t burned. Good enough for me. I peeled them off their parchment bases and placed on a cooling rack, brushing with olive oil whilst hot as instructed, before finishing off with a scattering of Maldon salt.

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I floured them before baking. Some may say overdone. And where are the holes?

Hollywood would probably give them 4/10 for appearance but I don’t care. I wanted to see how they tasted as the savoury scent of sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano wafting through the house as they baked was mouth watering. Because it made 2 loaves, I saved one for our household and took the other into work.

Both went in a very short space of time. I myself was pretty taken with the crunchy, bready savouriness (though I had to admit the herb flavour wasn’t especially strong) and devoured a fairly large amount of each loaf – by the way, it made fantastic dipping components for soft boiled eggs when cut into small sticks.

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I would have if left unsupervised. Salty, herb bread. HEAVEN.

Verdict. The first Hollywood technical I would make again. Only this time, I won’t bother with fresh herbs, instead going for the saline punch of chopped olives and anchovies as in the authentic Provencal version of the bread. Much more up my street. Not that this herbal take was a bad thing as the flavours were still sunny and Mediterranean. I liked how it was easy to knock up in the stand mixer, though perhaps a pizza cutter would be a better tool for the essential slashes. And perhaps bigger baking trays. But I’m sure I’d do just fine without, and if I changed the flavourings to olives and anchovies, plus topped them with cheese before baking, I have essentially created my own recipe. So watch this space.

Next time – prepare for tears and a nervous breakdown as I tackle the most hideous technical to date. Mary Berry’s marjolaine. How on EARTH…..but I intend on seeing this through to the final. I took this on as a test of my baking skills.

T x

 

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