American

Sourdough Fougasse

April 18, 2021
5 Ratings
Photo by Maurizio Leo
Author Notes

Fougasse makes for a stunning sight on any dinner table, but it’s equally wonderful as an appetizer and surrounded by charcuterie. Try it for both at this year’s holiday table! When eating, you can snap off each section of the cut-and-stretched bread into an individual serving—kind of like the OG perforated cracker. The shape is traditionally meant to mimic a broad leaf or ladder with rungs, but it’s also a place for your creativity to run wild. Experiment with increasing or decreasing the number of cuts to make any imaginative design; think geometric shapes, elaborate leaves, or even mimic your favorite houseplant. The dough cuts serve a purpose: they encourage increased crust formation as the oven heat hardens off the cut areas. And because of all that additional crust, the overall eating experience is skews crunchy, but is still wonderfully contrasted by a soft, chewy interior.

The dough for this fougasse is easy to mix in a stand mixer or by hand, and these are made all in a single day using your already ripe sourdough starter—there’s no need to build a dedicated levain (preferment) for this recipe. The dough is then enriched with olive oil, making it similar to my recent Pizza Romana recipe; the oil helps keep the dough soft throughout baking but also gives it added flavor and aroma to complement the wheaty backdrop of the mixture. I like to use a mild extra virgin olive oil when mixing the dough and the same oil when brushing on the dough’s top before baking.

Speaking of toppings, this fougasse is a blank page for any toppings you have in the kitchen. I love herbes de Provence-infused olive oil (mix olive oil and the herbs to steep overnight before brushing on the dough), but you can get creative with other spices, too, like za’atar or a mix of dried thyme and oregano. Coarsely grated Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper are fantastic, as are rough-chopped olives and rosemary. —Maurizio Leo

Test Kitchen Notes

The Perfect Loaf is a column from software engineer-turned-bread expert (and Food52's Resident Bread Baker), Maurizio Leo. Maurizio is here to show us all things naturally leavened, enriched, yeast-risen, you name it—basically, every vehicle to slather on a lot of butter. —The Editors

  • Prep time 2 hours
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Makes Two 800g fougasses (about the size of a half-sheet pan)
Ingredients
  • Dough
  • 711 grams all-purpose flour
  • 125 grams whole-wheat flour
  • 35 grams extra-virgin olive oil
  • 15 grams kosher salt
  • 544 grams water
  • 167 grams ripe sourdough starter
  • Topping Ideas
  • Extra-virgin olive oil + herbes de Provence + coarse sea salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil + za'atar + coarse sea salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil + coarsely grated Parmesan + cracked black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil + chopped kalamata olives + chopped fresh rosemary
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Mix the dough (10:00 a.m., or when your sourdough starter is ripe)

    Add the flour, salt, water, and ripe sourdough starter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. This dough is rather firm before we add the olive oil—expect it to ball up around the dough hook quickly. Turn the mixer on to speed 1 (STIR on a KitchenAid) for 1 minute until everything is incorporated. Then, turn the mixer up to speed 2 and mix for 1 to 2 minutes until the dough balls up around the dough hook. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

    Turn the mixer on to speed 1 and slowly drizzle in the olive oil as the mixer is running. Once you have added all the oil and it’s mostly absorbed into the dough, turn the mixer up to speed 2 and continue mixing for 2 to 3 minutes until all of the oil is absorbed and the dough begins to soften. The dough will not completely form a firm ball around the dough hook, but it will start showing signs of smoothness and elasticity (strength). Transfer the dough to another bowl or container for bulk fermentation.
  2. Bulk ferment the dough (10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.)

    Cover the dough and let it rise at room temperature (72 to 74°F) for a total of three hours. You’ll give the dough three sets of “stretch and folds” to impart additional strength during this time. Set a timer for 30 minutes and let the dough rest, covered. After 30 minutes, give the dough its first set of stretch and folds.

    Use slightly wet hands to grab the dough farthest from you in the container for each set, stretch it up and over to the side nearest you. Then, grab the dough on the side closest to you and stretch it back up and over to the farthest side of the container. Repeat two more folds, one at the right side of the container and one at the left—you’ll now have a folded up square in the container. Let the dough rest, again covered and at room temperature, for 30 minutes, stretching and folding again. Repeat this process one more time for three total sets. After the third set, let the dough rest, covered, for the remaining time in bulk fermentation.
  3. Preshape the dough (1:30 p.m.)

    After three hours, your dough should have risen in your bulk fermentation container to be smooth and strong. Gently scrape out your dough to an unfloured work surface, divide it in half, and preshape each half into a round shape. Leave the rounds to rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  4. Shape the dough (2:00 p.m.)

    Prepare two pieces of parchment paper the size of a half-sheet pan. Lightly grease the top of the parchment paper with olive oil by smearing it with your hands. Working with one preshaped round at a time, scoop the dough up and place it directly in the middle of the parchment paper.

    Using a rolling pin, gently roll the dough out to an oval shape that has even thickness and fills about two-thirds of the parchment paper’s length. Avoid excessively pressing down the dough with the rolling pin as you roll it outward; press down just enough to encourage it to spread. Once you have an elongated oval on the parchment paper, coax the oval’s bottom outward toward the left and right edges, so the overall shape is a rough triangle.
  5. Proof the dough (2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.)

    Drag each piece of parchment paper with the dough on top into separate half-sheet pans. Cover each with a reusable plastic bag or kitchen towel to keep the dough from drying out. Let the dough proof for 1 hour at room temperature.

    After 1 hour, remove the covers and let the dough proof for 30 more minutes exposed to air (this will slightly dry the dough and make shaping the fougasse easier). At this time, also heat your oven with one oven rack positioned in the bottom-third, and one in the top-third, to 450°F (230°C).
  6. Cut and top the dough (4:00 p.m.)

    It’s time to cut and top the dough. Gather your toppings: olive oil, herbes de Provence, and coarse sea salt. You will also need a pizza wheel (or bench scraper) to cut the dough, and a pastry brush for spreading the olive oil.

    To cut and shape the dough like a leaf, make a series of short cuts in the dough’s middle starting from the triangle’s base, working your way up to the top. While cutting each one, gently spread the dough with your fingers to encourage it to open. Once you’ve made all three cuts, use your hands to reach under the dough and spread it apart and outward, so the cuts are very open. Then, make diagonal cuts from the center cuts outward toward the triangle’s left and right sides (see step-by-step recipe images for a visual). When making each cut, reach under the dough and gently spread it outward to encourage the cut to extend open and wide.

    Once you’ve cut the dough, generously spread the olive oil to top every part of the dough’s surface. Next, sprinkle on any additional herbs and the coarse sea salt.

    Repeat for the second fougasse.
  7. Bake the fougasse (4:30 p.m.)

    Slide both pans into the oven and bake at 450°F (230°C) for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans 180° halfway through the baking time. Check on each fougasse after 20 minutes to ensure it’s not coloring too quickly. They’ll be done when the top and bottom are golden. The longer you bake them, the crispier the result.

    When finished baking, remove the fougasse from the oven and dot with olive oil using a pastry brush. These flatbreads are best eaten warm from the oven but will keep very well the day they’re baked. If eating the next day, briefly warm under the broiler to soften before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Marisa
    Marisa
  • Sara Fallick
    Sara Fallick
  • Carolyn Sechler
    Carolyn Sechler
  • Judy Nevius
    Judy Nevius
  • Maurizio Leo
    Maurizio Leo
Maurizio is the software engineer-turned-baker behind the award-winning sourdough website, The Perfect Loaf. He grew up in an Italian household and spent many summers in the back kitchen of his family's Italian restaurant, learning the beauty of San Marzano tomatoes and the importance of well-proofed pizza dough. He went on to get a master's degree in computer science and co-create the stargazing app, SkyView, before eventually circling back to food and discovering the deep craft of baking sourdough bread. Since that first loaf of bread, he's been obsessed with adjusting the balance between yeast and bacteria, tinkering with dough strength and hydration, and exploring everything sourdough.

17 Reviews

Marisa April 23, 2021
Hello, is it possible to refrigerate at some point so I can bake the fougasse the day?
 
Author Comment
Maurizio L. April 23, 2021
You could put the dough into the fridge right before shaping it out with the rolling pin. I do this sometimes to help make rolling easier. The next day, let it warm a bit when pulling from the fridge, then proceed with scraping it out of the bowl and rolling it out to shape.
 
Marisa April 23, 2021
Thank you!
 
globug November 29, 2020
Super curious if this could be done with a 100% einkorn mixture. I have successfully baked your Einkorn Boules that you have on your website. Would I need to change the method around at all considering the change in protein content?
 
Author Comment
Maurizio L. November 30, 2020
I'd say it's possible, but I'd be cautious with the dough's hydration, likely going a bit lower. You won't get the same rise and airy structure given the nature of einkorn, but it sure would be delicious. I might first try a blend, perhaps 50/50 modern wheat flour and einkorn, and see how it goes. Adjusting from there!
 
globug November 30, 2020
Thanks for the tips, I might give it a shot and see what happens. Fougasse is one of my favorite kinds of breads and if I can pull it off w/ an einkorn version, we’re in business! :)
 
Sara F. November 27, 2020
Hi there, I follow you and your beautiful bakes! Can you please provide instructions using hands, I do not have a stand mixer. I bake no knead sourdough. Thank you!
 
Author Comment
Maurizio L. November 27, 2020
Hey, Sara! This dough can definitely be mixed by hand. I'd add all the ingredients except the olive oil to a mixing bowl and strengthen the dough as you normally would, perhaps to medium development (I like to use the slap and fold technique, but any kneading will work). Then, add the olive oil in and mix by hand until the dough comes together and the OO is completely absorbed. If the dough feels super slack at the end of mixing, add in another set or two of stretch and folds during bulk fermentation as necessary.
 
Carolyn S. November 26, 2020
Excellent and forgiving recipe. Big hit at thanksgiving
 
Author Comment
Maurizio L. November 27, 2020
So happy to hear that, Carolyn!
 
Judy N. November 14, 2020
As a follow-up: I think one issue may be that my starter is more liquid that yours.
That being said, I have what I think are 2 lovely fougasse that just came from the oven. I did need to put a bit of flour on my board when I first took the dough from the bowl and cut it in half. After that, it was easy to work with.
I will try this recipe again sometime using slightly less water to start. Depending on the ambient humidity, that may not be necessary, but it's easier to add it than fix it later.
 
Author Comment
Maurizio L. November 15, 2020
So glad to hear they turned out great, Judy! No worries adding flour to your board, that's the way to go. I agree, I think a little less water will get you right in that sweet spot. Enjoy!
 
Judy N. November 14, 2020
I am in the process of making this bread. I carefully weighed each ingredient and mixed as directed.
My dough was anything but stiff and it gathered a bit on my dough hook, but did not ball up. I forged on. After adding the oil, mixing again and letting it rest for 30 minutes, I did the stretch and fold...or pull and drop, as my dough is still very slack.
So, what went wrong? I will continue with the recipe, but I have a suspicion that shaping this into fougasse will require considerably more flour.

I will report back after it's baked!
 
Author Comment
Maurizio L. November 14, 2020
Hey, Judy! It's possible your dough needed less water upfront during mixing. To make shaping easier, be sure to leave the dough uncovered for the last 30 minutes or so of the proof (when it's in the pan). That should dry it out ever so slightly, making it easier to handle! Let me know how it goes 🙂
 
Judy N. November 14, 2020
I really appreciate the speedy response. I was thinking about leaving it uncovered, so that is what I will do.
Thanks
 
Pete M. November 13, 2020
These are the craziest units I have ever seen in a recipe: 711g/544g/167g. Seriously? Why?
 
Author Comment
Maurizio L. November 13, 2020
Hey, Pete! It's because I use baker's percentages to develop my bread formulas, as many bread bakers do. So, in the end, the weights are strange, but the percentages will usually be round numbers. With baker's percentages, the ingredients are always relative to the total flour in the recipe; this makes scaling recipes up and down very easy but ultimately results in strange numbers 🙂

Check out my post on baker's percentages for more explanation:
https://www.theperfectloaf.com/reference/introduction-to-bakers-percentages/