I run a home-based baking venture called Lotsa Lavender where I bake healthy cakes, breads, cookies and other desserts on order. I took a break after the birth of my second son last year and am yet to start taking up orders again.
About two years ago, one particular day, I had an order for a few dozen cookies and mini banana loaves from a regular client. The electrical point in my kitchen to my oven was connected had some problem that morning, so I’d shifted the oven to the living room and placed it on a low stool.
My son had just come back from school. The cookies were all done and the batter for the banana loaves was ready too. My son was telling me something about wanting to help me bake and also about a dumper truck that he’s seen at a construction site on the way back home from his school. I wanted the batter in the oven quickly so the loaves would bake up in time for them to cool and be packed before the client came.
I asked him to give me five minutes and handed him a couple of extra cookies while I poured the batter into the loaf pans and placed them in the oven. Job over, I sat down with my son as he told me in great detail about that dumper truck and how he’d seen it loading and unloading bricks. The fellow was smitten with construction vehicles back then – road rollers, cement mixers, diggers and the like.
Some 20 minutes later we could smell the banana loaves baking up beautifully in the oven. Alongside, there was also a worrying smell of burning plastic. I switched the oven off quickly to check if there was any problem with the electrical point. All looked ok and switched it back on, wondering where the smell came from.
When the oven beeped another 20 minutes down the line, I opened the oven to pull out the loaves and there, at the far end of the oven, was my little fellow’s dumper truck toy – half of it molten and the other half sitting in a puddle of red and blue plastic looking a colourful in my tart pan! So, this is what he was telling me about when I was preparing the banana loaf batter – about wanting to bake a dumper truck! Kids can be so unpredictable.
Anyway, today’s recipe part of the post is neither a banana loaf, nor cookies. It is beautifully shaped flatbread called Fougasse – you could call it the French cousin of the Italian focaccia. Traditionally shaped like an ear of wheat, or a pretty leaf as it is shaped these days, it was baked to assess the temperature inside the oven. These have a crisp crust and soft insides as they are baked on very high temperatures for a short duration.
My recipe is based on the Weekend Bakery’s Fougasse, but I’ve adapted to make it with 100% whole wheat flour. Do make it sometime and tell me how you like it!
Recipe adapted from Weekend Bakery
For the poolish:
Whole wheat flour (to be sifted) – 150 gm
Whole wheat flour – 75 gm
Water – 200 gm
Instant yeast – 1 gm (about ¼ tsp)
Sift about 150 gm of whole wheat flour and set aside the germ and bran that is left in the sieve. I had 25 gm left behind in the sieve
Mix the sifted whole wheat flour, 75 gm whole wheat flour, instant yeast and 200 gm water in a bowl. Cover and set aside for 4-6 hours
Mix the bran-germ left aside in the sieve with 75 gm of water in a separate bowl
After the polish is well-risen and bubbly, refrigerate both overnight
For the final dough:
All the poolish and soaked bran
Whole wheat flour – 240 gm
Water – 120 gm
Instant yeast – 2.5 gm (about ½ tsp)
Salt – 2 tsp
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, instant yeast, polish and soaked bran. Add the water and start mixing. Knead the dough for about 12 minutes. (you can add any herbs or flavourings to before kneading or add them on top of the shaped loaves like I did)
Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes. Now give the dough a stretch and fold in the bowl by pulling the dough up from different sides and folding it over itself. Cover and again leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Repeat this step twice
Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface and divide into 4 equal pieces. Shape each into roughly 6” squares
Cover the pieces with a wet kitchen towel and leave to rest for 20 minutes
Preheat your oven to 450 deg F
Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and move the pieces of dough onto it
Using a small bench scraper or credit card, make cuts on the dough pieces and stretch them a bit to open the cuts. Top the loaves with whatever herbs/cheese/toppings you’d like. I topped one with toasted chopped walnuts, another with garlic and rosemary, the third one with Italian seasoning and the last one with zaatar. Lightly press in the topping to secure them to the dough. For the ones with herbs, I brushed them with olive oil
Place the shaped fougasse into the hot oven. Pour boiling water into a thick pan and place it in the lower rack of the oven and close the door immediately
Bake for about 12-15 minutes till the top is a golden-brown in colour
See this video from 5.20 min to 6.30 min to see how to shape the fougasse:
These videos will also help:
This is part of the Bake-a-thon 2017