Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fougasse (French flat bread)

I recently tried my hand at making a starter dough as well as a traditional French flat bread called Fougasse - pronounced as "foogass".

One of the distinguishing characteristics of fougasse is that it is often baked into a shape that is somewhat like a tree, with one end resembling the trunk and the wider opposite end being more or less round in structure. Fougasse can be used as a tasty accompaniment to both hot and cold soups, as well as create sandwich like snacks for the family. For mains, it goes very well with most pasta dishes as well as creamy casseroles or stews - great to mop up all the tasty gravy too! Fougasse (French flat bread)



Fougasse (French flat bread)
Adapted from From “Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets”
Makes 2.1kg loaves of bread

For the dough starter: (this needs to be prepared a day before)

5g fresh yeast
135ml cold water
100g strong white bread flour, preferably organic
100g rye flour

For the dough:

680ml tap water
940g traditional white bread flour, preferably organic, plus extra for dusting
130g rye flour
15g fine sea salt (do not reduce your salt, otherwise the bread is quite bland)
22g fresh or 11g dried yeast

For the fougasse topping:

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp finely minced garlic
3 tsp finely chopped black olives
3 tsp of thinly sliced sundried tomatoes in oil
-3 grindings black pepper
Sprinkle of sea salt for topping


1) .For the dough starter, whisk the yeast into the water until dissolved.

2) Mix the white and rye flours in a separate bowl until well combined.

3) Pour the yeast mixture over the flours, whisking well to form a thick paste. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and set aside to ferment for at least 6 hours and up to 18 hours at room temperature. You can use dried yeast but you will only need half the quantity. Yeast is dormant at 4C, active between 20-40C and destroyed at 45-50 C. Using a dough starter in bread making gives a greater complexity of flavour; as the yeast activates and feeds on the natural sugars present in the flour, over time it produces a distinctively tangy or sour taste.

4) For the dough, line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.

5) Add the water to the fermented dough starter and mix well to combine.

6) Place the white and rye flours into a food processor, set with the dough hook. Add the salt to one side of the bowl of the food processor, then add the yeast to the other side, being careful not to let the salt and yeast touch at this stage. as the salt will attack the yeast and damage its ability to ferment.

7) Add the starter dough mixture to the food processor and mix on a low speed for 5 minutes. The slow mixing process will give the flour the opportunity to fully absorb the water. (I used my KitchenAid for the kneading process – use the dough hook)

8) Scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl of the food processor and from the dough hook, then continue to mix on a medium speed for a further 5-7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. The faster speed will warm the gluten in the flour making the dough elastic and creating the right environment for the fermentation to happen.

9) Scrape the dough into a neat ball and cover the bowl with cling film. Set aside to prove at room temperature for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.

10) When the dough has proved, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface using a scraper if necessary. Cut the dough into four equal pieces.

11) The dough can be shaped in any way you choose. For a fougasse-style loaf, line four baking trays with baking parchment.

12) Roll each piece of dough into a triangle shape and place one onto each baking tray. Make a cut all the way down the centre of each dough triangle, without completely cutting through the dough. Make 3 deep slashes on either side of the central cut, cutting all the way down to the baking tray, then pull the dough apart slightly to create holes.

13) Brush the fougasses all over with olive oil, then randomly scatter and gently push the remaining fougasse topping ingredients evenly over the dough. This is to ensure that the topping sticks to the dough whilst it is proofing. Set aside to prove for 30-40 minutes.

14) Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250C/475F/Gas 9 or to its maximum setting (this is critical as the temperature will decrease significantly when you open the door) and place a baking tray in the middle of the oven and a roasting tin on the bottom.

15) Slide the loaves onto the preheated baking tray in the middle of the oven, using the greaseproof paper to transfer them and pour 50ml/2fl oz of water into the roasting tin on the bottom. This will generate steam within the oven creating a good crust on the bread.

16) Bake the fougasse in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until golden-brown and cooked through. (The loaves are cooked through when they make a hollow sound when tapped on the undersides.) Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

17) Extra fougasse can be frozen for about one month. Thaw and reheat in oven to serve.



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Crispy Pork Belly in Milk

I have been eyeing this recipe from "The Free Range Cook" series which is aired on my local cable for almost five months now.  I finally decided to try out the recipe and got myself to a local supermarket. 

You should have seen me at the meat counter peering at the slices of pork belly and trying to decide which piece looked the most succulent.  I took several pieces out and turned it this way and that before deciding on my purchase.  I must have stood there for at least ten minutes looking like a really picky shopper!

RP Belly 2

Overall this recipe turned out quite interesting.  During the cooking process expect the milk to develop a skin and turn brown, somewhat caramel like.  Although the recipe tells you to throw out the milk after the dish is done, I kept some of it and reduced it down further over the stove top.  I used the sauce as gravy to the pork belly.  I also made an apple cinnamon sauce to go with the meal as well as roasted pumpkin with mustard seeds.


RP Belly 5

Crispy Pork Belly in Milk
Recipe Adapted from Annabel Langbein "The Free Range Cook"


1 to1.2 kg pork belly with skin scored
Freshly ground black pepper.
1 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
3 - 4 fresh sage leaves.
2 to 2 and a half cups of fresh milk


1)  Preheat oven to 240C.

2)  Pat the skin of the pork dry and season the flesh side with pepper and half the salt. Place the sage leaves on the bottom of a baking dish and put pork on top, skin side up. Score the skin with a very sharp knife.  Season the top with the remaining salt.

3)  Roast for 20-25 mins at 240C until the skin is starting to blister and crackle. 

4) Remove the baking dish from the oven and slowly pour the milk around the meat to come about half to two thirds of the way up the sides of pork.  Do not let the milk touch the skin otherwise it will loose its crackle.

5) Reduce the oven to 160C and roast for a further 1 and a half hours or until pork is meltingly tender.

6) Check the level of liquid during cooking and if it has evaporated add a little more to the pan.  Remove pork from oven, lift out from dish and allow it to cool. Discard the liquids as it breaks into curds.

7) For easy cutting place the meat flesh side up on a chopping board and use a heavy sharp knife to cut into slices 3-4cm thick. Serve warm or room temperature.

RP Belly 4

RP Belly 1
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