I spent ten wonderful days in France in 2001. I had made the reservations earlier that spring and then the world turned upside down on Sept 11. I got sick to my stomach at the thought of getting on a plane and going to a foreign country especially after what happened in NYC. I called the travel agent and asked how I could back out of going to France. I would lose almost all the money I had spent but yes, I could cancel. My traveling companion, Debbie never wavered in her commitment to going on the trip. I was a wreck, but I got on the plane and went to France despite my reservations. I am really glad now I did.
While I was in the Provence my cooking group took a trip to a medieval castle that had been changed to a touristy shopping area. There were shops in every nook and cranny. We ate a snack while we were shopping of something that I have remembered ever since. It was a stuffed flat bread called Fougasse. I am a huge carbo addict so this was right up my alley. I don’t remember exactly what was on the inside of the bread but I do remember that I love it and that someday I would have to learn how to make it.
Hubby bought me a Williams-Sonoma cookbook called Savoring Provence by Diane Holuigue . I have never used any of the recipes from the book but for some reason last week I was in the mood to bake. Since I have some success with theWhole Wheat Honey Bread the week before last, I felt empowered to try something dealing with flour again. Very scary!
I have to admit that I have never made anything with anchovy fillets. I went to the store and had no idea what exactly I was supposed to buy, but found little tiny cans that I thought would do the trick. Boy did they ever! Pictured below is one can of the anchovies draining on the a paper towel. The other ingredients pictured are the chopped up cooked ham and the Kalamata olives. I bought pitted olives and then just chunked them up a bit. Next you mix up a "sponge" (Food Lover's Companion definition: a light bread dough mixture made by combining some of the yeast with the flour and liquid called for in a recipe. The thick, batterlike mixture is covered and set aside until it bubbles and becomes foamy, which depending on the combination of ingredients, can take up to 8 hours. During this time, the sponge develops a tangy flavor. The remaining ingredients are added to this sponge and the bread is kneaded and baked as usual. Using a sponge also make the final loaf slightly denser.) and let it rise. You take the rest of the dry ingredients and make a well. The sponge in the center is then worked with a fork to incorporate the flour around the edges into the middle until it's mixed well. It's very easy but you need to take a bit of olive oil on a paper towel and coat your surface first. This really helps the dough from sticking to the surface and then eventually it helps with the kneading process.
This is the sponge with a few other wet ingredients including olive oil in the middle to moisten the dough. This looks really complicated but this was so easy and that truly surprised me since I have never done a "sponge" and a well before.
After kneading for 10 minutes (the recipe calls for 8 but I could see that the gluten had not developed quite yet so I kneaded for another two minutes) you roll out the dough and measure. I am not sure if a carpenter's tape measure should be a part of my kitchen tool box, but it was handy and did the trick.
This is the Fougasse after it has the inside stuffed with the ham, olives and anchovies. Then it's wrapped up, slathered with olive oil and had slits cut into the top. The recipe said to mash the edges of the slits down to the bottom so that the steam escapes and you can see the ingredients inside. The Fougasse was too long for my sheet pan so I did have to squash it a bit to fit the pan. Next time I will cut it into two pieces and make two smaller loaves instead of one huge loaf. Here are a few slices of the completed Fougasse with some herbed Goat Cheese and a nice red apple. What I would do differently: NO ANCHOVIES!!!!!! Lord the Fougasse was so salty that I couldn't eat it. The combination of the ham (which is salty), the Kalamata olives (which again are a salty ingredient) and finally the Anchovies was just too over powering with salt. UGH! I love salt, I love salt, but I did not LOVE this. So next time I make it, I will use some other ingredients inside besides the three this one called for. I am going to make this again because I can not be defeated by tiny little salty fish!!