Saturday, August 15, 2009

Leaf Shaped Fougasse

Many things could have gone horribly wrong with this recipe.

For instance I might not have stood beside my mixer for the 10 minutes it stirred around the dough. If I hadn't been standing there it probably would have vibrated onto the ground, killing my dog. You're welcome Cooper.

One hour, doubled, check.

This is where I should have read the recipe a little more carefully.

Oh, what's that? I should have used 3 bags? Then they wouldn't end up looking like this 24 hours later:

All night I thought I was going to hear an explosion from the fridge.

It was at this point that I got a little pissy. You see, I had everything listed in the ingredients. Then you read the recipe and it says something about corn meal dusted baking sheet. Where is the corn meal in the ingredients, huh? Also, I need a water bottle to spray the oven, maybe there should be an equipment list... if something is required it should be listed without me having to read the whole damn thing.

I kind of feel like I'm doing it wrong at this point. It doesn't look as smooth as the pictures in the book. OOoooohhhh, I skipped the part where I let it sit out for an hour and a half. Which I really didn't realize until just know while blogging. Damn, how did this bread actually turn out?

I'm not sure how I was supposed to fit three of these on two baking pans. So I didn't.

Something tells me the one on the right is going to turn out a little better. Without the pictures in the book I never would have been able to tell what the hell Julia was trying to tell me to do with the dough. I barely understood with the pictures for God's sake. Also what does "spray the oven with water" mean exactly? Am I supposed to be spraying over the baking, or straight into the bottom. I did both just in case.

I probably should have pulled those holes just a little bit bigger. Pretty much tastes the way it looks. Like bread.

Leaf Shaped Fougasse
Adapted from Baking With Julia

Makes 2 large or 3 medium breads

1 recipe Focaccia dough, chilled for at least 24 hours
Olive oil, for brushing
Fresh herbs or dried herbes de Provence, for topping
Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

Focaccia Recipe
2 1/4 -2 1/2 cups tepid water
2 T active dry yeast
1/4 c olive oil
6 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
4 t salt

Mixing the dough: Whisk 1/2 c of the water and the yeast together in the bowl of a mixer. Set the mixture aside for 5 minutes, until the yeast dissolves and turns creamy.
Meanwhile, pour 1 3/4 c warm water into a large measuring cup, add the olive oil, and whisk to blend; set aside. Whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl and set this aside as well.
Pour the water-oil mixture over the yeast and stir with the whisk to blend. Add about half of the flour and stir with a rubber spatula just to mix. Attach the dough hook, add the remaining flour, and mix on low speed for about 3 minutes or until the dough just starts to come together. If the dough appear dry and a little stiff, add a few drops of warm water, scraping the bowl and hook if necessary to incorporate the water and create a soft dough. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and continue to mix for about 10 minutes, scraping down the hook and sides of the bowl as needed until you have a soft, slightly moist, extremely elastic dough that cleans the sides of the bowl. You will know that the dough is properly mixed when a piece can be stretched, without tearing, to create a "window", an almost transparent patch of dough.

First Rise: Transfer the dough to a work surface and form it into a ball. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turn it around to cover it with oil, and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Second Rise: Fold the dough down on itself to deflate it and let it rise again until doubled and billowy, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Shaping and Resting: Fold the dough over on itself again to deflate it (as you do this, you can hear the bubbles squeak and pop) and turn it out onto a work surface. Using a metal dough scraper or a knife, cut the dough into 3 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball.
Place each ball in an oiled gallon-sized lock-top plastic bag and refrigerate 24 - 36 hours.
About 1 1/2 hours before you plan to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator and gently take the balls out of the oiled bags. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, dust the tops of the balls with flour and cover loosely but complete with plastic (to avoid having the tops go crusty). Let rest for 1 hour, until the dough reaches a cool room temperature and feels spongy when prodded.

Position the oven racks to divide the oven into 3rds and preheat the oven to 450 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment and dust the paper with cornmeal; keep the sheets close at hand. Fill a spray bottle with water and set it aside.

Shaping the Dough: Working with one piece of dough at a time (keeping the others covered), and working with the dough as you do with all focaccias - that is, gently, taking care not to knock out all the air you've worked into it - put the dough over your left fist (your right if you are left handed) and lift and circle it around your fist with your other hand. Pull it little and pinch the edges slightly as you work your way around - you're aiming for a teardrop or triangular shape about a foot long and 10 inches across at the base. Put the dough on the cornmeal-dusted baking sheet and cover it while you work the other pieces into shape.

Use a single-edge razor or a sharp serrated knife, held perpendicular to the dough, to create the leaf pattern in the dough: Position the teardrop with the broad base parallel to you and cut 3 vertical slashes in a line down the center of the teardrop, plunging the razor straight down into the dough. With these as your guide, cut 3 slanted cuts in both halves of the teardrop, angling the cuts between the slashes that clip the long sides. Nick the sloping sides, cutting at an angle and cutting only about half the length of the razor blade into the dough. Starting with the diagonal slashes on either side of the vertical cuts, work your fingers into all of the openings and stretch them evenly to double or triple their original size. (they must be opened now so that the holes won't close when the dough rises.)

Rest: Brush the loaves with olive oil, sprinkle with herbs, and dust with coarse salt. Let rest for about 10 minutes before baking.

Baking the Bread: Bake the fougasse for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they are golden and speckled with small surface bubbles, spraying the oven with water 3 times during the first 8 minutes of baking. If the breads aren't browning evenly, rotate the pans, top to bottom and front to back, halfway through the baking period. As soon as you remove the fougasse from the oven, brush them with a little more olive oil, and transfer them to a rack to cool before serving.

Storing: The fougasse are best the day they are backed, but once cooled, they can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 weeks. Thaw the breads, still wrapped, at room temperature and warm them in a 350 F oven before serving.

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