After a couple of weeks cutting my teeth on basic bread recipes, I wanted to try something a bit different and came across John Whaite’s recipe for caramelised onion and rosemary fougasse.
Fougasse is a French loaf from Provence and is traditionally shaped to appear like a sheaf of wheat.
It’s a yeasted flatbread, so you’re looking for wet dough that creates bubbles when it rises, similar to focaccia but without the olive oil.
The dough was really sticky and difficult to work with at the start, but after about five minutes of kneading it came together and created a really soft dough.
Shaping it was also a challenge because the dough was so soft. I used a dough scraper to make the cuts, but nearly lost the shape entirely when transferring it across to the baking tray.
You can also use a baking stone or pizza stone for this recipe to achieve a really crunchy crust and soft centre. Simply preheat the stone and then place your dough directly onto it.
John Whaite’s caramelised onion and rosemary fougasse
1 red onion
Knob of salted butter
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
500g white bread flour
7g fast-action yeast (1 sachet)
2–3 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped (or herb of your choice)
350ml tepid water
Wholemeal bread flour for dusting
Peel and finely slice the onion. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a high heat, then add the onion. Immediately turn the heat down to low-medium and cover the pan with a lid. Allow the onion to cook gently for 15 minutes, then add the vinegar and sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes on a low heat, this time uncovered. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
To make the dough, place the flour in a mixing bowl and stir the salt through it. Then stir in the yeast and chopped rosemary. Add the water in thirds, and bring the dough together into a sticky mass.
Tip the contents of the bowl out on to the counter top and knead for about 10 minutes. Then incorporate the onions, kneading for a few more minutes until they are evenly distributed and the dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a clean, floured bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Dust 2 of the baking sheets liberally with wholemeal bread flour, and dust your counter top, too. Gently tip the risen dough out on to the counter, using a dough scraper to help remove it from the bowl. When the mound of dough is on the counter, cut it into quarters using a sharp knife or dough scraper. You should then have 4 portions of dough, shaped like rounded triangles or leaves.
Take one portion of dough and, using the thin edge of the dough scraper, cut a line in the middle from the tip of the triangle to the flat edge. You are cutting right through the depth of the dough, but not to each end, because you do not want to cut the dough in half: there needs to be 2cm dough uncut at either end of the line. This line will be like a centre vein on a leaf. Then, on either side of that line, at a 45 degree angle, cut three little ‘veins’ in the same way. Stretch the dough slightly so the holes open up. Repeat with the other 3 pieces of dough. (See the photograph overleaf.)Place 2 leaves on each floured baking sheet. Allow to prove for 30 minutes more.
Preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas 8. Place the other 2 baking sheets in to heat up.
Slide the breads on their baking sheets directly on to the hot sheets in the oven, spraying a mist of water inside before you shut the door. Bake for 12–15 minutes.