This year I'm baking along with the Great British Bake Off - I didn't manage to do last week's pastry week but so far I have made vegetarian filled Yorkshire puddings, chocolate, hazelnut and cranberry soda bread, vegan apple and cinnamon viennese whirls and chocolate jaffa oat bars.
Each of this recipes is my own twist on what the contestants in the baking show were asked to do. This week however, I decided to make a fougasse, a herb bread, which is perfect for tearing and sharing with friends or family at the table. Having never made it before I decided to stick to Paul Hollywood's recipe for fresh herb fougasse.
R, six, decided that he wanted to help me, which was lovely. His sister, who is four, is always helping me in the kitchen, but R isn't quite so keen. He does love breadmaking however, so maybe that'll be his thing. For this recipe we used a stand mixer so his main jobs were pouring and watching the timer. It's actually the first time that I've used my stand mixer to make bread, preferring usually to do it by hand, but as Paul Hollywood recommends using one as this is such a sticky dough I decided to follow his advice. I was really glad that I did because this was undoubtedly the stickiest dough I've ever worked with! I was worried that I'd added too much water but it turned out ok.
The only difference to the original recipe is that I didn't have any rosemary - my plant didn't survive last winter and I haven't got around to replacing it - so I left that out.
Here's how to make fresh herb fougasse:
500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
10g fine salt
7g sachet instant yeast
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing and drizzling
350ml warm water
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp chopped fresh sage
fine semolina, for dusting
½ tsp dried oregano
Sea salt to finish
Lightly grease a large plastic container (I used a metal mixing bowl) with olive oil. Line two large baking sheets with greaseproof baking paper.
Put the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. (Don’t put the salt directly on top of the yeast). Add the olive oil and three-quarters of the water and start to mix on a low speed. As the dough starts to come together, add the remaining water very slowly, then mix for eight minutes on a medium speed. Add the rosemary, sage and thyme and mix for a further minute. When ready, the dough will be very elastic and you should be able to stretch it away from the bowl.
Tip the dough into the oiled container/bowl. Cover and leave to rise until at least doubled in size – about an hour (I left it an hour and 15 minutes and it was definitely more than double by then). The dough should be bouncy and shiny.
Dust the work surface with flour and semolina mixed together. Tip out the dough. It'll probably be quite loose - it's meant to be like this. Divide the dough in half.
Lift each piece of dough onto the prepared baking sheets and spread out into flat ovals. Make two cuts in a line down the middle of the dough with a gap between them (see photo). Paul Hollywood says to use a pizza cutter. I couldn't find ours so I used a sharp knife, but it was pretty tricky as the dough just stuck to the knife. Then make 12 diagonal cuts in the dough, six on either side of the central cuts, forming a leaf design, then stretch the dough out slightly to emphasise the holes.
Place the baking sheets inside large plastic bags and leave to prove in a warm place for 20 minutes. (I didn't have any large plastic bags so I left it to prove in the open) Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/gas mark 7.
Drizzle over a little olive oil. Sprinkle over the oregano and bake for 15–20 minutes, or until the fougasse sounds hollow when tapped on the base (they took 25 minutes in my oven). Remove from the oven and while still hot, brush with more olive oil and sprinkle with the sea salt.
Here is the original recipe on the BBC website.