Cast-Iron Dimpled Fougasse with Kumquats and Olives
You say potay-to, I say pot-ah-to. You say focaccia, I say fougasse. Fougasse is often described as the southeastern French equivalent of Italian focaccia, a classic country bread from Provence (a warm region in southwestern France) made with a wet dough, often repurposed (from baguettes or sourdough, for instance). The characteristic shape of fougasse — usually resembling sand dollars, a ladder, or (most often) a triangular leaf with a long central “vein” cut surrounded by short angled ones —sets it apart visually from focaccia, with the added benefit of creating more surface area and thus more crispy crust.
We turned to our friends at Le Mary Celeste, the famed Parisian oyster and cocktail bar in the 4th arrondissement’s fashionable Marais district, to bring their take on this classic French bread to life in their Ooni oven. (The spot is named after a famous 19th-century ghost ship that sailed from New York and was found adrift and abandoned with just alcohol aboard, but after testing this recipe ourselves, we can’t help but reimagine the bread there.)
This crispy fougasse is served daily at Le Mary Celeste as an alternative to the simple sourdough they receive from the local boulangerie. We can vouch that it's also delicious the next day, toasted (if there’s any leftover). We particularly enjoy the contrasting flavours of the garnish, the sweet confit kumquats and salty olives battling it out with each bite through the crunchy herbed surface, oil-crisped bottom, and soft, springy center.
We’ve demonstrated a simple approach shape-wise to fougasse in this recipe but feel free to reduce the amount of dough by a quarter and experiment with different patterns of slits. Just use a metal bench scraper or pizza cutter to slice straight through (five slits radiating outward, four parallel cuts, or one central “vein” cut with small angled parallel slits radiating outward) and gently pull the cuts a bit apart without pressing the dough.
Note: The pan and bread get very hot, so be sure to keep a pair of oven gloves nearby, and use the removable metal handle if cooking with an Ooni cast-iron skillet.
Active time: 10 to 15 minutes
Proof time: 2 hours
Serves 5 to 6 as a side
75 grams extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
3 to 4 bay leaves
500 grams t55 or bread flour
15 grams fine sea salt
400 grams room temperature water (38°C is perfect)
7 grams fresh baker’s yeast
15 kalamata olives, pitted
Pinch of dried oregano, basil, or verbena
Pinch of flaky sea salt (preferably Maldon)
Halve the kumquats lengthwise, remove the seeds, and place them in a small pot with olive oil and bay leaves. Cook over medium heat until the oil bubbles (5 minutes), then remove from the heat. The kumquats will confit (cook slowly at a low temperature in the oil), maintaining texture while getting imbued with the flavor of the bay leaves. When the mixture cools, strain out the kumquats, reserving the infused oil.
Place the flour, fine sea salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Mix by hand until combined. In a separate bowl, add the water and fresh yeast, then whisk thoroughly and add to the flour mixture, folding it together by hand. If you like, add a little olive oil to the side of the bowl to help slide the dough into the pan.
Grease the cast-iron skillet with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the skillet, and using the tips of your fingers, press in five or six times to make small holes throughout. Arrange the confit kumquat and olives evenly in the holes and drizzle liberally with the reserved infused oil. Proof for 2 hours at room temperature, covered with a lid or a kitchen towel.
When ready to bake, fire up your Ooni pizza oven to 300°C. Check the temperature quickly and accurately using the Ooni Infrared Thermometer. Sprinkle the dried herbs and a pinch of sea salt over the surface of the fougasse (be mindful that the olives will add saltiness).
Now that it’s proofed and garnished, the fougasse is ready to cook. Place it at the mouth of the oven and keep a close eye on the pan. Rotate it using the metal handle and gloves every 2 minutes, for a total of 8 (and no more than 11) minutes until the top is a medium brown (the olive oil will fry the bottom of the bread).
Remove the pan and let the bread rest for 3 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Be careful not to burn yourself as the bread will be hot!
Slice and enjoy this traditional holiday treat, as it is fresh out of the oven, or toasted the next day and spread with butter.