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Paul has been posting about his experiments with bread making, which reminded me that last week I posted my standard bread recipe and also mentioned my current favourite recipe, fougasse. Here’s the basic template for that bread:

Start with 210ml of tepid water and 15ml of olive oil. It doesn’t hurt if you are a bit on the generous side with the oil but try not to add too much water.

Add 350g strong white bread flour

The remaining ingredients are: 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp yeast.

Put in the bread machine on a dough setting – my machine has a pizza dough setting that only lasts for half an hour and is ideal. Meanwhile, prepare a space to shape the loaf and lightly oil a baking sheet (I use the bottom of our grill pan for this purpose).

When the dough comes out, knock it back and then shape it into a rough rectangle, about 6″ x 10″. Working along the dough, cut a series of slits and open it out as a ladder. I find that sprinkling some flour on each slit and rubbing it round prevents them closing back up.

Carefully lift the laddered dough onto the baking sheet, cover and place somewhere warm (on top of the oven is a good choice). Set the oven to 220 degrees celsius and wait until it comes to heat. It is good if you can give the dough half an hour or so to rise, so delay putting on your oven if it heats up quickly.

Brush the dough with some more olive oil and bake for 20-25 minutes, until it has a golden brown crust. Remove, cool on a wire tray and try to resist eating it too quickly!

That is the basic recipe. What really makes it special is using that as a vehicle for other ingredients. A classic one is chopped olives, added as you knock back and shape the dough. However, Jane is not keen on olives so I have experimented with other options.

Last night’s was a particular success: stilton and finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes. I added some of both with the initial ingredients (so the flavours get blended in), more tomatoes when shaping the loaf and then a sprinkle of stilton crumbs just before putting in the oven.

Today’s special is spinach and stilton… but I’ve got to wait for it to cool!

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