Food for Thought from Suzanne Dunaway

P-O Life reader, Suzanne Dunaway, has cooked since she was 5 years old, when she made cinnamon pinwheels from her mother’s pastry dough.

She LOVES to cook. Some might say she LIVES to cook. The smells, the tastes, the textures…

She is a firm believer in simplicity and creates her recipes in the ethos of ‘anyone can cook’.

After years of experience in her own kitchen, cooking schools and private classes all over the world, in this weekly blog, Suzanne shares with us her PO-inspired creations.

With many strings to her bow, she is also an artist and columnist, with two published cookbooks.

No Need to Knead

Rome, at Home

All content and recipes are copyright of Suzanne Dunaway.

Fun fougasse

fougasse

When we first discovered Collioure years ago, I used to run in the early morning, exploring the lovely tucked away streets, quiet beaches and the views from the top of the ville, but the best part of my morning was when I stopped by the tiny boulangerie Ghilaci Kader in the centre ville, just off the rue Pasteur at 9, rue St Vincent. They still make their lovely fougasse and airy baguettes, but I think you’ll have a surprise when you make your own.

This is the easiest bread you will ever make!  Kids can whip it up in minutes and all you have to do is mix flour, water, yeast and salt in a bowl, cover it and wait for the rise. Read book, pull some weeds, dream…

You then POUR the dough onto an oiled baking sheet and have great fun making the holes.  This dough may also be enhanced by a little nap in the fridge overnight, then taken out in the morning about half an hour before baking, formed while the oven is heating, then baked and ready for breakfast!

The secret to all of my breads is that they are no-knead loaves and the result is a tender open crumb and golden crust.

This dough is so versatile that you may bake it in a bread pan to have a loaf you can slice, but the fougasse/focaccia, split and toasted is a great stand-in for sandwich fillings.

Do not be intimidated by baking. It is one of the most rewarding cooking experiences one can have, even in the land of a million boulangeries!

And for the record, focaccia is fougasse is flatbread is pissaladiere and so many other names. I made a video called Suzannes’ FLASH Focaccia on YouTube, if you wish to actually see how easy it is to bake.

Bread flours with high protein content make a more substantial loaf, but plain old white flour is just fine.  We can get raffiné later…

The recipe

Ingredients

2 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (I use Francine and use two packages)
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2-3 tablespoon olive oil (for brushing on top, not in the dough)
A couple of branches of fresh rosemary (grows all over Collioure)
1 teaspoon gross sea salt

Method

In a large mixing bowl, put the water, yeast, half the flour and salt and stir briskly until smooth. With a strong spoon (the ones with the hole in the middle are wonderful as the flour doesn’t go all over the place when you stir it in), stir in the rest of the flour, just until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and makes a loose, moist ball. If your dough is not pulling away, add another spoon of flour. All flours are different.

 

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until double, about 30-40 minutes.

When the dough is doubled, heat the oven to the highest temperature you have, 275 C in my oven.

Oil a baking sheet (non-stick if possible but not necessary), and using a spatula or baker’s flat scraper, POUR the dough gently onto the bake sheet, urging it out of the bowl with the scraper, keeping the dough as inflated as possible.

Brush the top of the dough with the olive oil, and plunge two or three fingers straight down into the dough and pull to the side, about 2 inches with each plunge (see photo).

You may make a few holes or only three or four, depending on how much fun you are having, but remember, go easy as you do NOT want to deflate this lovely, risen dough.

Chop the rosemary and sprinkle it over the fougasses, then sprinkle it with the gross salt.

When the oven is up, bake for 10 minutes, checking to see if it has turned golden brown and smells divine.

I cut mine with scissors (a column is coming up on equipment one of these days) or better still, tear off pieces and eat!

A lovely breakfast treat is to pour off several smaller amounts of the dough, brush each with olive oil, do the finger plunge and pull but very gently, the sprinkle each with cinnamon and sugar. I also sprinkle just a bit of salt on the cinnamon fougasses, as it balances well with the sweet flavors.

This is a very versatile dough.  With the addition of just a bit more flour and a good splash of olive oil, you will have a perfect pizza dough. For pizza, however, the risen dough is stretched to make a thin, thin layer over the entire baking sheet.  It rises as you prepare the pizza toppings, in my case, homemade tomato sauce, anchovies, and mozzarella added just before the pizza is done so that it does not become rubbery.

I would love feedback, no pun intended!

Tempted?

If you test this recipe, please share your comments and photos in the space below.

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