Fougasse is really just the French equivalent of Italian focaccia bread. As with focaccia, they can be made with various ingredients and can easily be made sweet or savory, depending on mood or occasion. Today I decided to make sweet ones. I like this recipe because it makes just the right amount for two large loaves, (If they can be called loaves.)
I decided to use brown butter instead of olive oil, plus a hint of nutmeg in the dough, candied cherry and pineapple chunks, and pearl sugar.
If you do not like butter, or want this to be dairy-free, you can always use the original recipe, which calls for olive oil. Also, feel free to also use naturally flavored and colored dried fruits instead of kind I used, which is usually found in fruitcake. Feel free to use turbinado or demerara sugar instead of the pearl sugar, as it is kind of spendy and usually only found online or in specialty food stores. I wanted to make something that looked Christmas-y.
Fruitcake Fougasse (based in this recipe from BonAppetit)
1 and 1/2 cups warm water (lukewarm, like a warm bath for a baby, about 114 degrees F.) divided
1 and 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup of brown butter, cooled but still liquid, divided into two equal parts
3 Tablespoons honey
2 cups bread flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 heaping teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 cup candied fruit of choice, plus a few for topping (I used readymade cherry and pineapple chunks, but feel free to substitute any dried fruit(s))
1 cup chopped pecans, plus a few more for topping
1 egg, beaten, for glaze
pearl sugar (recipe calls for raw sugar)
Brown the butter by letting it boil on medium high for about 7 minutes, until brown milk solids appear at bottom. Watch to ensure it doesn’t burn. Scrape into a bowl and let cool.
In a small bowl, add the yeast and 1/2 cup of the water and add the teaspoon of sugar. Let bloom for 10 minutes. Should be frothy and bubbly, otherwise start over with new yeast.
When yeast is bloomed, add the rest of the water, half the brown butter and honey to it. Reserve the remaining 1/4 cup brown butter for the glaze.
Sift the flours, nutmeg, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir with a whisk several times and then pour the yeast mixture.
With the dough hook, mix on medium for about 3 minutes, periodically turning it off and using a rubber spatula to mix the flour towards the center to ensure all the flour is moistened. Scrape bottoms and sides periodically.
Turn mixer to medium high and let knead for about 6-10 minutes, until dough is starting to get smooth and elastic and starts to leave sides of bowl. Should be fairly sticky to the touch.
Turn off the mixer and using a rubber spatula or rubber dough scraper, fold in the candied fruit chunks and chopped pecans.
In a stainless steel bowl, grease with canola or olive oil. Scrape the dough into the bowl and turn once to coat and cover the bowl with greased plastic wrap. Place overnight in refrigerator.
In morning, or even later the next day, remove the dough from the fridge and let warm on counter in bowl, about an hour.
Heat oven to 380 degrees F. and add a small empty oven-safe metal pan in bottom or lower rack of oven.
On a floured surface, roll with a pin to about 12 inches by 16 inches, and cut vertically down the middle so you have two equal pieces of dough. Shape each dough into tree shape, or other desired shapes.
Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or sprinkling flour on surface to keep dough from sticking.
Carefully transfer each dough to prepared baking sheets, one per baking sheet.
With a blade of small knife, cut out slits about 2-3 inches long down the middle and sides. Spread open holes somewhat.
Add extra fruits and nuts on surface, pressing slightly into the dough to stick.
To make the glaze, beat the egg with the remaining 1/4 cup of brown butter. If it gets too lumpy, heat several seconds in the microwave, just to make it more liquid, being careful not to cook it.
With a pastry brush, glaze the tops of the entire surface of both doughs.
Sprinkle raw sugar, or pearl sugar on top surface.
Cover each dough with parchment paper to let rest in a cool place for about 20 minutes to let rise slightly.
Doughs are ready to bake when you push a finger into the side of the dough and it springs back very slowly, not right away.
Right before baking pour 1 cup of cold water in the metal pan and quickly place dough in oven. This creates steam, which helps build a nice crust for the bread, but it is an optional step.
Because I couldn’t fit two baking sheets at once, I prepared one before another, and baked off the each one at a time, using a new metal pan with cold water added at the last minute to create steam.
Bake for about 25-30 min., until golden brown. Let cool on baking sheet on a wire rack. Serve warm or completely cooled. Good for a day.