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The Romans took their cuisine with them as their empire spread. Thus in Provence ‘panis focacius’ became the Fougasse, which is similar to an early type of pizza minus the tomatoes. In Italy it evolved into ‘focaccia’, a thicker and fluffier loaf, dimpled to hold pools of the best extra virgin olive oil. In Spain it is the hogaza, in Catalonia the fogassa, in Hungary the pogácsa, and so on.
Archbishop Isadore of Seville, one of the fathers of the Christian Church, is best remembered for his ‘Etymologiae’, a 20-volume encyclopedia published in around 620 AD, that included information and descriptions culled from many books of classical antiquity that would, doubtless, otherwise have been lost. In it he describes ‘Fougasse’ as ‘a flat loaf shaped on a cooking stone’.
In the days of wood-fired ovens, long before thermostats, a fougasse was made with the smallest piece of dough you could use and still produce something you could serve at a meal, and it was used to test the temperature of the oven. Depending on how quickly the fougasse cooked, the baker would know whether the oven was hot enough to cook the rest of the ‘pain quotidien’.
There are probably as many shapes and styles of fougasse as there are bakers to bake them, but traditionally this soft, white flatbread style of loaf made with white flour, yeast, salt and olive oil, is slashed and pulled to resemble an ear of wheat. The slashes create open areas in the loaf which means that it cooks very fast. It is often enhanced with cheese or lardons or anchovies, and it is fabulous served as part of a spread of appetisers – with cured meats, cheeses and wine – or to accompany something with a flavourful tomato-based sauce, such as ratatouille or pasta with sauces such as arrabiata, tomato and basil or puttanesca.
You can enjoy delicious, freshly baked Fougasse in the 21st Century, minus the ash from the hearth, just by ordering from our website or popping into our shops. You can also order them now with our heart - warming soups at just £4.25.
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