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Provençal fougasse with green and black olives

Lockdown is the perfect time to get to grips with our favourite chewy loaf: sourdough. Ready, set, bake with this savoury share-and-tear number (you can skip the sharing bit if you like).

How to raise a loaf

It’s official: sourdough is the new banana bread. You can barely open Twitter or Instagram without seeing in-depth discussions of the best starters, or mouth-watering shots of freshly-baked loaves.

If you’re joining the masses and brushing up on your bread-making skills in lockdown, we have the perfect book for you: How to Raise a Loaf and Fall in Love with Sourdough, by Roly Allen. It’ll teach you everything you need to know about making your own sourdough at home, so by the time we’re all out of lockdown, you’ll be able to impress your mates with your newfound baking wizardry.

Provençal fougasse with green and black olives

Sourdough bread with black and green olives
Image credit: Rita Platts

Loaded with olives and olive oil, this tear-and-share bread begs to be eaten with friends, and the distinctive slashes through the loaf give it a pattern that recalls ears of wheat. This recipe makes two medium fougasses; time the bake so you finish about half an hour before eating, as it’s best served very fresh.

Ingredients 

  • 200g starter
  • 300ml warm water
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 10g (2 tsp) fine salt
  • 200g pitted olives. This recipe works best if the olives are a mixture of green and black, and have been kept in oil, not brine. Pepper-stuffed green olives work particularly well with this recipe.
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) olive oil

Method

Chop the black and green olives roughly into quarters with a mixture of large and small pieces. Mix them up and put to one side.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the starter and warm water together. 

In another large bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Add this to the wet mixture, and mix well with your hands until the ingredients are evenly distributed in the dough. Cover the bowl with
a tea towel, and leave the dough to rest for
30 minutes.

On a lightly-floured work surface, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. This shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. Return the ball to the bowl.  

Add the chopped olives and the olive oil to the bowl and work them into the dough as evenly as you can. The surface of the ball will be oily and slippery — don’t worry. Don’t worry if you can’t get all of the olives into the dough, either, as you can use loose pieces to top the loaf later.

Cut the ball into halves, then place them on two sheets of baking parchment. 

With a rolling pin, gently roll them out to form two ovals about 20—25cm long and 1—2cm thick. If you have any olive chunks left in the bottom of the bowl, gently press them into the top of the dough now. 

Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave to prove for about 2 hours in a warm place.

Test the dough by pressing it with your fingertip. If the dent rises nearly all the way back over a few seconds, switch on the oven to heat up to 240°C (fan 220°C)/gas mark 9 and move the oven shelves to the highest positions.

Now’s the time to make the distinctive holes that make this such a great tear-and-share loaf. First, using a sharp knife, make 8—10 diagonal cuts, each about 4cm long, in two rows down the dough.

Use your fingertips to stretch open the cuts, gently pulling the dough outwards. It will become about 5cm longer and 5cm wider as you do so, and the pattern that appears will suggest an ear of wheat.

Once the oven has warmed up, move the loaves, on their sheets of baking parchment, onto the heated baking trays or pizza stones, and place them on the oven shelves.

Bake for 15—20 minutes, switching the fougasses after 10 minutes so that they each have a turn on the top shelf. Check the bases: when they are golden brown, and sound hollow when tapped, the loaves are done.
Cool for a few minutes and serve while they are still warm.

Appetite whetted? Head to our Recipes section for more culinary inspiration and cook up a storm.

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