Sea Salt and Herb Fougasse

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This beautiful bread is often considered Italian, but is really from the Provence region of France. The shape, which is often representative of palm leaves, a stalk of wheat, or a ladder, is meant to have as many cuts and holes as possible, to produce as much crust as possible.

Difficulty: Medium

Hands-on: 30 minutesTotal: 11 hours 30 minutes

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 1¾ cups warm water
  • 1¾ tsp. active dry yeast (1 package)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • ½ cup olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 Tbsp. cornmeal
  • 2 Tbsp. herbes de Provence
  • 2 Tbsp. coarse sea salt

Directions

  • To make the sponge, combine water and yeast, stir to dissolve, and let stand 5 minutes. Add all-purpose flour and beat for 1 minute. Cover and let stand at room temperature 8 hours.
  • Add to the sponge the sugar, ½ cup oil, kosher salt, and enough bread flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead 8–10 minutes. Add flour only to reduce stickiness. Return to bowl, dust with flour, cover with plastic, and rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
  • Coat a baking sheet with pan spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Turn risen dough onto prepared pan and, using oiled fingertips, flatten into a large oval, about 2" thick. Press fingertips into dough all across the surface to create dimples. Cover again with plastic and rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 475°F.
  • Brush the top of the risen loaf with olive oil. Using a knife, cut slits in the oval-shaped dough to resemble the rungs of a ladder. With oiled fingers, gently pull openings apart to create wide holes in the dough. Cover and rise another 15 minutes. Sprinkle loaf liberally with herbs and sea salt. Place a pan of cold water at the bottom of the oven to create steam, and bake until golden brown and hollow sounding, about 20–30 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.