For the Bank holiday, I had set myself a couple of goals: To try and get the whole family out (including darkness-loving teenagers) for the first picnic of the year and to bring to this picnic some copious delights. Here was the menu. It consisted in our beloved “fougasse d’Aigues Mortes”, the iconic Coquetas from my grand-mother’s recipe trove and my favourite ever sandwich, namely the Pan Bagna… All of those recipes will follow soon on this blog – aren’t we spoilt!!!
Indeed the picnic menu was a tall order but after all I had three days to achieve it. And fret over the weather…
The “fougasse” is a type of flat brioche served in the south of France as a savoury version or -more rarely- as a sweet one. A fougasse with bacon bits or olives is a lovely thing to share before dinner but this sweetmeat one is unique to the small walled town of Aigues Mortes in the south of France. It is light and moist, sweet and fragranced, drenched in orange blossom fragrance and soft butter. It would make a lovely breakfast for a bank holiday.
I made the dough yesterday evening and it is pillowy and plump, ready for the oven this morning.
- Fine flour, 250 g
- Sugar, 100g
- Butter 150g
- 3 eggs
- Quick yeast, 1 tsp
- Milk, 2 Tbsp
- Orange blossom water, 100ml
- zest of one lemon and one orange
Warm a little milk to blood temperature and mix the quick yeast in that liquid.
Cream 100g of butter with the sugar.
Add the flour to this mix, then the yeast, then the egg. Work to a smooth and elastic dough. Beat with a wooden spoon to get it plump and aerated. Add 2 big spoonfuls of orange blossom.
Leave to rest for a night in the bowl or at least 1 and 1/2 hour.
You want a glossy and sticky dough with lots of tiny bubbles inside it. It will about double its size.
Knead it back with a wooden spoon again and lay into a lined baking tray. The amount above will be enough for a medium size tray.
Shave bits off the remaining 50g of butter and intersperse on the dough. Shake some sugar on top. Pour a good amount of orange blossom (2 Tbsp) and put the tray into the oven.
Bake 25 min at 180° on the middle rack of the oven- this detail is important because the delicate brioche will take too much colour if left on the bottom rack.
It will raise a little but must not take too much colour on the top either.
When ready, mix some more sugar with the rest of the orange blossom to make a thick syrup and spread on the hot dough. Leave to cool and serve when the syrup has dried up into a thin crust.
Aigues Mortes is a small walled town where A. and I celebrated our wedding some years back… We love going back time and time again for those memories of course but also for the gorgeous ice creams you eat in massive waffle cornets near medieval gates and for a certain Patisserie outside the walls that bakes the very best “Fougasse d’Aigues Mortes”, steeped in crushed sugar and orange blossom syrup.
Aigues Mortes roman church is were we got married: A beautiful simple church that saw Saint Louis, king of France, set off for the seventh crusade. THe town takes its name from the marsh lands that surrounds it towards the sea, but at the time it was close enough to the water to launch a flotilla towards Egypt!
We shared this for breakfast, before heading off the Richmond Park with a picnic rug and a filled hamper! Thank God for sunshine…
PS:My favourite fougasse comes from the Olmeda patisserie, in rue Emile Jamais, juste outside the walled town. My version was close …