A savoury French loaf becomes a sweet family treat.
This traditional French bread is made for tearing and sharing. Normally it’s eaten dipped in a good olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but I like to make it a sweet treat, flavoured with lemon and dipped in a white chocolate and vanilla sauce.
Typically we’ll have it on our monthly Dessert Night, when each of the kids gets to choose their favourite pudding and that’s what we have for supper: no savoury food, just the sweet stuff. Strangely, they are never short of suggestions. Churros and melted Nutella is a popular one, as is doughnuts. My son even cheekily asked for a whole croquembouche the other day. I said you can have profiteroles, but there’s no way I’m making an entire croquembouche. As you can imagine, no one gets to bed on time those nights because they are high on sugar and bouncing off the walls.
I used to be quite scared of breadmaking because it’s an exact science, and things can go wrong. This is a great one to start with, however, because there’s no need for it to rise massively and you can see when it’s cooked. And let’s face it, even if it does go wrong, by the time you’ve dipped it in melted chocolate, it’s always going to taste good.
Lemon fougasse with white chocolate and vanilla bean dip
For the fougasse
350g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
Zest of 2 large unwaxed lemons
7g fast-action dried yeast
1 tsp fine salt 10 ice cubes
For the white chocolate and vanilla sauce
200ml double cream
200g white chocolate
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
1 If you’re using a stand mixer, attach the dough hook. If you’re doing this by hand, have a large bowl at the ready. Place the bread flour in the bowl.
2 Add the lemon zest and mix through quickly. Add the yeast to one side and salt to the other. Give it all a quick mix.
3 Make a well in the centre and add 225ml water. Mix this with the dough hook or by hand. The resulting dough should be soft but not sticky. If there are still dry bits of flour on the edge, add a teaspoon of water at a time to the dough until it all comes together.
4 Knead the dough for 5 minutes in the mixer or for 10 minutes by hand. Dust the surface with flour and cover the dough with a bowl turned upside down.
5 Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Roll out the dough to a rectangle roughly 20cm x 25cm and place it carefully onto the prepared sheet, making sure to fix the rectangle if it has become oval in transit.
6 Place the whole thing in a large clean refuse sack or bag, making sure the bag doesn’t touch the bread. Leave the dough in a warm place to allow it to double in size.
7 Preheat the oven to 230C/Gas 8. Place a clean baking tray in the oven and a roasting tray at the bottom. Once the dough has proved, make a slit in the middle and two diagonal slits on either side, a bit like the veins of a leaf. Use your fingers to open up the slits to make oval shapes.
8 Take the hot baking tray out of the oven and place the dough tray on the top rack. Put the heated tray in the middle of the oven and add the ice cubes to the roasting tray at the bottom. Close the door quickly and bake for 12-15 minutes.
9 Meanwhile, place a pan on the hob and bring the cream to a simmer, but do not boil. Break up the chocolate and place in a bowl with the vanilla bean paste. Pour on the cream and mix to melt all the chocolate.
10 You will know the bread is baked when it sounds hollow in the middle when tapped at the bottom, and it should be an even golden brown. Leave to cool on a rack for 10 minutes before eating immediately, served with the sauce.