Sourdough Three Ways: Loaves, Focaccia and Fougasse




Introduction: Sourdough Three Ways: Loaves, Focaccia and Fougasse

About: I am an 18-year-old student in 12th grade, I enjoy baking, running, programming, 3-D design, photography, and nature!

I love sourdough, it is such a fun complex type of bread that is also extremely versatile. It can, however, be a little tedious learning different recipes for different types of bread. So I decided to make a simple guide to three sourdough breads that all use the same base dough recipe. All you have to do is learn one dough formula and then you can bake it differently to create different variations of sourdough. This recipe can be used to make rustic sourdough loaves, focaccia, or a lesser-known flatbread known as fougasse. This recipe yields two loaves so you can mix and match different recipes.



Kitchen Supplies

  • Kitchen Scale
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Bench Scraper
  • Proofing Bowls (or a regular bowl with a towel)
  • 9" cake pan or 8" square pan
  • Sheet pan

Step 1: Schedule

Sourdough is a long process, but it is worth it! Because it takes a long time from start to bake, it is important to plan when you mix your levain and your dough so that the bread is ready to bake at the right time. All three of these recipes start the same, but they will not end at the same time, so it is important to plan when you want your bread and when you must start. Above is a general schedule for the process. In blue is the process for making the dough for all three recipes. Once you have completed the blue, you can decide to make any of the three options, because the recipe yields two loaves, you can also mix and match the recipes.

Step 2: Building a Levain

If you are unfamiliar with the term, building a levain is simply a method of feeding a sourdough starter. The only difference between building a levain and just feeding your starter is that the entirety of the levain will be used in the bread, meaning there will be none left to feed. Since you will use all of the levain in the bread mix, you should never use all of your starter when building a levain, rather you should make sure you keep some in the fridge for later use.

There are two options for building a levain for this recipe, you can make one the morning you wish to make your dough or the night before. Either way, you will simply mix some of your mature start, water, and flour in a jar. Use a rubber band to mark where the starter is so you can tell when it has doubled and it is ready to use.

Morning Of: (3-4 hrs)

  • 70g starter
  • 70g water
  • 70g bread flour

Night Before: (12 hrs)

  • 30g starter
  • 90g water
  • 90g bread four

The only difference between the two is the ratio of starter to flour and water, which will affect how long it takes to mature.

Step 3: Mix the Dough

Once the levain is at least double in volume and bubbly on top, you can begin to mix the dough using the following measurements:

  • 800g bread flour
  • 100g whole wheat flour
  • 600g water
  • 180g levain
  • 20g salt

To make the dough, first, measure out the required water in a large mixing bowl. Make sure the water is not hot nor cold, it should be about 75-80°F which sounds like it might feel warm but it will really just feels like room temperature. Add the 180g of levain to the water, it is a good sign if the levain floats on the water, that is how you know it is ready. Next, mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk them together. Now add the dry to the wet ingredients, and mix by hand until there are no more dry specks.

Step 4:

Once the dough is fully mixed, turn the dough out onto a clean surface. If you are newer to bread making, you may want to add a slight dusting of flour however you do not need to for this type of dough. Knead the dough by stretching the dough away from itself and then folding it back in. Continue this process until the dough gains some strength about 2-4 minutes. Then you can knead for a few more minutes by pushing your palm into the dough and then folding the dough on top of itself over and over again. After about 5-8 minutes of kneading, round the dough into a ball and transfer the dough to a large bowl or plastic bin. Cover the dough and begin bulk fermentation.

Step 5: Bulk Fermentation

This point in the process is the time when the dough will rise due to the fermentation of the yeast and bacteria in your starter. During this time you will need to knead the dough 3 times, once 30 minutes after you finish mixing, and then again 30 minutes later, and one more time 30 minutes after that. Rather than kneading the dough as we did before, you are going to stretch the dough in the bowl. To do this, remove the cover from the bowl, then slightly wet your hands. Think of the dough like a compass, you will want to stretch the dough in each of the cardinal directions. Starting with one direction, grab the edge of the dough and pull it up as much as you can without breaking the dough, then fold that piece into the center. Rotate the bowl and repeat that with each of the directions. If you are confused by how to do this, refer to the picture above or the video at the top for a visual demonstration. Do not feel worried about making a mistake, just focus on learning and enjoying the process, this step will not make or break your final bread it simply improves the strength and flexibility of the dough.

The schedule for bulk fermentation should look like this:

  • mix
  • 30-minute rest
  • stretch
  • 30-minute rest
  • stretch
  • 30-minute rest
  • stretch
  • rest ~ 2 hours & 30 minutes* (end of bulk ferment)
  • divide

At the end of the bulk fermentation, you should divide your dough in have, now you can use each half to make any of the three recipes.

* The final rest period depends heavily on the environment that your dough is in, the time listed above is an estimate based on ideal conditions at about 78-80°F. One of the greatest challenges of sourdough is determining when your dough is done fermenting and it may take many tries to get it right.

Step 6: Shaping the Rustic Loaf

For the rustic loaf, you will want to pre-shape the dough after dividing it. On a clean unfloured surface, use a bench scraper scrape under the dough, and pull the dough towards you into a ball. Continue to scrape under the dough until it begins to round into a tight ball, then stop. For a demonstration on how to preshape, watch the included video above. Cover the dough ball with an overturned bowl for 10-15 minutes. While you wait you can s flour your bread bannetons with plenty of rice flour. Once 10 or so minutes have elapsed, remove the covering and dust the bread round and the surface around it with flour. Use a bench scraper to overturn the dough. Following the pictures above, you should now perform the final shaping of the dough. To do this, gently stretch the dough so it is sort of a flat disk, then fold the bottom of the disk up onto itself. Then fold the left side in and then the right side over the left. Finally, pull the top of the disk all the way down to the bottom and press firmly to secure the dough in place. Place the dough into a liberally floured banneton or bowl with the seam of the dough facing up.

Step 7: Proofing the Rustic Loaf

Once the dough has been shaped, put the banneton or bowl inside of a sealed plastic bag. Place the bread into the fridge for at least 12 hours and up to 36.

Step 8: Baking the Rustic Loaf

About 2 and a half hours before you wish to serve the bread, preheat the oven to 500F for 45 minutes with a dutch oven or combo cooker inside. Once the oven has preheated for long enough, remove the bread dough from the fridge. Overturn the bread dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Use a very sharp blade or serrated knife to slash the surface of the dough, about 1/2 inch deep. Oven the oven and carefully open the dutch oven you can leave the dutch oven on the oven rack or place it on top of the stove for this next step. Using the parchment paper as handles, place the bread into the dutch oven or combo cooker. Place the lid on and return the dutch oven to the oven and close the door. Lower the temp to 450F for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove the lid of the dutch oven and lower the temp again to 425F. Now let the bread bake uncovered for an additional 20-25 minutes until it is golden brown on top. Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool 1 hour before serving.

Step 9: Shaping the Focaccia

Line a 9-inch tall cake pan or an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, then oil liberally. It may seem like overkill to use both oil and parchment, however, focaccia had a tendency to stick to the pan. Additionally, the olive oil will change the crust of the focaccia which is why it is important to not skimp on the oil.

Once the pan is oiled, add one of the divided dough masses to the pan. use your finger to stretch the focaccia out to fill most of the pan, do not worry if it doesn't take up the entire pan, it still needs to rise one more time. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or put the entire pan in a plastic bag. Allow the dough to rest for two hours.

Step 10: Baking the Focaccia

45 minutes before baking the focaccia, preheat the oven to 450F. Place a cast-iron skillet in the bottom of the oven to use as a steaming tray. Before the oven is preheated, begin boiling some water. Once the oven is preheated, remove the focaccia from its bag and drizzle with olive oil. Oil your fingers and use them to create dimples in the dough, pressing all the way to the bottom of the pan while doing this. Then you can top the focaccia with salt, and you may wish to include topping such as mushrooms, olives, vegetables, or herbs. Place the focaccia in the oven and pour 2-3 cups of boiling water into the cast-iron skillet. While pouring hot water into the skillet, make sure to wear oven gloves. It is also a good idea to cover your oven door with a towel to prevent water from splashing on it, which could potentially crack it. This step is optional, you do not need to steam your oven if you don't want to, however, your focaccia will not rise as much. Bake the focaccia for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Step 11: Shaping the Fougasse

To shape the fougasse, first oil a sheet pan sized piece of parchment paper. Place the fougasse onto the parchment paper and use an oiled rolling pin to flatten the dough. If the pin begins to stick, add more oil and mist the dough with a little water. Roll the dough until it is about a quarter-inch thick. Place the sheet pan into a plastic bag, or simply cover the entire pan with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest for an hour and a half. Don't forget to preheat the oven to 450F about 45 minutes prior to baking, with a cast-iron skillet in the bottom of the oven.

Step 12: Baking the Fougasse

Just before the oven is preheated, boil some water to steam the fougasse while it bakes. While the water boils, take the fougasse out of the pan. Use a pizza roller to create slashes in the dough in whatever arrangement you like. Next use slightly wet hands to separate the slashes open, you may need to lift the dough up as you do this and stretch it out. Next, drizzle the dough with olive oil and top with salt. Next, open the oven and slide the sheet pan inside. Pour 2-3 cups of boiling water into the cast-iron skillet. You should wear oven mitts, and you may also wish to cover your oven door with a towel. Although I have never had an issue, some people have had their oven doors crack due to water hitting them at very high heat. Bake the fougasse at 450 for 20 minutes, and then 5-15 minutes more at 425F. Bake until the surface is golden brown. Remove the fougasse from the oven and brush with more olive oil. Serve as soon as it is cool enough to touch.

Step 13: Notes and Tips

- The most important thing you should know with sourdough is that proofing times are affected by many variables, so your dough may take more or less time than the times described in the recipes. It can take many tries to get your dough perfectly proofed. The best thing you can do is make the recipe as directed and then take notes of how your bread turned out. If your bread was is dense with larger holes it is probably under-proofed, extend your rise before shaping. If your bread has all equal-sized holes and is rather flat it is probably over-proofed, decrease the amount of time before shaping. Always adjust your rise times in small increments (30 minutes) until your bread is the consistency that you find most enjoyable.

- In both the fougasse and focaccia recipes, I describe steaming the oven with boiling water. This generally improves the overall rise of the bread as well as the texture of the crust but it is also dangerous and you can skip it if you wish. You can also put ice cubes into the preheated cast iron which will produce less steam but is an easier option. Make sure to re-season your skillet accordingly after using it to steam the oven.

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    2 years ago

    Excellent! Try sourdough cornbread!


    2 years ago

    Nicely done!
    I have this weird feeling though that you must have been reading my mind 😉😄


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks! 😂 Haha, I wish I had read your mind, you had some great ideas I didn’t think of! Nice work as well!


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you so much 😊