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Fougasse (Provençal Flat Bread) with Heirloom Turkey Red Wheat

Fougasse (Provençal Flat Bread) with Heirloom Turkey Red Wheat

By: Terra Brockman (Read Bio)

Fougasse (Provençal Flat Bread) with Heirloom Turkey Red Wheat
Fougasse is fairly simple to make, and easily adapted to your taste. This recipe adds walnuts, but you may also fold in herbs, cheese, olives, anchovies, or whatever you have on hand. A plain fougasse dipped in olive oil is also a simple and elegant way to go. This recipe makes one large fougasse.
This recipe and all of the step-by-step photos are by Heidi Hedeker, pictured above. Heidi is a certified master baker and has been a pastry chef instructor with Kendall College since 2004. She is an associate professor there, and working on a baking program for kids with immigrant roots called ‘It Bakes a Village’).
Heidi loves to make fougasse with Janie’s Mill heirloom Turkey Red Wheat flour, which she first learned about from the Slow Food Ark of Taste website. But Heidi has a much deeper and more personal connection to Turkey Red wheat through her ancestors who emigrated from the Crimea, in modern-day Ukraine. You can read that story after the recipe!

Ingredients and Instructions

Sponge starter

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients together into a smooth paste.
  2. Dust with a layer of flour over the top (this will indicate that the sponge is rising).
  3. Allow to rest for 30-50 minutes.

Final Dough

  • Turkey Red Wheat flour 250g
  • Salt 12g
  • Water 75g
  • Walnut oil 25g
  • Walnuts 100g
  1. Once the sponge has risen and is slightly domed, place all other ingredients into the bowl alongside, except walnuts (those get folded in later).
  2. Mix by hand to make a slightly shaggy dough.
  3. Bulk ferment in the bowl for 60 minutes, giving one fold at 30 minutes.
  4. Distribute nuts over the top of the dough, and give another fold. Allow to rest for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Turn dough onto bench and tuck edges under. Create the leaf shape of the fougasse. Brush entire surface with oil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Move onto parchment paper on back of sheet tray. Using an oiled bench scraper, make 8 cuts in the fougasse, to create a leaf (two in the center and 3 on either side, branching out). Open up the cuts to create fairly large holes that won’t close up during baking.
  7. Pull dough gently into place on the parchment paper.
  8. Dust dough with coarse salt. You can use leaves of herbs, also – if so, make sure to brush the herbs with oil before applying the salt.
  9. Pre-steam oven.
  10. Bake at 500F for 10 minutes, then reduce to 450 for another 20 minutes.

Although fougasse is now associated with France, its origins are in Ancient Rome, where this form of bread was used to quickly test if the temperature of wood burning ovens was right for regular loaves of bread.

Turkey Red Wheat History and Connections

Heidi loves to make fougasse with Janie’s Mill heirloom Turkey Red wheat flour, which she first learned about from the Slow Food Ark of Taste website. But Heidi has a much deeper and more personal connection to Turkey Red wheat, grown in the breadbasket of Ukraine for centuries and prized for its hardiness, rich flavors, and excellent baking qualities. This, or a similar cultivar, is likely what Heidi’s ancestors grew for generations in the Crimea — between their immigration there from Germany in 1805, and their eventual immigration to the U.S. a century later (see maps below).

And here a number of stories merge . . . and we'll let Heidi tell them in her own words:

When I learned on the Slow Food Ark of Taste website that Turkey Red came here with Mennonites from Crimea, it absolutely crashed into my world like a meteorite. My mom's grandfather (Theodore Eisenbraun) referred in his writings to Mennonite farmers and Lutheran farmers (his family) having discussions about their crops. When I read on the Slow Food site that it was a Mennonite farmer who had replanted that wheat (just one acre) after it had nearly gone extinct, I felt a direct link to my family history, and was in amazement that this lush history came down to us here in the U.S. through the simple yet crucial act of stewardship of seeds.

So although it’s impossible to say for sure what exact variety my ancestors grew, I have a loyalty to Turkey Red! It has a ruddy color that comes to life in the last stages of baking.

My favorite thing to make with Turkey Red is a miche. It is a spiritual experience for me. I imagine all those farmers back there looking with joy on their crops.

In fact, I will include a poem written by my mom’s grandfather, on exactly that topic, along with the map of my family’s immigration to Crimea from Germany in 1805.

Poem of the Wheat Farmer
by Theodore Eisenbraun, 1929, Eupatoria, Crimea

You ask me now in a foreign country, where is my home and where does it stand?
I answer with a loud voice

I am a farmer from the Crimea
as the sun seems so kind to me
 there in the vast steppe, reverent, 
and the sky is so blue, so high, that I cannot look at all of it.
The wheat field sways back and forth 
like our wide Black Sea
Ears of wheat kiss softly in the field 
and whisper of the hard work of the farmers.
I am particularly delighted
 when a stack falls upon another stack
 and the thresher growls.
In the morning, I run with the light 
back to my village in the warm Crimean sun. 
And my memory fills itself with bread. 

Janie’s Mill Manager Jill Brockman-Cummings (below, L) and Pastry Chef Instructor Heidi Hedeker bond over a bag of heirloom Turkey Red wheat (long before we had even heard the term “social distancing”).

The maps below are from a family history made by Heidi Hedeker’s great grandfather. He was among the many German farmers who immigrated to Crimea when Catherine the Great invited them with the promise that they could establish villages and keep their German language, religion, and culture.

We thank Heidi Hedeker for sharing not only the poem, story, and photos above, but also for her recipe for fougasse made with Turkey Red flour and the accompanying step-by-step photos she took to guide you through the process.

Posted on July 05 2020