This fougasse is from the little principality of Monaco in the South of France. It’s an amazing discovery with the loveliest riot of mouthwatering flavours and textures. The dough is flavoured with anise seeds, anise liqueur, orange blossom water, rum, ground star anise and toasted ground almonds. The cookies are then adorned with a joyful assemblage of flaked almonds, pine nuts, a sugared almond and more anise seeds, some of which should be sugared and traditionally coloured red and white like Monaco’s flag. As these are tricky to find, some improvisation may be necessary. I found a packet of white sugared pine nuts in a Carrefour here in Barcelona (yay!) and ordered a packet of mukhwas, a colourful snack I remember being served in London Indian restaurants as an after-dinner mouth freshener and digestive aid – very handy for this festive season. While not traditionally from Monaco (obviously), this Indian seed combo does add that signature colourful touch of freshness with anise and spice. You can easily adapt or omit toppings to your taste. These crispy cookies are easy to make and eat. The sourdough long fermentation process helps break down sugar and starches, making them not sour but healthier and more digestible, with some extra help from the mukhwas. Perfect for January! Happy New Year 2021 by the way! And to start this year off, if you’d like a traditional, deliciously spiced, sourdough or otherwise-yeasted cookie, do try these fougasses monégasques. They could easily exceed your expectations and become a favourite treat to make again and again, as they have for me! 🙂
Julie Andrieu and the elderly fougasse-making ladies
You might ask how I came across this little-known fougasse. Well, it’s all thanks to the Cooking the Chef group I belong to. Thank you, Abril of April’s Kitch and Ana of La cocina de Aisha! For December’s challenge they chose Julie Andrieu, French television and radio presenter on cooking shows, food critic and writer of various cookbooks (more info on wikipedia here). Julie seems cheery and practical, and reminds me of Jaime Oliver. You can see the Cooking the Chef challenge post here with the other participants’ renderings of Julie’s recipes.
When I saw the sourdough fougasse recipe that she’d found, I couldn’t resist. I was even more convinced by the entertaining recipe video (see youtube link here) where little elderly ladies show Julie how to make the fougasse. Georgette, the ring-leader, keeps everyone in order and has the ingredients laid out immaculately. Julie scribbles the instructions in her notebook (carnet, in French) for her TV programme ‘Les Carnets de Julie’. Even if you don’t understand French you’ll get a sense of what’s happening in their cosy kitchen and it’s handy to see how the fougasse is made and shaped.
Here are some earlier prototypes, which included a small number of sultanas. According to a French comment online, the fougasse should traditionally be large enough to break and share but mine are smaller individual cookies that fit easily in a mason jar (in her recipe photos, Julie’s also seem quite small).
I haven’t followed Georgette’s video instructions to the letter but the flavours in my cookies are all there. The changes made are: I’ve rearranged the order for adding ingredients and the timings for the levain; I left out the very small quantity of rum-soaked sultanas from Georgette’s original recipe, to make life easier and because they almost burnt dry in my first prototype cookies; instead of white wine, I added rum, which is traditional according to other online fougasse recipes; and I ignored the extra glass of oil in the notes (there are differences between the YouTube video and the written recipe on Julie’s website here).
Adapt the toppings to your taste, and you can leave out the icing (powdered) sugar on top. Quite pretty too!
There are notes on yeasts, health benefits and a no-yeast adaptation following the recipe.
Previous late evening: refresh sourdough starter (if using) and allow to double in size overnight.
Day 1: in the morning make levain and allow to rise 4 to 5 hours until a little bubbly; early afternoon make dough. If using fresh or instant yeast instead of starter, wait 30 mins to 1 hour then make dough; leave dough at room temperature 17 to 24 hours (overnight).
Day 2: in the morning shape cookies, add toppings, bake.
Ingredients – for 24 medium-sized cookies (about 8 to 9cm/3 to 3.5in diametre) using 2 x large baking trays (30x40cm/12×15.7in)
Day 1 morning: Levain
- 14g/1 tbsp active sourdough starter (refreshed 6 – 12 hours previously and risen to about double) or 10g/0.35oz fresh yeast OR 1 and 3/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast
- 34g/ml water (tepid at 27ºC)
- 34g/1/4 cup + 3/4 tsp strong white flour
Day 1 early afternoon: Dough
- 100g/7 tbsp melted butter (warm)
- 100g/1/2 cup granulated sugar or 1/2 cup less 2 and 1/2 tsp caster/superfine sugar (I used unrefined golden caster sugar)
- pinch of salt (1/8 tsp) up to 2g
- 50g/ml dark rum (or dry white wine, as in Julie’s recipe)
- 24g/ml anise liqueur
- 45g/50ml neutral vegetable oil (like grapeseed or sunflower; Georgette says not to use olive oil but I think it would be fine)
- 30g/2 tbsp orange blossom water + optionally extra for after baking
- 1 and 1/3 tsp ground star anise (freshly-ground if possible, but I didn’t have that, and some recipes don’t include this spice)
- 3/4 tsp anise seeds
- Finely-grated zest from 1/4 lemon
- 250g/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
- 50g/1/2 cup + 1 tsp ground almonds (to toast)
- Optional: 2-4 tbsp rum-soaked sultanas
Day 2: Toppings
- 72g/3/4 cup flaked (sliced) almonds
- 48g/1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1 tsp anise seeds
- 1 tsp to 1 tbsp or so mukhwas
- 120 sugared pine nuts (5 per cookie)
- 24 whole almonds (or sugared almonds/dragées)
Sourdough levain: in a small bowl whisk active starter with water to make smooth liquid then stir in flour. Cover and leave at room temperature 4-5 hours until it rises or becomes slightly bubbly.
Fresh yeast: in a small bowl crumble yeast and whisk with water to dissolve. Cover and leave at room temperature 30 mins to 1 hour. Active dry yeast: same as for fresh yeast (without crumbling).
- Lightly toast ground almonds by spreading on baking sheet under oven grill (keep a close eye as it burns quickly)
- Melt butter and allow to cool to just warm (don’t let it solidify)
- Start when levain (or fresh/dried yeast) is active (bubbling, even just a little).
- Whisk melted butter and sugar in medium-large bowl. Whisk in salt then (in order of ingredients list): rum, anise liqueur, vegetable oil, orange blossom water, ground star anise, anise seeds and lemon zest.
- Add levain.
- Whisk until dissolved in liquid.
5. Use rubber spatula to fold in flour and toasted ground almond, until just combined. Don’t overwork.
6. Shape into ball, place in clean bowl, cover and leave at room temperature 17 to 24 hours (around 21-25ºC). According to one recipe you shouldn’t let the dough get cold so you can cover with a woollen blanket (or duvet, perhaps?). A proofing oven on low is handy but the blanket is fine.
- Your dough will have puffed a bit (not very noticeable from photos, but spongier in texture and slightly risen). There may be a little oil leaking, but don’t worry. Preheat oven to 170ºC/340°F (fan oven) or 190ºC/375°F (static/non-convection oven).
- Cut dough into 24 equal parts (about 30g each on weighing scale).
- Roll into balls between palms.
- Or roll on surface.
- Use rolling pin or wine bottle to roll out rounds.
- Place on baking tray lined with baking paper, spaced out. Georgette uses heavily buttered baking tray – will try this next time to see the difference in texture.
- Spread rounds out more thinly on tray, with fingers.
- Rounds need to be about 2-3mm thin, to bake crispy. As thin as possible.
Toppings and baking
- Cover with flaked almonds and pine nuts. Press in gently with fingers.
- Sprinkle each cookie with pinch of anise seeds, according to your taste. Lightly press in 5 sugared pine nuts and central whole almond. Lightly press in mukhwas, trying to select red ones to represent Monaco’s colours.
- Give a last gentle press (to help toppings not fall off once baked).
- Bake 15-20 mins. They should start to brown a little around the edges and the bottom should be lightly golden. My latest ones were golden brown so quite firmly crispy – will bake a minute or two less next time.
Use spatula (Georgette’s advice) to carefully lift cookies onto wire rack. Some recipes suggest dabbing on a little orange blossom water, which I will try next time.
If you like, sprinkle with a little icing sugar immediately – these cookies aren’t very sweet.
Eating and storing
Eat once cooled (warm is fine too). Be careful not to turn them upside-down – some topping does fall off. Eat on a plate and gather up fallen toppings with hands as a snack. The cookies will be delicious for up to a week or so, stored in airtight glass mason jar or metal tin (well-sealed aluminium foil is an option).
Would you like one?
Sourdough – a healthy option
This fougasse was possibly made from leftover bread dough in days of yore. So the sourdough version is great for authentic flavour, and for the health benefits of a 24-hour fermentation process (I did eat loads and still felt fine, lol).
Fresh/instant (commercial) yeast
According to Julie you can use fresh (or active dry) yeast (still having that 24-hour fermentation time before baking) and you can optionally use beer yeast.
One online commenter for another fougasse recipe said it shouldn’t even contain yeast. Which kind of makes sense as they’re supposed to be flat and crispy. So this recipe could work using a simple olive oil pastry (see Torta di verdura pastry), with no fermentation time.
A little historical information
Monégasque actually means ‘from Monaco’ or ‘relating to Monaco’ but the flavours used, like anise and orange blossom water, are very typical of mediterranean desserts. There’s a similar crispy pastry here in Barcelona: anise coca de vidre topped with pine nuts (found a recipe in Spanish here). These are simple treats which reportedly date back to medieval times and this fougasse is said to have been typically for poor people.
The commenter on this online recipe mentions the fougasse recipe has been passed down through the generations in Monaco and that at festivals they would smash the large fougasses with a fist so everyone could eat some. Also, it should be enjoyed with some vermouth or Champagne. Yay!
On my next trip to Monaco I’ll be hunting these fougasses down!
Meanwhile, I’m inspired to experiment more with these kinds of pastries, using a sourdough process. I’ve really loved these flavours and my digestive system says thank you too! 😉
Please have a little anise, almond and orange blossom fougasse monégasque sourdough cookie.
Thank you for visiting dear reader! Take care and stay well. Wishing you an eventually great 2021 where your dreams can come true and you have some more happy baking and eating! 🙂 Lili x