The Provencal hearth bread called fougasse is one of the most fun, most satisfying breads to bake. Linguistically and boulangerically (!) it's related to the Italian focaccia, and both derive from the Latin focus, which means hearth. How great is that?
The way you do it, you flatten your dough out--mine is a mixed-leaven, mostly unbleached organic white with some whole wheat bread flour, a glug of olive oil, scant teaspoon salt per pound of dough, and chopped sage--into an oval, stretch one side out wider and pull the other end out long--going for something vaguely triangular. When the dough resists, let it rest for five minutes (or more). Keep going till your dough is about 1/2-inch thick. Then with a single-edged razor blade, very sharp kitchen knife, or baker's lame, slice your holes in a pattern you find pleasing--stretch the holes out with your fingers, or they'll just close up again in the final proofing and baking. This sort of "tree of life" design is traditional, as is a simple ladder fougasse (in which case just stay with the oval shape as you flatten the dough).
I proof the loaves on cornmeal-dusted peels, brush with more oil just before baking, and bake them at 450 for 18 to 20 minutes. Any herb or combinatin of herbs can flavor them. I've also used leeks and gruyere, ramps, olives. A beautiful, festive bread, easier to make than it looks.
Text and photo copyright 2010 by Brett Laidlaw