Put the the flour and yeast into a mixing bowl. If using fresh yeast, rub it into the flour, as if making a crumble. If using instant dried yeast, just stir in. Add the salt, followed by the water (Warm, but not hot - approx. 37-40 degrees C, if you have a thermometer). Stir together, then knead, either by hand or with a dough hook for 8 - 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Lightly brush the insides of a bowl, and a sheet of cling film, with a little oil. Put the ball of dough into the bowl and cover with the cling film (or a clean plastic shower cap!) and leave to rise in a warm place (approx. 25 degrees C), for an hour.
Unless you keep a baking stone in your oven, place a baking stone or baking tray (or 2 if baking together) into the oven and pre-heat to 250 degrees C.
Generously flour the work top, then carefully tip out the dough onto the flour (using a scraper if you have one - you want to keep as much air in the dough as possible). Divide into two or three pieces (to share between 2, or 3 individual smaller ones). Dust each one with flour. On a floured chopping board (or bread paddle, if you have one), gently push each piece into a flattish triangular shape, and then, using a knife or the flat side of your dough scraper, make a vertical cut, starting and ending about 2 cm from the top and bottom, and three small diagonal cuts on each side so that it looks a little like a leaf. Gently open up each of the holes, pulling the dough outwards. It is now ready to bake. If you wish, you can add toppings - e.g. cherry tomatoes and / or olives cut in half, and / or sprigs of rosemary, as shown in the photo. Just press them gently into the dough.
If you have a water spray bottle, spray a little water into the hot oven as you slide the loaf (loaves) off the board / paddle onto the baking stone / baking tray(s). Alternatively, half fill a roasting tin with boiling water and put it in the bottom of the oven to create steam. Either way, this helps to make the crust crunchy. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until just golden and crusty and the base sounds hollow when tapped.
Enjoy warm from the oven or leave to cool on a wire rack.
Can be adapted in many ways with different toppings - I love the combination above but each of these on their own is great too. Sun-blushed or sun-dried tomatoes (well drained if in oil) are also really good, as are other herbs like thyme or dried herbes de Provence. You can also gently press chopped olives or caramelised onions, or even crispy bits of bacon into the dough before shaping - just gently fold the dough over then leave to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before continuing.
If you have semolina or fine polenta, you can use this instead of the flour for a crunchy base.
Plain fougasse can also be part-baked and frozen - just like the 'ready to bake' bread you can buy, but better and cheaper! If it is just for the two of us, I make one to eat that day and freeze the other one. Make as above and bake for 5 to 6 minutes until the dough is just starting to colour. Cool on a wire rack, then put it in a freezer bag and freeze. Cook from frozen (temperature as above) for 8 to 10 minutes.