Chorizo and thyme make a powerful flavor combination. Buy the big, thick chorizo sausage (either ready-to-eat or to be cooked), rather than slices, and cut into chunky pieces. A vegetarian in the house? Substitute the chorizo for a couple of handfuls of sundried tomatoes and sprinkle the top of the bread with some Parmesan cheese.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Dust a large baking sheet with flour.
Put the flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl and mix together to combine. Make a large hole in the center of the flour mix, then pour in the water, just enough to make a dough that is loose and easy to knead, but not too sticky. If it feels tight like Blu-tack (poster-tack) then add more water. As you knead it, the dough will become less sticky, so if you can add all the1 1/4 cups/11fl oz/300ml your loaf will be much lighter with a lovely open texture.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes by hand on a lightly floured counter or for 5 minutes in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the thyme and knead for an additional 30 seconds, or until it is well combined. Put half the chorizo in the middle of the dough and then fold the edge around it to cover and knead it for an extra minute.
On a floured surface, shape the fougasse into a ball, making sure the top of the ball is taught and smooth. Using a rolling pin, roll it out into a rough oval shape and transfer to the flour-dusted baking sheet. Using a very sharp knife, or razor blade, carefully cut slashes in the loaf to look like a fern leaf, then with floured hands open up the slashes wide, as they will close up a lot when the bread is left to double in size.
Push the remaining chorizo into the top of the dough, then cover the dough loosely with oiled plastic wrap (you may need several pieces). Let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.
Remove the plastic wrap, then brush the dough with milk and place in the oven.
Throw a couple of handfuls of ice cubes in the bottom of the oven or spray the oven with water before closing. This will keep a crust from forming too quickly on the bread, which would prevent the bread from rising nicely. Alternatively, put a roasting pan with water in the bottom of the oven instead.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the bread is well risen, a beautiful golden brown and smells wonderfully cooked. It will come off the sheet once fully cooked too.
It is tough to top the taste of warm bread straight from the oven, slathered in oodles of good butter.
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