Préfou de Vendée – garlic bread (v)

Making Préfou from scratch surprised me!

Until this moment we had only ever bought the pale préfou at the supermarket... well... never again! This homemade garlic bread, a Vendéen delicacy although we're relatively sure that the term delicacy in relation to loads of garlic is a total oxymoron, is scrumptious. Until now we had only been familiar with the Italian garlic bread which we now realise is like the "milquetoast" version of REAL garlic bread. (Milquetoast is a word that has been around since 1925 and means 'meek'). So, what is préfou and where does it live in Vendée history? In the countryside near Fontenay-le-Comte, long before we had the modern convenience of thermostats to tell us when the oven was hot enough to bake, Vendéen bakers had the clever idea to throw a piece of bread into the oven to check the temperature. Once the bread was pale but baked through, they knew the oven was hot enough to bake their baguettes. Prefour as it was then called (literally meaning before baking) was born from both pragmatism and frugality. Not wanting to waste the bread that had served as a primitive thermostat, the bakers of yesteryear would rub it with garlic and butter, and eat it as a snack. Through the years it has evolved as an apéro treat and that's a good thing. Nothing absorbs liquor like bread and butter... and garlic. If vampires existed we're relatively sure they avoid the Vendée altogether.

Ingredients and preparation - Préfou de Vendée - traditional French garlic bread (vegetarian)

Ingredients bread

  • 250g flour
  • 10gr fresh yeast
  • 15cl lukewarm water
  • 20g butter, melted
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TSP salt

Ingredients garlic butter

  • 1 bunch chopped fresh parsley - flat leaf or curly - up to you
  • 4 large garlic cloves or more if they are small
  • 100g softened butter
    • you can use salted butter
    • or you can use sweet butter, adding a generous teaspoon of Vendéen Fleur de Sel



  • I used my mother's ancient machine to make the dough and it was fabulous!
  • Mix flour with the crumbled yeast
  • Add salt, sugar and melted butter
  • Slowly add the lukewarm water while kneading
  • Knead for about 15 minutes or until you get a very soft dough. Please don't knead it any longer than that.
  • Make a ball, drop the dough in a bowl and cover with a clean tea towel or kitchen towel (make sure it doesn't smell like softener or laundry detergent!!)
  • Let dough rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size

Garlic butter (see images below)

  • Butter should be softened
  • Chop the parsley super fine - I used curly parsley because it's what I had on hand
  • Combine butter and garlic into a bowl
  • Grate the garlic into the bowl using a zester
  • Mix well with a fork until garlic and parsley are well combined with the butter (add some extra fleur de sel if you wish)
  •  Shape the butter, and store in the fridge
    • if you have leftover butter, it can be kept in the fridge for a while
    • if can also be kept in the freezer, well wrapped and in a freezer bag


Back to the dough! 

  • Push the dough flat and divide it into two equal sizes (you can weigh them)
  • Cover the baking sheet with baking paper
  • Rolling the dough between two hands, form two sausages - like baguettes, really
  • Lay them side-by-side on the baking sheet and using a dough roller, roll them to about 1cm thickness
  • Cover with tea towel and let them proof (rise) again for at least 30 minutes or until they have doubled again
  • Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200c  (about 390F)
  • Slide the bread into the preheated oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Set aside to cool


  • Using a sharp knife, slice the bread in half and lay it open
  • Slice the butter into thick slices (not quite 1/5 cm - less than a quarter inch)
  • Put the top half back
  • Slice the bread with a sharp knife into bite-size slices - about 2cm or 1 inch
  • Bake in the oven for a few minutes until crunchy

Serve with apéritif as an appetizer