Pain de Campagne v2
This recipe is adapted from the boule or pain de campagne in Bill Alexander’s book 52 Loaves, which I highly recommend. You can see his recipes directly on www.williamalexander.com. For this version, I changed the proportions of the flours used, and also adjusted some of the action steps in line with what has been working well for me. This quantity makes one large bâtard (oval) or two small boules (round loaves).
Note: Correct proportions are crucial in making bread successfully; that’s why all measurements are in grams. Use an electronic scale that uses grams and ounces, and reset before adding the next ingredient.
130g all-purpose flour
130g room-temperature (70°F) water
28g (1/8 cup) ripe (fed) sourdough starter
260g levain (one portion of the levain above)
300g unbleached all-purpose flour
100g whole wheat flour
100g rye flour
4g (1 tsp) instant yeast
300g water, 75°F to 80°F (about 25°C)
Note: Like most bread bakers, I keep a levain going in the fridge all the time, feeding it every day with a mixture of 50g flour and 50g water. To make a levain from scratch, beat together the levain ingredients above to make sure it’s aerated. [If you don’t have a sourdough starter to hand, add 1g dried yeast.] Cover the levain and allow it to ferment overnight at room temperature (65-75°F, 25°C). It should take the levain about 12 hours to mature. The mature levain will have doubled in size and be domed on top, or just beginning to sink in the middle.
1. At least 2 hours before beginning (you can do this the night before), feed levain as follows: Remove levain from refrigerator and add equal parts flour and room temperature water (I use about 130 g each, which replenishes what I’ll be using in the bread). Stir/whip well, incorporating oxygen, and leave on the countertop, with the cover slightly ajar. The levain should be bubbling and lively when you begin your bread.
2. Place a large bowl on your scale and zero out the scale. Now add the flours, one at a time, zeroing out the scale after each addition. Separately weigh and add the salt. Add the levain, a dash of instant yeast, and the water.
3. Mix thoroughly with a wet hand until the dough is homogeneous. You can use a power beater if you like. Make sure to incorporate the flour at the bottom of the bowl! Spray a piece of plastic wrap with vegetable oil, press it directly onto the dough, and leave the dough to rest (autolyse) for 20-25 minutes.
4. Sprinkle your work surface with any of the flours. When the dough is soft, knead by hand for about seven minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth, and it doesn’t pick up flour.
5. Clean out and dry the mixing bowl (without soap), mist with vegetable oil spray, and replace the dough. Press the oiled plastic wrap back onto the dough. Ferment at room temperature (68 -72 degrees is ideal) for 4 to 5 hours, until dough has doubled in size.
6. Using your hand or a flexible pastry scraper, remove the dough to a floured countertop. Gently fold in thirds lengthways to form a bâtard (elongated oval shape). Try not to press out the gas bubbles or fuss with it too much.
7. Transfer to a couche (stiff linen proofing cloth) or onto a piece of baking parchment supported on each side with rolled tea towels. Cover with same piece of plastic wrap and set aside to proof, 1½ to 2 hours. While dough is proofing, place a baking stone in lower third of oven, and an old cast iron skillet or pan on the bottom shelf.
8. After 1½ to 2 hours, it should have increased in volume by about half, and feel springy. Transfer the loaf to a peel or flexible cutting board flour (I use baking parchment, and slide it onto the cutting board, and from there onto the baking stone.) Sprinkle the top of the loaf with rye or rice flour if you want that country “dusted” look.
9. Half an hour before proofing is complete, preheat the oven to its highest setting, usually 500°F (260°C).
10. Make several symmetrical slashes (or grignes) with your lame or razor. A “tic-tac-toe” grid is a good way for beginners to start. This helps the loaf to rise and release steam.
11. Immediately slide the loaf (including paper, if using parchment) onto your preheated baking stone and, wearing an oven mitt, add 1 cup water to skillet. Try to minimize the time the oven door is open: you want the steam to stay in the oven!
12. Reduce oven temperature to 450°F (230°C).
13. After 20-25 minutes, or when loaves have turned dark brown, reduce oven temperature further to 400°F (205°C). Bake for another 20-25 minutes until loaves register 210°F with an instant-read thermometer, or until tapping on the bottom produces a hollow, drum-like sound.
14. Return the bread to the oven, with oven off and door barely open, for 10 to 15 minutes.
15 Remove bread to a rack and cool for at least 2 hours before serving.
This loaf keeps well at room temperature in a loose plastic bag, cut side down. Once it’s fully cooled, I usually slice the whole loaf, keep out four slices for immediate needs, and freeze the rest in ZipLok bags in packets of 6-8 slices.
And, as always, here is a printable .pdf of Pain de Campagne v2.