Pain de Campagne, v3

Pain de Campagne v3

This is my third version of pain de campagne, originally found in William Alexander’s book 52 Loaves, which I highly recommend ( 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). Because I enjoy symmetry, I like to bake this loaf in one of my oval Le Creuset casseroles. I find it works equally well to do the second proof IN the (oiled) casserole, and then slide the casserole (covered) into the hot oven. It just takes ten minutes longer than preheating the casserole or baking directly on the pizza stone, and the results are beautiful as well as tasty.  Another choice is to wrap the bâtard fairly tightly in the couche (linen proofing cloth) so that it retains its shape, like the picture on the middle:


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.


250g levain (see the Note about Levain at the end)
150g unbleached all-purpose flour
150g unbleached bread flour (high-protein flour)
100g whole wheat flour
100g rye flour
4g (1 tsp) instant yeast
350g (two cups?) water, 75°F to 80°F (about 25°C); add more if required, 1 Tbsp at a time
13g (about 2 tsp) salt


At least 2 hours before beginning (or 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.

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.

Mix thoroughly with a wet hand until the dough is homogeneous. You can use a power beater if you like for about 30 seconds. 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.

Sprinkle your work surface with any of the flours. Knead by hand for about seven minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth, and it doesn’t pick up flour from the counter; you’ll understand as you do it. Scrape up the flour and incorporate it as you knead.

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.

At this point, if I’m preparing for a morning bake, I put the dough in the fridge overnight.

Once fermentation has been achieved, remove the dough to a floured countertop. Using a dough scraper, 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.

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 for 1½ to 2 hours. [This is the moment when I put the dough in an oiled Le Creuset casserole with enough room to double in size.] 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.

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. [Or, if you’re like me, you open the lid, nod approvingly, and replace the lid of the casserole.]

Half an hour before proofing is complete, turn the oven to its highest setting, usually 500°F (260°C). My plastic knobs distort in the heat, so I remove them at this point.

Make several slashes with your lame or razor. This helps the loaf rise and release steam.

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! [Or simply put the covered casserole in the oven – so much easier, and the lid keeps in the steam.]

Reduce oven temperature to 450°F (230°C).

After 20-25 minutes, or when loaves have turned brown, reduce the oven temperature to 400°F (205°C). [If using a casserole or Dutch oven, remove the lid at this point.] Bake for another 15-20 minutes until loaves register 210°F with an instant-read thermometer, or until tapping on the bottom produces a hollow, drum-like sound.

Return the bread to the oven, with oven off and door barely open, for 10 minutes.

Remove the bread to a rack and cool for at least 2 hours before slicing or 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… or give it away to local friends.

Note about LEVAIN: 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. After you get the levain started, you can feed it once a day and keep it in the fridge. Make sure to feed it again after you’ve taken some out for making your bread. As Bill Alexander remarks, it’s just like having an undemanding pet.

Here is the printable file for Pain de Campagne 3.