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How to Make Pain de Campagne

Why this recipe works Pain de campagne is a round country bread that’s a mealtime staple in French homes, and it can be found in nearly every boulangerie. We wanted to develop a recipe for a rustic boule as good as any on a French table—one with a hearty crust, an irregular crumb, a wholesome chew, and a deep, slightly tangy flavor. Traditionally, this country bread is made with part whole-wheat flour and part bread flour; using just a small amount of whole-wheat flour (20 percent of the total weight of flour) gave us decent wheaty flavor and didn’t make the loaf overly dense. Still, we were hoping for a loaf with a deeper taste. We make most of the sponges in this book with 20 percent of the weight of flour, but we wondered if adding more sponge could boost flavor. Indeed, mixing 50 percent of the dough’s total flour into the sponge gave us sweet notes and a bit more tang. But we found that we couldn’t surpass 50 percent; when we used more sponge to start our bread, the loaf lacked structure. (The acid that is created in a fermented sponge is beneficial for developing a strong gluten network only up to a point. In the presence of too much acid, the gluten structure breaks down. You can substitute a round banneton, or proofing basket, for the towel-lined colander.

  • makes 1 loaf
  • resting time 6 hours 20 minutes
  • rising time 3 to 4 hours
  • baking time 45 minutes
  • total time 11 to 12 hours, plus 3 hours cooling time
  • key equipment water-filled spray bottle, large linen towel, 5-quart colander, baking stone, 2 (9-inch) disposable aluminum pie plates, 2 quarts lava rocks, pizza peel, lame, instant-read thermometer

how-to-make-pain-de-campagne

sponge

  • 1⅔ cups (9⅛ ounces) bread flour
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) water, room temperature
  • ⅛ teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

dough

  • 1 cup (5½ ounces) bread flour
  • ⅔ cup (3⅔ ounces) whole-wheat flour
  • 1½ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • ¾ cup (6 ounces) water, room temperature
  • 2½ teaspoons salt

1). For the sponge Stir all ingredients in 8-cup liquid measuring cup with wooden spoon until well combined. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until sponge has risen and begins to collapse, about 6 hours (sponge can sit at room temperature for up to 24 hours).

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2). For the dough Whisk bread flour, whole-wheat flour, and yeast together in bowl of stand mixer. Stir water into sponge with wooden spoon until well combined.

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3). Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add sponge mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Cover bowl tightly with plastic and let dough rest for 20 minutes.

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4). Add salt to dough and knead on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl but sticks to bottom, about 5 minutes. Transfer dough to lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic, and let rise for 30 minutes.

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5). Using greased bowl scraper (or your fingertips), fold dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 45 degrees and fold dough again; repeat turning bowl and folding dough 6 more times (total of 8 folds). Cover tightly with plastic and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat folding and rising. Fold dough again, then cover bowl tightly with plastic and let dough rise until nearly doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.

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6). Mist underside of large linen or cotton tea towel with water. Line 5-quart colander with towel and dust evenly with flour. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter (side of dough that was against bowl should now be against counter). Press and stretch dough into 10-inch round, deflating any gas pockets larger than 1 inch.

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7). Working around circumference of dough, fold edges toward center until ball forms. Flip dough ball seam side down and, using your cupped hands, drag in small circles on counter until dough feels taut and round and all seams are secured on underside of loaf.

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8). Place loaf seam side up in prepared colander and pinch any remaining seams closed. Loosely fold edges of towel over loaf to enclose, then place colander in large plastic garbage bag. Tie, or fold under, open end of bag to fully enclose. Let rise until loaf increases in size by about half and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 30 minutes to 1 hour (remove loaf from bag to test).

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9). One hour before baking, adjust oven racks to lower-middle and lowest positions. Place baking stone on upper rack, place 2 disposable aluminum pie plates filled with 1 quart lava rocks each on lower rack, and heat oven to 450 degrees. Bring 1 cup water to boil.

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10). Remove colander from garbage bag, unfold edges of towel, and dust top of loaf with flour. (If any seams have reopened, pinch closed before dusting with flour.) Lay 16 by 12-inch sheet of parchment paper on top of loaf. Using 1 hand to support parchment and loaf, invert loaf onto parchment and place on counter. Gently remove colander and towel. Transfer parchment with loaf to pizza peel.

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11). Carefully pour ½ cup boiling water into 1 disposable pie plate of preheated rocks and close oven door for 1 minute to create steam. Meanwhile, holding lame concave side up at 30-degree angle to loaf, make two 7-inch-long, ½-inch-deep slashes with swift, fluid motion along top of loaf to form cross.

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12). Working quickly, slide parchment with loaf onto baking stone and pour remaining ½ cup boiling water into second disposable pie plate of preheated rocks. Bake until crust is dark brown and loaf registers 205 to 210 degrees, 45 to 50 minutes, rotating loaf halfway through baking. Transfer loaf to wire rack, discard parchment, and let cool completely, about 3 hours, before serving.

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problem The loaf is misshapen.

solution Use the right size colander.

Colanders come in different variations. To mimic a round proofing banneton (click here for more information on bannetons), you’ll want to make sure your colander is 5 quarts and roughly 11 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep (this is fairly standard). Since the wet dough relies on the colander for shape during proofing, wider colanders will yield short, squat loaves.

problem The dough sticks to the colander.

solution Line the colander with a towel.

Wet dough will stick to a colander (and become pocked with tiny holes) if it sits directly on the metal surface. Lining the colander with a floured towel makes the loaf easy to release. Make sure to use a linen towel or cotton tea towel; the dough can stick to terry cloth. Also, don’t substitute a glass bowl for the colander. The bowl will trap moisture and cause the loaf to stick to the towel.

problem The loaf doesn’t rise to the proper height.

solution Place the colander and loaf in a large plastic garbage bag.

The holes in the colander provide just enough air circulation around the loaf to dry the outside of the dough, which contributes to a superb crust once the loaf is baked. But you still need to protect the dough from the surrounding environment to prevent it from forming a tough skin. A skin on loaves hinders rise, so the bread does not gain enough height and the interior crumb can be compressed. To protect the loaf in the colander as it proofs, don’t simply cover it with plastic wrap; fit the colander inside a large plastic garbage bag and tie or fold the bag closed.

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