I had France on my mind this weekend. Not unusual since we just got back from a 5-day break over the channel. I’m pretty certain that one of my friends will spot this and snicker about my being at Disneyland rather than in some stinky cheese-induced coma. I don’t care if Mickey Mouse had to be involved, there were also fresh croissants and rustic baguettes every morning and even a trip to Poilane, so it absolutely, most definitely counts as a French break.
So for this week, I offer another simple recipe, this time for pain de campagne, a dough very close to traditional French baguettes. This is such a simple recipe, taken from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice – it requires just the simplest forward planning for a pate fermentee made the night before baking, but no fancy starters or proofing baskets or retarding are involved past this. I got a bit fancy with the shaping, but you’re more than welcome to stick to boules and batards if you wanna. Just give this a try and I guarantee you’ll love it. Even though it was ready by something close to noon on Sunday, we still devoured it slathered in butter and apricot jam. Just because we could.
For the pate fermentee, you’ll need:
280g strong white bread flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
170 – 200ml water, at room temperature
Mix flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer.
Add 170ml water, mixing until the dough comes together in a shaggy ball, about 1 minute using the paddle attachment.
Adjust for either flour or water so that dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff.
Switch to dough hook and knead for 4 to 5 minutes, until dough is smooth and soft, tacky but not sticky.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave to ferment for approx 1 hour at room temperature. Expect a 50% rise in this time.
Remove from bowl, knead it gently to degas, then return to bowl and cover. Place pre-ferment in fridge overnight or for 8 – 12 hours at a minimum. According to Mr. Reinhart, this keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days; I’ll take his word for it, as I’ve never been that organised before.
For the final Pain de Campagne, you’ll need:
All the pate fermentee resulting from above
227g strong white bread flour
45g rye bread flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
170ml water, lukewarm
Remove pate fermentee from fridge approx 1 hour before getting started on your final dough.
Mix flours, salt, yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer, then add the pate fermentee – I sliced small portions of it with a pastry cutter.
Add water and mix in the bowl using the paddle attachment, until dough comes together in a shaggy ball.
Switch to dough hook and knead for 5 – 6 minutes until you get a tacky, soft dough that clears the sides of the bowl well.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Leave to ferment at room temperature for 2 hours. Expect dough to double in size in this period of time.
Lightly flour your work surface. Remove dough from bowl, handling gently to degas as little as possible.
Divide dough into 3 portions.
Shape dough – I did 2 epis (wheat sheaves) and 1 tabatiere (pouch) using instructions from Reinhart’s book, so at this stage I prepped 2 baguettes, which I placed on same baking sheet, and the tabatiere (see below for more details).
Cover loosely with a tea towel and leave to proof for approx 1 hour.
Prepare your oven for steam baking – preheat at max, with your baking stone inside if using and a tray / pan placed at the bottom. Boil a kettle of water at the ready.
Use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the epis. This and this videos should help with shaping both the epis and the tabatiere.
Place epis in oven on middle rack. Pour boiled water from kettle into pan at bottom of oven to create steam and close the oven door as soon as you can.
Allow the epis to bake at maximum temperature with steam for 10 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 220C and give the bread another 15 minutes. You may need to give the baking sheet a 180-degree turn for an even bake.
Remove and leave to cool on a rack. (Good news – the epis cool very quickly!!!)
Repeat with tabatiere.
Home baker’s note: Reinhart indicates that quantity of dough should yield 3 loaves of bread; indeed I managed to get 3 loaves. I felt that the epis were on the thin side though, and the tabatiere could have been bigger too. Next time I’ll probably shape the dough into 2 portions instead.
A personal note too: my favourite band has dropped a new song today. I find myself struggling to articulate how much I love it – and my listen count is already to 50+ in just a few hours. Give it a listen.
Final note: I’m painfully aware I butchered French spelling in this post. I promise to find out how to insert French terms for next posts.