Pain de Campagne from "52 Loaves"
I recently made the pain de Campagne recipe from the book "52 Loaves" and while it turned out perfectly edible, and respectably tasty, it was lacking in a couple of ways. One, no holey crumb. Two, only so-so oven spring. Three, (and much more bothersome to me), the flavor was good but not great. Flavor is the thing I pursue with bread. Unlike Mr. Alexander, though, I have no wonderful memory of a specific artisan bread to compare my efforts to. There are no artisan bakeries in my area. But I've had better flavor from sourdough english muffins where the starter and part of the flour ferment overnight, and they're mixed up with the othe ingredients and let rest for only 45 minutes before baking (it was a very basic recipe with flour/water/starter/salt, so the flavor wasn't coming from other added ingredients).
This is the recipe:
400 grams unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
260 grams levain
60 grams whole wheat flour
30 grams whole rye flour
13 grams salt
292 grams water (room temp)
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast (also called bread machine, fast-acting, or Rapid-Rise yeast)
Here's what I did: the night before baking, I mixed built up the levain. Next morning, I weighed and added the other ingredients to make the dough. Autolyse 25 minutes, as per the recipe. Then I kneaded, although I can't say the dough ever got "smooth". I hate working with high hydration dough. I fermented it at room temp. for about 2 1/2 hours. This was a bit of a departure from the recipe, which says 4-5 hours. But it also (in the book, but not the online recipe) says that the dough will have risen in that time by about half. And mine had risen by half in the 2.5 hours.
So I formed a boule and let it rise another 2 hours or so in a colander. Did periodic poke tests, and when the indentation left by my finger didn't spring back, I took the boule out, slashed it, and put it in the oven on a pizza stone. Then remembered that steam was supposed to be involved. Ran and got an aluminum roaster pan, spritzed it with water inside, and put it over the boule.
I didn't follow the baking time/temp instructions exactly. I can't afford to blow up my oven, so decided not to risk heating it to 500, the max. temp on the dial. So I set it at 475 or a little lower. My oven runs hot anyway. I don't like an extremely brown crust, so I didn't let it get dark brown before turning the heat down, and I didn't let it heat to an internal temp of 210, but 203 or so instead. Then I didn't let it sit in the oven for 15 minutes after the oven was turned off. I don't think those things affected the openess of the crumb, because the crumb would have already been set in stone (so to speak) by that time.
I do suspect I didn't handle the dough gently enough during shaping, which may have affected the crumb. I'm sure that forgetting to preheat a skillet for steam affected oven spring. Would not having let the first fermentation go on as long as recommended have affected the flavor? I have a deathly fear of overproofing. I'm still mastering figuring out when my sourdoughs have proofed sufficiently, which I also think affected the oven spring.
So, I'd like your collected wisdom - do my conclusions sound right? Is there anything else I've missed? How can I get the elusive flavor, or am I expecting too much?