The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pain de Campagne

amolitor's picture
amolitor

Pain de Campagne

Herein I describe my current state of the art on Pain de Campagne!

I started out with the recipe Joe Ortiz has in his fine book The Village Baker. As far as I can determine, nobody has been able to get a satisfactory loaf out of this recipe, which calls for creating a firm starter from scratch over the course of about 5 days (which is obviously going to be... a little difficult). His professional recipe for the same thing ignores the starter entirely, and assumes you're leavening with dough held back from the previous batch. Note that this is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem here, where does that first batch come from?!

In any case, I have modified and fiddled with things and synthesized Joe's professional recipe with his home-baker one, and arrived at this, which is just how I make it. There are two levains made in sequence, and then a final dough. I am currently working in a warm and humid kitchen in Virgina, usually around 80 degrees F, plus or minus a few. In cooler temperatures, you may not be able to multiply the levains as much in each step. You might need 3 levains, or let the times go longer, or both.

First Levain

  • 2 tablespoons starter -- I maintain a whole wheat starter at about the consistency of mayonaise
  • 1/4 cup water
  • sufficient whole wheat flour to create a firm to very firm dough (about 3/4 of a cup)

Mix these together, knead a little, although development isn't really necessary at this stage. You're looking for about 4oz of dough, a ball a little more than 2 inches across. Let this ferment for about 6 to 8 hours in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. It will expand quite a bit, and become quite soft and inflated.

Second Levain

  • all of your first levain
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • sufficient bread flour to create a firm to very firm dough, same consistency as the first levain (about 1/2 a cup)

Break/cut up the first levain into the water, and let dissolve for a few minutes. Add the flour, mix together, knead, etc, just like the first levain. Knead enough to thoroughly distribute the first levain throughout the dough. You're looking for about 12oz of dough this time, a ball around 3 inches across. Let this ferment for about 4 hours (half the time of the first one, or thereabouts). Again, it will become inflated and fairly soft. Mine has developed an almost fruity scent at this point.

Dough

  • all of the second levain
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup water (cool)
  • scant tablespoon salt
  • sufficient white bread flour to make a moderate dough, about 3 cups

Cut the levain up into bits, dissolve in the warm water. Adjust final dough temperature with the remaining 3/4 cup water, so cool or warm it as necessary. Add the cool water and the flour in smallish amounts, stirring (this is Joe's technique to simulate Improved Mixed) quite a lot. Say, 30-50 strokes per handful of flour? You should be able to do most of your dough development in the bowl. Get all the water and all but 1 cup of the flour incorporated, and then add the salt, and finally work in the remaining flour. At some point, you'll turn out onto the board and knead. You're looking for a moist but not not particularly wet dough at this point. I make a rectangle of dough 3-4 inches wide and 6-8 inches long, and grab it by one end and lift it up. It should extend a bit under its own weight, but not tear, or flow. Just hang and bounce, maybe dropping more very very slowly. Don't go crazy kneading, you don't need to be completely developed, we're going to be fermenting for quite a while.

The dough is going to get wetter as it ferments!

Bulk rise 1 hour.

Shape up a boule.

Rise 5-8 hours until properly developed. Bake as you prefer. I start around 450F with steam, and back off 25 degrees every 20 minutes for 45-50 minutes.

The crumb is slightly tacky to the touch, elastic, and fairly open, the flavor is mildly sour. The crust is potentially awesome, as I have proved with a thoroughly underproofed loaf. Alas, we lose the crusts quickly here in Virginia.

The attached is somewhat overproofed, due to some scheduling issues. I am strill wrestling with how to fit this 24 hour process into the day. I think the right schedule is: Levain number one in the evening, ferment overnight, levain #2 first thing in the morning, and then you have all afternoon and evening to proof, and can actually monitor the dumb thing and get it RIGHT. Unlike this loaf:

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4100/4942391452_77c04baeda_z_d.jpg

crust

 

 

Crumb:

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4122/4942391448_d1c95040a2_z_d.jpg

Crumb

 

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

Cups? Tablespoons? What are these measurements? They sound strangely volumetric. If so, I protest.

amolitor's picture
amolitor

after all, it's TFL!

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

I haven't been around these parts long.

I take it someone always objects to volumetric measures?

Good for them. They should!

Just glancing through Ortiz's book, I see tons of examples of where volumetric would lead me astray, like this sentence: "A firm dough consists of between 52 percent and 55 percent water, that is, about two cups of water to every six cups of flour."

When I saw 55% hydration followed by 2:6 volumetric, my brain had a spasm. It refused to understand the sentence I gave it.  

A 1:3 volumetric equals a 1:2 hydration! What...on...earth?! Is this Superman flour?

Actually, his book metrics are all over the place. I see grams in some recipes, cups in others, ounces/lbs elsewhere.

suave's picture
suave

If you do the math you'll see that it's actually about right.

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

That would validate the usage. I refuse on principle.

amolitor's picture
amolitor

I do it be feel, and I see no harm in it for the home baker. I think I gave enough information to let you, gentle reader, also do it by feel.

The only place you're potentially going to go off the rails is with the salt ratio, if you just use the amounts of water specified and 'flour as necessary' so if you prefer, weigh your flour as you go along, and add 2.1 percent salt instead of 'a scant tablespoon'.

Then you can be just as accurate as the 'weigh everything' crowd, it turns out.

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

You just made my brain spasm again with "flour as necessary". ;D

I, therefore, shall have to eat this whole watermelon to recover, and so I shall.

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

I just scoured Ortiz for a cup-to-ounce/pound/gram conversion.

I found nothing, not even in the appendix. ;( 

amolitor's picture
amolitor

Feel free to 1.375 ounces (39 grams) WW flour for the first levain, with appropriate water, 3.75 ounces (106 grams)  WW flour + 3 ounces (85 grams) bread flour in the second levain, and 16 ounces (454 grams) bread flour in the final dough. Hydrate as necessary for the given consistencies.

Then add 0.564 ounces (16 grams) of salt.

You'll be pretty darn close to what I am doing.

And then, this is the good part, it won't work worth a damn at 70 degrees, because you want bigger levains, all of the above is calibrated to 80F.

 

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

Much thanks. I can get to 80 F, but I'll have to proof on the porch.

amolitor's picture
amolitor

I think the weights given are the ones I want, now. The "title" still reflects the botched weight I had at first for the first levain, but now I can't edit it any more.

leucadian's picture
leucadian

If only you had told us that the recipe was handed down from your French great-grandmother who baked this without a scale in Maine at the turn of the century, then you would be greeted with admiration for having a feel for the dough and producing such a lovely loaf.

Joe Ortiz did us all a great favor by writing enthusiastically about the great European breads and their makers, and by trying to bring some of those breads within our reach. At the time, American home bakers used volumetric measurements. Today, I'm sure he would have written it with weights, and he would have had a section on baker's math as well. Nevertheless, his book occupies a special place in my library.

The fact that you have succeeded despite a confusing or contradictory recipe is to your credit. Nice job. Thanks for your post.

amolitor's picture
amolitor

I agree, it's quite possible Joe would have put weights into the home baker's section. He does use weights in the professional baker's section, and I'm pretty sure he goes over baker's math.

But I think it's worth emphasizing that this isn't a bread that's going to respond well to a strict regime of weights, unless you're willing to control temperature (and possibly humidity, and probably other factors as well). Hydration of your initial starter affects what goes into your first levain, for instance. Cooler temperatures may well require you to build either larger levains, or a third levain (in which case the first two will probably be SMALLER), and warmer temperatures the reverse.

Although I truly hope nobody here has to work in a kitchen that's much hotter than mine..

wwiiggggiinnss's picture
wwiiggggiinnss (not verified)

Circle 8.9 in Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy is reserved for sowers of discord, scandal, and schism.

Joe Ortiz won't have to worry about the Circles of Hell, but every American publisher who's ever waxed professionally that "...all Americans use cups, not grams, and so we publish in cups or we won't publish at all!" will roast on level 8.9 for all eternity. If they bake, their kitchen will almost certainly be hotter than yours, and deservedly so!

leucadian's picture
leucadian

It was published in 1993.