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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: