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Newbie Bakes Pain de Campagne - Help!

NanooseGuy's picture

Newbie Bakes Pain de Campagne - Help!

This was my first time baking Pain de Campagne and I had a few problems so I would appreciate any and all comments and/or suggestions.

I followed Reinhart’s Pain de Campagne formula in the BBA, using Roger’s (Armstrong, BC, Canada) unbleached all-purpose flour (a high protein/gluten flour around 14%). To begin, I followed Reinhart’s formula for making a pâte fermentée. I ended up with dough at 78°F, which I placed in a bowl and set on the counter for 1 hour, as per instructions. At this point, the dough had increased significantly in size, at least 1½ times, so I put it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

The next day I was ready to make bread. By  this time the pâte fermentée had more than doubled in size so, rather than letting it sit for an hour on the counter, I immediately cut the pâte fermentée up into small pieces and, following Reinhart’s Pain de Campagne formula, proceeded to mix all the remaining ingredients using a mixer with paddle, then dough hook. After mixing for 1 minute with paddle and 5 minutes with dough hook I had dough that was smooth and was clearing the sides and the bottom of the mixing bowl. The temperature read 77°F. I cut off a piece and tried the windowpane test but the dough tore. Also the dough was very sticky (rather than tacky). I decided to continue mixing and to add some flour. I mixed for an additional 5 minutes, adding at least 3 tablespoons of flour to the dough. The dough temperature was now 82°F and I tried the windowpane test again, with better results (the dough still tore a little however), and the dough was still a little sticky as it still stuck to my fingers after the test. I decided not to do any further mixing (because I had mixed for over 10 minutes on medium speed and the dough temperature concerned me). Instead, I placed the dough in a bowl on the counter, covered it, and waited until the dough was 1½ times in size (as per instructions). This took about an hour.

Now for shaping. I cut the dough into 3 pieces, weighing each, so that I ended up with 3 pieces of 303 grams (10.6 ounces) each. I shaped these pieces into a baguette, a batard and a boule and set them aside to proof. About an hour later, when the pieces had grown in size 1½ times (as per Reinhart’s instructions), I scored the batard and the boule and, using scissors, “epi cut” the baguette. I baked the 3 pieces (boule and batard on parchment paper directly on my pizza stone while the epi was on parchment paper on a cookie sheet on the rack nearer the top of my oven.

One of my problems was with the crumb being “dense”. As you can see from the boule photos (the other two bread pieces have already been eaten) there are no large holes. Also the 3 pieces were all small. Being a new formula, I was not sure how large the bread pieces should end up being.

When shaping the baguette, I started with dough weighing 303 grams (as previously mentioned). After shaping, I had a baguette that was approximately 2” in diameter and 15” long. With equal sized dough pieces, my batard, after shaping, ended up being about 3” at its thickest and about 8” long, while the boule ended up about 4” in diameter. The boule photos show a boule of 5½” in diameter after baking.

I let these pieces proof for about 60 minutes, until they had grown in size 1½ times. I gave the boule a poke test and the dough slowly sprung back, but not all the way. I could see an indentation where I had poked it. This suggested to me that it was time to bake.

The pieces were baked initially at 550°F, with steam (I poured water into cookie sheet on bottom of oven and sprayed oven side walls twice). After steaming, I turned the oven temperature down to 450°F. The Epi came out after 25 minutes (202°F internal temperature) while the boule and batard took another 5 minutes baking, at which time I turned off the oven, cracked the oven door open, and left them for 5 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.

So what went wrong? Did I proof enough? How big a boule should I expect from 303 grams/10.6 ounces of dough? How big a batard and baguette? What can I do to improve the crumb?

If a recipe/formula says that it makes a 1½ pound loaf of bread does this mean that the dough weighs 1½ pounds? Is there a correlation between the two?

Thanks for your help.

pmccool's picture

For an intensively kneaded, moderate hydration dough, that's a fairly open crumb.  Generally (which means not always), a wetter dough will have a more open crumb than a drier dough, and a less-kneaded dough will have a more open crumb than a more-kneaded dough. 

The combination of the extended kneading and, apparently, good shaping technique produced a boule that stands up, rather than a frisbee.  Good work there.  The size is what one would expect for a boule weighing slightly more than half a pound.  Did you bake the bread on a baking sheet, or on a baking stone/tiles?  It seems to have had good oven spring.

I am surprised that the crust color isn't darker, given your baking temperatures and times.

The stated weight for the bread is post-bake.  The amount of weight loss due to water evaporation while baking will range from 10-20%, occasionally more.  You can assume a 15% loss in most instances and be pretty close.

Nice bake.


NanooseGuy's picture

Paul, thanks for your comments. The boule (and batard) were baked on a pizza stone located in the bottom third of the oven. Perhaps I need to check oven temperature to confirm that the oven thermostat is accurate. If the actual oven temperature was low, would this cause the crust color to be on the 'light' side? I assume so. (We recently had the stove serviced and some electronics replaced as the actual oven temperature was up to 100 degreesF lower than what was being recorded by the oven thermostat).


davidg618's picture

First, I'll second Paul's comment: Nice bake. My suggestions are just that, they aren't criticisms.

Reading between the lines I deduce you were hoping for a more "open" crumb. I sometimes refer to those seeking largely holed crumb as the "holier-than-thou" crowd. After all, there is no flavor in a dough's holes. Nonetheless, an appropriately open crumb is an indication of successful mixing, kneading (or its alternative dough manipulations), bulk fermentation, shaping and proofing. I use the phrase "appropriately open" since the dough's hydration--its wetness--as Paul points out, is a first order parameter for "openess": but not the only one.

I suggest, while hydration may be the most equal among equals within the various paramaters affecting crumb structure, time is the next parameter in the hierarchy: time to fully hydrate the flour, time to fully develop the gulten structure that supports expansion during proofing and oven spring. Furthermore, I suggest how one manipulates the dough, i.e. machine kneading, hand kneading, slap-and-fold (Bertinet method), frissage, Stretch-and-Fold, or Lahey's No-knead method, influences the dough's openess also.


I reread Reinhart's Pain de Campagne recipe. The following comment are relevant to his directions, vis-a-vis your actions.

° More than half of the total flour is preferemented in the Pate Fermente--potentially up to 72 hours. In your case: 24 hours. I suggest much of the dough's gluten structure developed during those 24 hours.

° You did not let the chilled Pate Fermente reach room temperature before mixing the dough. The thermal shock brought on by more sudden warming (mixing and kneading friction) may--and I emphsize may--have bruised some significant quantity of the yeast cells.

* Reinhart specifies 2 to 4 hours bulk fermentation (after warming the Pate Fermente for 1 hour). You reported allowing only 1 hour, using the dough's expansion as your guide (re Reinhart). I suggest the final dough's gluten structure did not reach its full potential in that time.

° Your poke test revealed the dough's elasiticity still active vis-a-vis the internal gas pressure. I suggest, under a poke test, although itself quite a crude measure, the shaped dough should remain almost unresponsive.

° Paul commented on the crust's pale color despite the high baking temperatures. I suggest the yeast had consumed the bulk of the free sugars, despite the foreshortened bulk  ferment, and possible underproofing. I suspect most of the early yeast was consumed in the Pate Fermente, and the added yeast didn't fully multiply due the shortened fermentation.

Lastly, I suggest machine kneading is not as effecient as other methods--I favor S&F, and Bertinet, with at least 30 minutes rest between manipulations. I've reached that conclusion after much trail and error, but I can't defend it scientifically. Nonetheless, my hands experience the changes in a dough's elasticity, strength and tenacity every time I perform a series of S&F's.

Success in bread baking is paying attention to the details.

I applaud your first effort. I know you will do even better.

Happy baking,

David G


NanooseGuy's picture

David, thank you. Your insights and suggestions are very much appreciated.

As this was the first time that I baked Pain de Campagne, I did not know what to expect regarding the openness of the crumb. It seems from Paul’s comments that, perhaps, the crumb that I got was what to expect.

I cut up the Pâte Fermentée into approximately 40 small pieces, which seemed to facilitate the mixing process. These pieces did not feel overly cold to the touch by the time that I placed them in the mixing bowl but, I agree, it is possible that they shocked the yeast during mixing.

One thing I did not mention in my original post is that, after kneading in the blender, I returned the dough to the refrigerator for 90 minutes while I attended to a couple of errands. When I got home, the dough came out of the fridge to finish the bulk fermentation, which took about 90 minutes.

According to Reinhart I was to “ferment the dough at room temperature for approx. 2 hours until it doubles in size. If it doubles more quickly, (which it did) then knead lightly to degas and let it rise again until it doubles from the original size.” I did this. Perhaps I should have given it a full 2 hours rather than 90 minutes.