The Fresh Loaf

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Country Bread Directions for Beginners

Libertas's picture

Country Bread Directions for Beginners

As a gift for my baking niece I've put together a bread baking kit including instructions for my version of Forkish's Country Bread (and links to videos, equipment and some tips).  Perhaps it may be useful to others and any feedback/additions would be welcomed!

Country Bread Instructions (rev 0).pdf

Pain de Campagne (Country Bread), adapted from Ken Forkish




Ingredients for Two Loaves


Baker's %

All Purpose Flour



Whole Wheat Flour



Water (90°-95°)



Fine Sea Salt



Instant Dried Yeast*






*2g yeast is ~2/3 teaspoon

Variations on the Recipe Above

Cracked Pepper and Parmesan: add 180g (~6oz) freshly ground parmesan and 6g (~1 tablespoon) fresh ground peppercorns. Sprinkle some cheese on top after removing lid!

Rosemary and Olive Oil: add 15g (about 3 large sprigs) fresh rosemary finely chopped, 65g olive oil






Schedule: Steps 1-5 (a little effort spanning ~4 hours) in the evening then overnight proof and bake in morning.  Or, start in the morning, proof at room temp and bake same day


1.      Autolyse - When the starter is near peak, thoroughly mix flour then add water, mix by hand in tub, cover and let sit for 20-30 minutes


2.      Final Dough – add salt, yeast and levain (and any other optional ingredients).  Mix thoroughly with pincer method and note final dough temperature (target 78°).  Cover and let sit for 30 minutes


3.      Fold – Wet your hand and Fold each “corner” of the dough over the top (stretch but do not over-extend).  Repeat this process 2-3 more times in 20-30 minute intervals.  Note how the dough strengthens as the gluten structure develops.


4.      Bulk Fermentation – let final dough bulk ferment for an hour or two (or put in the fridge if you want to delay your schedule). Note how the dough changes (sight and smell) as the fermentation progresses.  Fermenting at warmer temperatures results in a more sourdough-favor while cold fermentation establishes a milder bread.


5.      Divide and Shape


a.      Dust the counter lightly with flour.  Flour around the perimeter of the tub and the side the dough will touch and gently loosen the dough from the sides and bottom of the tub. Then gently remove the dough from the tub on the floured surface.  Note the dough feel/texture.


b.      Flour hands and gently spread the dough into an even shape (round-ish)


c.      Spread a line of flour along the center of the dough.  Use a bowl scraper or bench knife to divide the dough in two pieces and gently separate them.


d.      Gently stretch and fold the dough into ball-like mass and then flip it over (seam-side down)


e.      Dust a banneton (with or without a cloth cover).  Gently drag the dough (on un-floured counter) and build some tension into the skin. Then put the dough, seam-side down, in the banneton and dust the top with flour.  Cover with cloth or (better yet) place in two-gallon Ziplock bag.


6.      Proof – Proof at room temperature or cold-ferment in the fridge overnight.  Use finger dent test to establish if the dough is optimally proofed.  Finger dent mostly bouncing back is ready.  Dent not bouncing back is over-proofed (dough will be flabby).  Completely returning dent is under-proofed (wait longer).


7.      Bake


a.      Place covered Dutch oven in oven on highest rack (but you can still peek into the pot if the lid is off), set to 475° and convection (as available).  Consider covering bottom rack with cookie sheets to block radiant heat for more even bake (prevents bottom of loaf burning in my oven) and to bake two Dutch-ovens side-by-side without being blasted by heat coming on the sides of the oven (in my oven).  Once oven reaches temp, let Dutch oven heat up further 10-20 minutes.


b.      Just before putting dough in oven, cut a piece of parchment paper (about as wide as banneton) put on top of banneton and gently flip the bread onto the counter.  An over-proofed dough will not hold the banneton form well.


c.      Score the dough.  To develop a nice ear, score ~1/4” deep and at shallow 30° angle with a lame or hand-held razor.  There is no end of fancy scoring techniques. Use the paper to pick up the dough, gently place in the Dutch oven and cover.  Set timer for 30 minutes


d.      When timer goes off remove the lid.  Bake for another 10-20 minutes (oven light on!). Check that the bottom doesn’t burn (peek under with a wooden spoon).  Cool on a rack.


Maintaining a Starter


·        Ideally, feed the starter when (or before) it peaks.  Under the same feeding and ambient conditions in should grow to a predictable level.  Take a whiff and a taste!


·        If it is near peak it will dump out of the jar with just a little encouragement and you’ll see a web-like lattice structure as you dump it out (you’ll know it when you see it!).  Rubbery/sticky indicates past-peak.


·        Discard all but 25g starter from Weck Jar (Sharpie mark the jar with weight of jar plus 25g for easy weighing)


·        Add 100g water (85°-90°), mix well (let jar warm up first if it was in the fridge)


·        Add 125g flour mix (4:1 APF/WWF), mix well


·        Starter should peak in ½ to 1 day in ambient conditions.  Or you can stretch out to about a week in the fridge (figure out when to take it out of the fridge to peak for your baking schedule)


·        Even if you neglect your starter feeding, it should bounce back after a few feedings.  No worries.


Bread Stuff!


·        Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish and Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson


·        Must have: Dutch oven, big scale


·        Nice to have stuff: Weck 743 3/4 Mold Jar(s),  12 quart Cambro tub and lid, a couple 9” round bannetons, a couple 10” oval bannetons, kitchen timer, fast-read thermometer, big scale, little scale (yeast, salt pepper…), skinny 1-piece spatula, bench scraper, bowl scraper (may come with bannetons), lame (double edge razor blade and wooden coffee stirrer), nice bread knife, nice cutting board, BBQ or oven gloves with fingers and covering your forearm.




·        Don’t sweat it!  Every success and failure are learning experiences and you’re likely to get bread somewhere been great and amazing. Mix up the recipe and method as the spirt moves you!


·        Great resources: The Fresh Loaf, Maurizio's The Perfect Loaf, Ken’s Artisan, Bake with Jack (subscribe!)


·        Have a baking notebook so you can reproduce (or tweak) your recipes and note successes!


·        Pre-mix 4:1 ratio (all-purpose and whole wheat flour, AFP/WWF) large container to make feeding the starter faster and easier


·        This recipe is adjusted to use the “discard” from a starter feeding (easy!) and skips making a separate levain. Seems to work nicely.  Try both ways and compare (ref FWSY book)


·        Suggest using a Weck jar to see starter development (kudos Maurizio), mark/gauge the peak easily, easy to feed/mix.  Use a couple rubber bands to mark expected peak and current height if gauging rise direction or rate


·        You can manage your starter peak time to fit your baking schedule by modifying: water temp, ambient temp (and fridge to slow it down), flour mix (APF/WWF/rye are progressively more aggressive), residual starter to flour ratio, etc.


·        For consistency stick with the same type of flour, King Arthur is fine choice.  As is SAF red instant yeast (keep in Ziploc bag in freezer)


·        A short bulk fermentation and longer cold proofing affords more timing flexibility for when you bake


·        Carefully dry-out bannetons and cloth covers on stovetop during bake.


·        Using bannetons without a cloth cover gives a nice spiral shape on the loaves but is a tad bit riskier for sticking and has some additional maintenance cleaning dough out (use a wooden shish-kabob stick)


·        If you are using a single Dutch oven, store the lids in the oven after you remove them and re-heat for ~10 minutes after your remove the first loaf before baking next loaf


·        Digging into warm bread is rewarding! but at the expense of losing some moisture and flavor development (there are no bad options here)


·        Freezing bread works nicely.  Wrap in aluminum foil and bake for 20-30 minutes @400°



albacore's picture

Thanks for sharing; I'm sure your niece will love it! My daughter is a budding baker, so I might pass this "kit" onto her.