The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Improv Pain de compagnon

agres's picture

Improv Pain de compagnon

I learned to cook by going out to the garden and picking vegetables, and then going down to the hen house and seeing who had stopped laying, was ready to be dinner.  That taught me an improvisational style of cooking - cooking as a form of jazz - the garden produces similar products over a period of weeks, and one cooks variations on a theme, because every day the basket from the garden varies, but there are themes that carry over from day to day and from week to week.  That calls for improv bread. Certainly there is always pita, but . . . . 

Many of the recipes for pain de compagnon take days to produce - more of requiem than jazz.  However, if you have a very good sourdough starter, you can make a very good pain de compagnon that  can be served for supper. (If you start first thing in the morning.)  That is, sourdough starter to baked loaf in 10 hours, and that is a loaf that can be served after only an hour of cooling.

My approach:

starting first thing in the morning ; I weigh 12 grams of salt, 400 grams of bread flour, and 200 grams of whole wheat or high extraction flour into a container. I measure out 400 ml of water into a (canning jar.)(Canning jars have volume marks that are close enough for this kind of bread.

I put 100 grams of starter in the kettle of my stand mixer, add 1/4 of the water in the canning  jar, and enough of the whole wheat flour on the top of the flour container to make a batter. I split a plastic bag to cover the kettle with the dough hook in place, and let the "first refreshment" rise till bubbly - a couple of hours.

I add a third of the water remaining in the jar to the kettle, and enough flour to again make a batter, cover and let ferment on the counter. At this time, I put a teaspoon of yeast and a teaspoon of flour in the jar, and let rise on the counter.

After lunch, I add the water/yeast in  the jar to the kettle, and stir in the flour/salt from the flour container into the kettle by hand-fulls to make a shaggy dough. I let the flour hydrate for half an hour, and use the dough hook to knead the dough, adjusting the water/flour to make a dough the consistency of baguette dough. 

I take the dough hook out and let rise at 85F (proof setting in my oven) for an hour. 

About 2 pm I turn the dough out on the bench, round up, bench rest, shape the loaf, and set to rise in a floured, fabric lined colander at 85F

About 3:30 pm I take the dough out of the oven, and preheat the baking stone to 375F.

About 4 pm I put a piece of parchment paper on the peel, turn the risen dough onto the parchment paper, lash the loaf, and slide it into bakestone in the 375F convection oven. It will need about 45 minutes to bake.

After an hour on a cooling rack, it will have set enough to be served at a 6 pm supper.

This approach uses a few hacks. First, the sourdough rises faster in a whole wheat batter.  The sourdough bacteria started at room temperature dominate the dough to provide a mild flavor, sourdough texture, and reasonable keeping qualities. The yeast have time to multiply, and form a poolish flavor. The yeast and bread flour combine to provide a moderate density crumb with good volume - this big bread.   I think big loaves have better texture and flavor. And the yeast/bread flour allows the loaf to set quickly as it cools. These loaves will make huge Reuben sandwiches that do not leak melted cheese or Russian dressing.  Many bakery loaves of this size - leak.

I stone grind my own whole wheat and high-extraction flour. The grain mix usually contains ~5% rye and often at bit of spelt or kamut or both.  My fresh ground flour seems to allow faster sourdough fermentation than any of the commercial flours I have tried.  On the other hand, the bread flour I use is optimized for yeast, and allows faster yeast fermentation than my normal stone ground flour.  If I wanted faster yeast fermentation in whole wheat, I would sprout, dry, and grind some of my grain berry mix. The commercial white bread flour gives much better volume than my stone ground whole grain flours.  When I am serving herring with cream sauce, the bread is 100% whole grain, and dense enough not to leak, with enough flavor to stand up to the herring.