Traditional Pain de Campagne Recipe (Country Bread)
Pain de Campagne translated means: Farmhouse or 'Countryside Bread'.
This bread's origins are centuries old. Most rural French villages would have at least a communal oven and each family would bake their daily (or more likely weekly) bread together on the same day. Hence the name 'Country Bread'.
Stone milled flour has been around for thousands of years, in fact it was the only way to mill grain into flour until modern times. Now stone ground flour is the more expensive kind, and much better it is all round! As stone grinding produces less heat than industrial grinding none of the goodness is baked away! In the past, the problem with flour was that all in all, stone grinding left much of the bran and germ (the outer part of grain) in tact; throw in a bit of ground and chipped stone and you have a lot of tooth aces! So the villages would do their best to filter as much of the bran, germ and stone as possible.
Techniques for dividing the endosperm (white flour) from the rest of the grain were not as effective as today; henceforth the advent of this recipe. In centuries past the bran and germ amounted to at least 10% - 20% of the white flour, but they didn't have a choice. These days we can remove the bran and germ very effectively, so we add the wholemeal back into this predominantly white flour recipe.
Apart from the mix of wholemeal and white flours in Pain de Campagne, the other distinguishing feature of the bread is the square cuts to the top of the loaf.
... You can add wholemeal (Wheatgerm) wheat flour if you prefer? I love the taste of Rye flour, but it does make a slightly denser bread.
- 100 Grams Stone Ground Rye Flour
- 400 Grams Strong White Flour
- 300 Grams Water, (Do not warm)
- 10 Grams Salt
- 5 Grams Easy Bake Yeast, (Or a sachet up to 7 Grams)
- 50 Grams Butter
- Extra Rye Flour to Dust
How to get a mature flavour
In most bread recipes you will be asked to add warm water to your dough, but for my Pain de Campagne recipe we don't do this. When we add warm water to yeast it gives the yeast a head start. By adding water straight from the tap; we keep the yeast a little more slow and sluggish; the down side is that the proving time will be longer; the benefit of that is; we get a more mature tasting flavour from our loaf.
Another little trick which actually saves some time is to allow the dough to prove in the open air for some of the rising period. This allows a thin layer of skin to form, which when kneaded and incorporated back into the dough adds further to the maturity and complexity of the flavour.
Since the original recipe goes back centuries I feel that doing this, makes it that little bit more distinguished from other loaves.
- Measure out and mix the two flours in a mixing bowl, before measuring out the salt, yeast, butter and water. Keep the rest seperate.
- Add the diced, room temperature butter to the flour, and 'rub in' until the ingredients are mixed fully and the flour resembles the texture of fine bread crumbs.
- Next add the salt and mix thoroughly with the flour. Do the same with the yeast, but only once the salt is thoroughly incorporated first.
- Make a hole, or a well in the centre of the dry mix, then add the water. Now begin to collapse the flour either side of the hole. It will take a minute or two but mix with your hands until the water and dry ingredients are fully mixed together. You now have your dough.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and knead thoroughly for at least 10 minutes. If you want to ensure a lighter texture then carry on for another 2 minutes after this.
- Shape the dough into a neat round by scooping your hands around and under the kneaded dough together whilst turning it. Repeat this and you should get a tight, smooth shape. Now put it back in the mixing bowl to prove, covering the bowl tightly with cellophane. After one hour of proving remove the cellophane and allow to prove for at least an additional 20 minutes (allowing a skin to form) or until you know the dough has doubled in size.
- Once doubled in size push down on the dough to 'knock back'. This releases the air trapped inside by the active yeast. Knead the dough for a further 3 - 4 minutes to ensure the skin is fully incorporated into the dough.
- Shape the dough once more, by scooping and turning as before. This time transfer to a clean, oiled (or covered by a silicone sheet) baking tray. This time cover the dough with a damp tea towel; and allow to double in size again.
- After 40 minutes of proving remove the towel and carefully make four straight cuts about two thirds of the way up the dough to make a square. Now turn the oven on to fully preheat. This should take around 20 minutes, so the dough will be ready at the same time as the oven. Ensure you have a spare baking tray resting at the bottom of the oven when turned on.
- Once the oven is hot and the dough is fully proved, get a jug ready with some cold water. Gently put the baking tray with the dough into the oven and then quickly pour a splash of the water onto the spare baking tray, before closing the oven door immediately. (This will steam and create a crustier and lighter loaf) Bake for 10 minutes before briefly turning to ensure an even colour. Bake for a further 15 minutes before removing from the oven. (Never disturb or adjust the heat of bread dough in the first 10 minutes of baking)
- After the 25 minute bake and using an oven glove tilt the loaf on its side and tap the underneath with your finger. If it sounds completely hollow it is ready, if you are in doubt give it another 5 minutes, just in case. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Leave on a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes minimum before slicing. Enjoy!
The French peasants would have occasionally added extras to their loaves, so why not try it yourself? I would advise using a fresh herb to keep it authentic, Try:
Just remember to destalk and knead in after the first rising period.