Pain De Campagne

A simplified traditional bread recipe demonstrating the miracle of the action of yeast. Yeast is a living organism, a fungus which feeds on the sugar naturally present in the flour and transforms it into carbon dioxide pockets, creating the rise. It is this activity that together with the kneading of the dough creating elasticity, produces a light texture and great flavour.
This traditional slower proving is in complete contrast to breads that we find in our supermarkets.

Pain De Campagne

Ingredients Required

For the dough starter:
5g Fresh yeast (*2)
135ml Cold water
100g Strong white bread flour, preferably organic
100g Rye flour
For the pain de campagne dough
680ml Tap water
940g Traditional white bread flour, preferably organic, plus extra for dusting
130g Rye flour
1tbsp Fine sea salt
22g Fresh yeast

Cooking Method

For the dough starter

  1. For the dough starter, whisk the yeast into the water until dissolved.
  2. Mix the white and rye flours in a separate bowl until well combined.
  3. Pour the yeast mixture over the flours, whisking well to form a thick paste. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and set aside to ferment for at least 6 hours and up to 18 hours at room temperature. You can use dried yeast but you will only need half the quantity. Yeast is dormant at 4C, active between 20-40°C and destroyed at 45-50 °C. Using a dough starter in bread making gives a greater complexity of flavour; as the yeast activates and feeds on the natural sugars present in the flour, over time it produces a distinctively tangy or sour taste.

For the pain de campagne dough

  1. Line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Add the water to the fermented dough starter and mix well to combine.
  3. Place the white and rye flours into a food processor, set with the dough hook. Add the salt to one side of the bowl of the food processor, then add the yeast to the other side, being careful not to let the salt and yeast touch at this stage, as the salt will attack the yeast and damage its ability to ferment.
  4. Add the starter dough mixture to the food processor and mix on a low speed for 5 minutes. The slow mixing process will give the flour the opportunity to fully absorb the water. (NB: This can be done by hand if you don’t have a food processor with a dough hook attachment.)
  5. Scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl of the food processor and from the dough hook, then continue to mix on a medium speed for a further 5-7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic The faster speed will warm the gluten in the flour making the dough elastic and creating the right environment for the fermentation to happen.
  6. Scrape the dough into a neat ball and cover the bowl with cling film. Set aside to prove at room temperature for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.
  7. When the dough has proved, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface using a scraper if necessary. Cut the dough into four equal pieces.

Shaping & preparing the bread

  1. The dough can be shaped in any way you choose. For a campagne-style loaf, fold the dough evenly in half towards you. Seal both edges together with the heel of your hand. Roll the dough back and forth on the work surface, then shape each into a long oval and place, joint-side down, onto one of the prepared baking trays lined with greaseproof paper. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover loosely with cling film and set aside to prove again for at least 1-1½ hours.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250°C/475F/Gas 9 or to its maximum setting (this is critical as the temperature will decrease significantly when you open the door) and place a baking tray in the middle of the oven and a roasting tin on the bottom.
  3. Dust the loaves with flour, then slash each loaf down one side.
  4. Slide the loaves onto the preheated baking tray in the middle of the oven, using the greaseproof paper to transfer them and pour 50ml/2fl oz of water into the roasting tin on the bottom. This will generate steam within the oven creating a good crust on the bread.
  5. Bake the loaves for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 220C/425F/Gas 7 and bake for a further 10 minutes, until golden-brown and cooked through. (The loaves are cooked through when they make a hollow sound when tapped on the undersides.) Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.