PAIN DE CAMPAGNE (Pain au Levain)
from "The Bread Book", by Martha Rose Shulman
This recipe is for French bread - not the stale-next-day
baguettes, but the large, flat sourdough loaves with a hard
crust and chewy texture called 'pain de campagne' or 'pain
au levain.' It may seem a lot of effort, but it is worth it.
This bread is very filling, has a wonderful taste, and will
keep for up to a week if you take a bit of care. Ideally,
this bread is made with no yeast whatsoever, but it can be
difficult to get enough leaven from just the sourdough, so
here is a hybrid recipe....
For sourdough bread, you have to make the sourdough starter,
or 'chef' about a week in advance. Once you have made the
first lot, though, you save a bit of your dough for the next
batch of bread, and so on. On day one:
90 ml water 115 g unbleached white or wholemeal flour, or a mixture
Stir the flour and water together until smooth, cover with a
damp tea-towel and leave for 72 hours. You can keep damping
the tea-towel if you want. It should rise slightly, and take
on an acidic aroma. Tell others using your kitchen not to
throw this rather horrible looking mess out. After 72
120 ml lukewarm water 170 g flour, as above
If a stiff crust has formed on the starter, peel it off and
discard it. Stir in the water, and then blend in the extra
flour. Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead into a
ball. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with the damp
cloth again, and let it sit in a warm place for 24-48 hours.
Again, if a crust forms, peel it off and discard it. You
are now ready to make some bread!
This recipe makes one large, or two small loaves. The rye
flour is pretty essential for proper 'pain de campagne,' but
the semolina flour can be missed out, and an extra bit of
plain flour substituted.
225 g chef, prepared as above. If using the 425 ml lukewarm water
start for the first time, use the whole lot. 2 1/2 tsps active dried
55 g semolina flour or replace with an 55 g rye flour
extra 55 g unbleached white flour) 565 g unbleached white flour
2 1/2 tsps salt
As before, dissolve the yeast in the water in your bowl, and
leave for 10 minutes. Then stir in the chef, and mix well.
Add the rye and semolina flours to the liquid and blend in.
Mix the salt with 500 g of the white flour, and then fold
this into the mixture. By the time you have done this, you
should be able to knead the dough.
Turn it out onto a floured board, and then knead for 10-15
minutes, adding the rest of the flour as you go. The dough
may well be very sticky, so use a pastry scraper to help
manipulate it, and flour your hands well.
Shape the dough into a ball, transfer it to an oiled bowl,
cover with a damp cloth, and leave it to rise somewhere warm
for 1.5-2 hours, until doubled in bulk.
Turn out the dough, knock it back, and knead for 2-3
minutes. Remove a heaped cup (about 225 g) of the dough to
use as the starter for your next batch, placing it in a
bowl, and refrigerating after a few hours if you won't be
using it within a day.
Shape the dough into one or two balls, depending on how many
loaves you want to make, and dust them with flour. Transfer
the ball to an oiled bowl, cover, and leave to rise for 1
1/2-2 hours, until doubled in bulk again. Now comes the hard
bit - turn it out onto an oiled baking sheet. Don't knock it
down, and try not to disturb it, just gently reshape it with
your hands if need be. Cover with a cloth, and let it rise
for 15 minutes while you heat the oven.
Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees C/400 degrees F,
putting an empty cake or loaf tin on a shelf near the
bottom. Slash the loaf with a sharp knife just before
baking, then put the loaf in the oven.... at the same time,
empty a pint of water into the loaf tin, and close the oven
door quickly. The resulting rush of steam will help ensure a
good crust. Spray the loaf with water just after putting it
in, and twice more during the first ten minutes of cooking.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the loaf is dark brown and
sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Turn out and cool on
a wire rack. Don't keep this bread in a bread-bin; just
cover the cut side with foil.