Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pain de Campagne - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 101st installment. The recipe is Pain de Campagne.
This bread was made from dough with no added yeast and no one is more amazed than I am that it actually rose, and was delicious to eat :-)
The recipe is an "old style" bread, prepared with no yeast other than "airborne wild yeast".  I'm not sure if the yeast is floating around the kitchen, or arrived in the flour bag, but it definitely got going and made the starters ferment and the bread rise.  It takes four days, and the timing was a little tricky to fit around life.  I started it on Thursday night, and then was able to work on it over the weekend, culminating in baking the bread late on Sunday afternoon.
Step 1 - the "chef", initial starter with whole wheat flour, warm water, 1/2 t. milk and a tiny amount of cumin.  This initial starter sits for 2 days at room temperature, covered in plastic.  
Start of step 1
After two days of sitting
It went from a smooth firm dough to a stretchy gooey dough.

Step 2 - the "levain".  Mix a small quantity of the chef with warm water and whole wheat flour.  The traditional method, according to the recipe, is to make a "volcano" of the flour, tear the chef into small pieces and put it in the center of the volcano to soak and soften in the warm water, before mixing everything together into a firm dough.
the "chef" - you remove the crust and
use 2 T. of  the interior
Volcano of flour with chef in center
The levain before rising
The levain after 18 hours of sitting

Step 3 - Refreshing the levain.  You repeat a similar process - small amount of whole wheat flour,  some white flour, warm water, and a portion of the levain (in this case, 1/2 cup) torn into small pieces, and use the "volcano" of flour to soak the levain in the water before mixing and kneading in the flour to form a firm dough.
"Volacano" with soaking levain - for Step 3
Refreshed levain before rising
Refreshed levain after 8 hours of sitting
This refreshed levain sits for 5-8 hours (I did this step overnight - it seemed fine to leave it a little bit on the longer side).
The levain is now ready to be used to make dough.

Again, the levain is soaked in warm water to soften (1 1/2 cups of levain - all of it), and then white flour plus salt is mixed in to make the dough.  I used the Kitchen Aid with dough hook to do this step - very straightforward.  This dough rises for five hours before shaping.

Dough before rising

Dough after rising
After rising the dough is shaped into a large round and placed in a form - the traditional one is a basket or bowl, and since I don't have that, I used the suggested substitute of a colander lined with a flour-coated tea towel.

Dough ready for baking
The suggested method is to bake the dough on a pizza stone, using a spray bottle to add humidity to the oven.  At the point I put the dough into the oven, it struck me that it was very dense and not rising very high.  However, it really did gain some height in the oven.  It's definitely a firm and dense loaf, but we really enjoyed it, especially the first night when the crust was really crisp and delicious.

Overall, I was really glad I tried this one - I started out with low expectations, so it was fun to see it actually succeed.  I also took a small chunk of dough to use as a starter for another loaf - looking to try continuing the experiment and see what happens next!


  1. I´m glad you enjoyed it after all this work, respect. I´m not sure I have the patience.

  2. Nicely done! The bread looks fabulous.

  3. Love seeing all your steps. What an endeavor!