Pain de Campagne

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    two

    round loaves

Appears in

This “country bread” is a variation of the basic French Bread. I like to add a little whole wheat flour to the dough to approximate the “old-fashioned” taste this bread has in France. The shape of this bread is different, too, though there isn’t any reason why you couldn’t make a baguette or epi from it. I like to bake it as a large round loaf—the recipe makes two perfectly sized ones. This type of loaf is frequently risen in a cloth-lined basket called a banneton and inverted onto the pan before baking. You can approximate it by using a 9-inch (22-cm) round bread basket lined with a floured napkin, or bake the loaves free-form as in these instructions. Sometimes I bake this dough as a double-thick baguette, called a bâtard, making only two from the recipe.

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Ingredients

  • 1 batch French Bread dough, made with 1 cup whole wheat flour replacing one of the cups of white flour in the first dough, prepared up to the end of step 7.
  • 2 jelly-roll pans dusted with cornmeal

Method

  1. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a bench scraper or a knife to divide the dough into 2 equal pieces.
  2. Cup both hands around one of the pieces of dough, pushing inward at the bottom (figure a) and rotating the dough in your hands to make it round and to pull all the uneven edges of the dough underneath the sphere of dough you are forming (figure b). Repeat with the second piece of dough. Cover the round loaves with a towel and let them rest for 10 minutes.
  3. After the dough has rested, gently repeat the rounding, making sure the loaves are perfectly even spheres.
  4. Place one ball of dough (boule) on each of the 2 baking pans and cover them with towels. Let them rise until they have doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.
  5. About 20 minutes before the boules are fully risen, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 400°F (200°C). Use a single-edge razor to slash 5 lines on the top of each boule, spacing them equidistant and holding the blade perpendicular to the loaf. Be careful to slash just the top skin of the dough. Repeat with 5 more lines diagonal to the first ones (figure c).
  6. Bake the boules for about 15 minutes, then switch the pan in the lower third of the oven to the upper third and vice versa, turning each pan from back to front at the same time. Continue baking until they are well risen, deep golden, and feel firm to the touch, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Slide the baked boules to racks to cool.

Serving

Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the bread into thin slices. When I want to make smaller slices to serve with a meal, I cut the loaf in half first, then I stand the loaf cut side down and slice at ½-inch (1-cm) intervals.

Storage

Keep the bread loosely covered on the day it is baked. Wrap tightly and freeze for longer storage. Defrost and reheat at 375°F (190°C), directly on the oven rack, for 7 to 8 minutes, and cool on a rack before serving.

Variations

Bâtards: Shape these the same way as the baguettes, but only make 2, using twice as much dough for each. Slash and bake as for the baguettes, but bake the bâtards 10 minutes longer.

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