Tuesday 2 September 2014

Pain de Campagne

is how this is described in Robuchon's 'Cuisine Actuelle', a book I have owned for several decades (I think I bought my copy when it had just been published for the first time), but which for some reason I've only recently started to dip into with any serious intent. The Technical Dept disputes the 'Pain de Campagne' moniker, as he says true P de C would not use rye flour, and down in Belforte - where they did their years before the mast, living as true french peasants, and so ought to know their stuff - they also thought it was not exactly the real deal - although good - and thought instead it was more like something they recalled as 'Grandmère's ' loaf. The book was fronted by somebody called Patricia Wells - an american foodie, who's gushy outpourings not infrequently lead her into factual errors in the course of her translation - and so it could be that the error in naming lies with her, and not with Mr R himself. 
When it comes down to it, though, it doesn't terribly matter, as the recipe produces an excellent loaf, which will remain fresh for far longer than you will ever need it to, since the more-ishness of this bread means it doesn't sit around for long at all!

The recipe calls, in part, for 'unbleached plain flour', which can mean anything or nothing, and choice of flour will depend on what you prefer from the choices you have readily available. The first few times I made this, I used 'Gran Tenero 00' as the 'unbleached plain' element, and the result was pretty good - but more recently I've taken to using Manitoba instead, which has a higher gluten content, with the result that the bread rises more fully during baking.

Oh, and for those who do not knead by hand (guilty, as charged - life's far too short), one tip attached as a footnote to this recipe which I have found to be revolutionary, is that when kneading only a small amount (for one loaf, say) then it is much better to use the paddle attachment than to use the dough hook (counter-intuitive, I know), as this results in a dough which has been more thoroughly kneaded and will therefore have a much firmer texture. Simple, but worthy of note. 

For one large loaf:

Ingredients: 425g 'unbleached plain flour'; 225g rye flour; 15g fresh yeast; 16 fl oz tepid water; 1 tsp sugar; 1 tbs salt; 1 tbs clear honey.


1. Crumble the yeast into half the water, add the sugar to this, and leave to stand for 15 minutes.

2. Add the yeast-liquid to the mixing bowl, add half of each of the two flours, and mix briefly for two or three minutes. Cover the bowl with a dampl cloth, and leave to prove for half an hour.

3. In the remaining 8 fl oz of water, thoroughly dissolve the salt, and add this to the mixture in the bowl. With the paddle at low speed, gradually add the remaining plain and rye flour, and then slightly increase the speed to knead the dough thoroughly.

4. Knead for five minutes, then add to the mixture the spoonful of honey, and knead for a further five minutes. The dough should be relatively firm by this stage. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for a minute or so - I'm not sure whether this is because the warmth from your hands has some alchemical effect, or whether it is only by working it in this way that you can be certain the dough is firm enough; certainly, if it is too sloppy to be able to knead properly by hand, then you must add more flour until the dough is firm enough to be able to work by hand. Return the dough to the bowl, cover again with the damp cloth, and leave in a warm place for 40 minutes. ( I always leave it in the oven, with the door closed, and a roasting pan filled with biling water in the bottom of the oven).

5. Take the risen dough form the bowl, and one more knead it on a floured surface for a minute or so, before forming it into a ball, and puttting it onto a greased baking tray.  Flour the surface of the dough generously, and loosely place the damp cloth back over it. Leave in the warm place to rise again for an hour.

6. Forty minutes into the rising time, pre-heat the baking oven to 250 degrees C. Twenty minutes later, after an hour's rising, remove the damp cloth and make a few slashes in top of the risen dough, to allow it to rise properly when baking.

7. Bake for twenty minutes at 250, then twenty minutes further at 190 degrees. Keep an eye on it towards the end, to ensure it doesn't get too dark on top - if it seems in danger of doing so, and you want to take it out of the oven several minutes short of the specified time, it is properly fine to do so.

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