Pain de Campagne from the Jura


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There are two main ways to make and bake Pain de Campagne. The first is by using a sourdough levain. The second is by using a baker's yeast biga. The use of pre-ferments binds and also separates the two styles and processes under the same name.  They both require the creation of a pre-ferment the day before and then the pre-ferment is incorporated into the mix. 

Traditionally Pain de Campagne is a miche - a large loaf of country bread. It is also a blend of flours; for example, rye, wheat or barley -  producing a hardy loaf that would feed a large family. 

The miche would be carried to the communal village ovens where it might weigh anything between 1.5 kg and 4.5 kg. - so providing enough bread for a family until the next baking day. 

The loaf contained rye as well as wheat flours mainly because the two crops were often grown together. Roughly 10% of wheat flour would be rye and this eventually found its way into recipes. 

As with many rural French breads, the pain de campagne fell out of favour at the start of the 20th century in favour of the baguette. It wasn't until the rise of the artisan bakers in the 1970s that the pain de campagne once again found its way into the boulangerie and onto bakers' shelves across Europe and in the United States. 

Today, we're making a Pain de campagne using a baker's yeast biga. This style is popular in Eastern France, along the line of the Jura mountains that separates the country from Switzerland. No doubt, it goes very well at lunchtime with a slice of Comte.

Ideally, bake it freeform - proofing on parchment paper and then baking on a cordierite stone.  However, you can also bake using containers or loaf tins. 

If I use tins, I often place the dough into round or oval baking tins. It helps to constrain sideways movement and encourages the dough to grow upwards when it's in the oven. 

Although this recipe calls for a miche, which, by definition is a large loaf, it may be too big for your needs...remember, you can always divide the dough up to make smaller loaves ot to suit the number or size of tins, or your personal needs. It will freeze...and be ready for another day. 

A note on the ingredients

Rye flour - for taste and colour. If you can find dark rye, so much the better. 

Strong white - try to find a flour with a high protein content. 13.5% or higher per 100 gms flour.

Water - must be as cold as it is from the tap. Somebody suggested rain water was ideal for making bread.....I'll leave that one with you. 

Instant yeast - for convenience. if you're using fresh or dried yeast, then 10 gms fresh yeast = 4 gms of dried yeast - 3 gms of instant yeast. 

Sea salt -  again for taste. Try adding smoked salt for a change. Crushing it (rolling pin or pestle and mortar) helps to distribute the salt a little more quickly. 

Temperature - this is a slow fermentation dough - 20⁰C is an ideal room temperature. 

Hydration- (B = biga, D - dough). 

Total flour (B) = 100+100 = 200. Total Water (B) = 182

Total Flour (D) = 900 + 130 = 1080. Total water (D) = 650.

Total Flour (B+D) = 1280. Total Water (B+D) = 785

Total Hydration = 65% 

INGREDIENTS (for TWO miche - but remember you can separate the dough into portions large enough for your own baking needs)

The day before (the biga)

100 gms strong white bread flour

100 gms rye or spelt flour

182 gms COLD filtered water (similar temperature as from the tap)

1½ gms instant yeast

Bake Day (the biga + the mix = the dough))

950 gms strong white bread flour 

130 gms rye flour

650 gms COLD filtered water (similar temperature as from the tap)

15 gms sea salt (crushed) 

7 gms instant yeast

⅛ teaspoon Vitamin C powder


The Day before.....

1. In a medium bowl, mix the flours and the yeast and then add the water, stirring it until everything is combined. 

2. Cover and leave for 12 hours (or overnight) at room temperature (20⁰C max). The water must be COLD to slow down the fermentation process and helps to develop taste. 

Starting the slow, overnight fermentation. 

Bake Day....

1. Add the flours and the yeast to a large bowl. Add the water and mix together until all the flour has been incorporated . Cover and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes. 

2. Add the biga from the previous day. Mix thoroughly and then cover and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. 

3. Add the salt and mix thoroughly. 

4. Now mix and knead the dough

Using a stand mixer - start on low for 5 minutes and then continue on medium for up to 7 minutes to knead the dough. 

Using a bread machine - choose an 'instant start' programme (e.g. Pizza). Keep the lid open and watch the dough until it is soft and silky. It should take about 9 minutes? 

By hand - mix thoroughly and then knead on a worktop for 10 minutes. 

5. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a very lightly-oiled bowl. Cover with cling film or a shower cap and leave at room temperature for 60 minutes. By now it will have increased in volume. 

6. Gently tip the dough out onto a lightly-floured board. Divide into two equal pieces. 

Taking each piece in turn:

7. Shape the dough piece into a boule or an oval, to suit yourself. Place the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. The dough will become a little wobbly, so the paper helps to control movement when placing it into the oven. Alternatively, see below.

8. Cover and leave at room temperature for 1½ - 1¾ hours to double in volume.

9. Knock back the dough and shape for baking. You may wish to form a boule or oval and place them on pieces of parchment. Alternatively, you may wish to oil / flour a baking container....How's this for a change? 

10. When you're ready, dust the loaves with flour and score lengthways with a razor or similar. Cut to a depth of about 3 mm. 9. Preheat the oven to 240⁰C. If you're baking on a steel sheet or baking stone, remember to add these as well to preheat them. You may wish to add water to increase steam. I've found that it doesn't take much water to generate enough steam, I use a very small aluminium pie tray (the sort that shop pies are sold in).

11. Slide the bread onto the baking stone / metal sheet, mist and close the oven door. 

12. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes at Fan 230⁰C. (Conventional 220⁰C)

13. Cool on a wire rack. 

Happy baking,,,,



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