Pain De Campagne (Country Bread)

One particular day, I wanted to make sourdough. Well it’s just NOT any particular day, it was a Thursday night, and why Thursday ? I’ll tell u why.

Rustic style soughdough breads are made with starters that require an initial fermentation of at least 48 hours. This helps produce a bread with a pleasantly sour aroma, hearty texture and chewy crust. The longer a starter is left to ferment, the more pronounced these qualities are in the baked bread. In Italy, a starter or known as biga, traditionally ferments for at least 12 hours. This produces a bread with a lightly fermented flavour, Champagne-like aroma and open, porous texture. For Pain de Campagne (French Country style Bread) it is not any different. It requires 2-3 days for the starter to ferment, thus giving a sourish aroma in the bread.

So on that Thursday night, I made the starter. Then on Sunday morning, I made the dough with the starter and baked the bread. Of course, it’s not a rule to that every bread’s starter has to ferment that long. In France, a starter or known as poolish, traditionally ferments for at least 2 hours. This shorter fermentation produces a bread with a less yeasty taste, nutty aroma and springy texture. It is somewhat in between a sourdough loaf and a basic bread.

Basically the starter contains just dried yeast, water and bread / strong white flour. And all you do is just, stir the mixture twice a day, and cover it until the day you need it. This one above has just been mixed.

A couple of hours later, I decided to check on the starter to see if anything has changed. More to check if the yeast was working or not! The starter grew really really high. It was very bubbly, and sour! Then I left it for the night..

The next morning, Friday, I stirred the starter, then at night, stirred it again. you can see, it deflated a little. The batter was still bubbly and sourish.

Same thing, on Saturday, Nothing much has changed except it smelled REALLY sour.

On Sunday, after approximately about 60 hours later, it looked quite the same, so I didn’t take any pictures. The starter was slightly water-ish. Don’t except it to be like a dough as in this case, the starter has more more water than flour. So logically speaking, it wouldn’t be like a dough.

Pain De Campagne

French Country-Style Bread with a Sourdough Starter

(Adapted from bread, by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno)

For the sourdough starter
2 tsp dried yeast
325ml water
250g bread / strong white flour

For the dough
1 tsp dried yeast
200ml water
50g wholemeal flour *substituted the original rye flour*”
325g bread / strong white flour
1 tsp salt

Method

1. Make starter. Sprinkle the yeast into room temperature water in a large jar. Leave for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon. Cover the jar with a tea towel and leave to ferment at room temperature for at least 2 days, max 3 days. Stir the mixture twice a day.

2. Make the dough. Sprinkle yeast into room temperature water in a bowl. Leave for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve. Mix flour and salt together in another large bowl, and make a well in the centre.

3. Spoon 250ml of the starter into a liquid measuring jug. Add into the flour and pour in yeasted water. You can replenish the remaining starter in the same jar for the next time you make bread. If you remove 250ml, add in an equal added amount of flour and water. Eg, 125ml water and 125g flour.

4. Mix in flour from the sides to form a stiff and sticky dough. If the mixture is too dry, add 1 tbsp of water at a time.

5. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes) I used my mixer, attached with a dough hook to knead; for 6 minutes.

6. Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover wth a tea towel. LEave to rise for 2 hours. Knock out the air with your knuckle, then leave to rest for 10 minutes.

7. Shape the dough into a round loaf. Place on a baking pan, and cover with a tea towel and prove until double in size. (Took just 45 minutes for me as my kitchen is pretty hot).

8. Dust the loaf with flour. Cut 3 parallel slashes across the top of the loaf, then 3 more in the opposite direction. Best to use a scalpel or sharp blade. Open oven door, using a water mist spray bottle, spray 10 times, 5 on each side. Place the baking sheet in. Bake in a preheated oven at 220 C for 1 hours or until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

All in all, it was quite an effort and you’d have to time yourself properly, especially during the rising and proofing time. Whether it’s worth the time and trouble or not, I’m not sold yet. Hence, I shall stick to the breadmaker machine for fresh bread in the morning! Ah but of course, I still wanna try making some of the bread with sourdough starters; just not THAT often.

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