Pain de campagne
I usually try to make my weekly loaf of bread pretty simple. I will occasionally splurge on something like Greek Celebration Bread or Peanut Butter Bread, but usually, it’s just flour, water, salt, and yeast. Lately, though, I’ve been getting a little bored, and the shiny new mixer has been prompting me to experiment with some new recipes. I have about forty-seven bread cookbooks, so those recipes certainly aren’t hard to come by, but I have to tell you, I’ve already discovered a new favorite. And who knew all it took to make me swoon, bread-wise, was a little butter?
I found this recipe for Pain de campagne in Ursula Ferrigno’s The New Bread Book, and it’s actually not that much more complicated than my normal flour, water, salt and yeast recipe. At least, my bastardized version isn’t. The original recipe calls for rye flour, which I’m pretty wary of, having a decided distaste for rye bread. But the rye isn’t the point. What made me fall in love with this bread is the four tablespoons of unsalted butter.
The butter makes the bread wonderfully soft and tender. This is excellent sandwich bread. It has a great crumb, and when toasted, the crust becomes just a little bit crisp. I’ll admit that it doesn’t withstand cold peanut butter in the morning too well, but it more than makes up for it in flavor. I have discovered that it works better when the balance of whole wheat to bread flour is even, if not erring a little more on the side of bread flour, but even the loaf I made with way too much whole wheat was still pretty great.
If you’re new to bread baking, this one would probably be a pretty good place to start: no weird ingredients, and it’s hard to screw it up. For some quick tips on bread baking, check out my post on bread experimentation, or even better, check out The Fresh Loaf.
Pain de campagne
Adapted from The New Bread Book by Ursula Ferrigno
- 8 ounces (or about 2 cups) of whole wheat flour
- 10 ounces (or about 2 1/2 cups) of bread flour
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 10 ounces (or 1 1/4 cups) water, at room temperature
Whisk the flours, salt, and yeast together in a large bowl, and mix in the butter until it’s pretty well incorporated into the flour. Slowly stir in the water until the dough begins to form a ball in the bottom of the bowl. Knead the dough in the bowl of a mixer for about 6 minutes, or by hand on a floured work surface for about 10. You want the dough to be smooth, and to achieve that all-important windowpane effect.
(The what effect? The windowpane effect is basically a sign that the gluten has developed fully. It occurs when you can stretch the dough and cause it to thin, instead of break apart completely. You can test it by taking a small piece of the dough and gently stretching it, like you would if it were a baby pizza. You know it’s done when the center becomes thin and almost translucent without tearing.)
Shape the dough into a round, and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a towel and let it sit in a warm-ish spot for an hour or so, until it’s doubled in size. Once it’s doubled, re-shape it gently to let out some of the built up gases (or punch it down, it does the same thing). Shape it either into a round shape for a boule, or an oblong shape if you want to bake it in a loaf pan. Place it either in an oiled loaf pan or onto a sheet of parchment, and let rise, covered, for about another hour.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut some slashes in the top of the loaf with sharp knife, so it can release some air and gases while it bakes. Bake the loaf, either on a baking sheet or baking stone, or in the loaf pan, for about 30 minutes. The loaf should be golden brown and sound hollow when you tap it on the bottom. When it’s done, let it cool on a wire rack. It’s best to let bread cool completely before cutting into it, though I know that can sometimes be extremely difficult.
I really encourage you to try baking your own bread, at least once. It’s not nearly as time consuming or difficult as you might think, and timing-wise, it’s very forgiving. Baking bread is a great weekend activity, though I have been known to mix up some dough in the morning and bake it when I come home from work in the evening. No-knead bread is great for that. When I first considered baking my own bread, I knew nothing about it whatsoever. I’m still far from an expert, but I find it so fun and satisfying, just look what else I did this weekend:
You might be shocked to hear that bagels were actually not that difficult at all! Come back later in the week, and I’ll even tell you how it’s done.