Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pain de Campagne (French Bread)

I forget where I found this recipe, but I first made it in the early 1990s. This recipe is made the european way...completely the opposite of our way. We use lots of yeast and very little rise time. The european version uses little yeast (1 tsp total) and long rising times (12-20 hours). But worth the wait!

1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup whole wheat flour

In a small bowl, combine flour and yeast, using a small whisk. Add water, stirring well. Cover with a plate. Let sit at room temperature for 6-8 hours. You may refrigerate for 12-15 hours but allow dough to come to room temp (about 2 hours).

French Bread:
1 recipe poolish (above)
2-1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp yeast
5-1/2 to 6-1/2 cups unbleached white bread flour
1 tbsp salt

In a large bowl, stir together poolish, yeast, and water until the poolish is broken up and mixture is frothy. Add flour one cup at a time. Knead for 10 minutes, adding flour only as necessary.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough and knead another 5 minutes. Dough will be sticky, which is the texture you want. Shape into a ball; place in a clean and oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let rise til double, about 2-3 hours.

Punch down dough, cover with damp cloth, then let rest 30 minutes.

Shape into two baguettes, dust with flour, and cover with damp towels. Let rise for another 1-2 hours. Make diagonal slices across the tops.

Place a 9x13 non-glass pan on bottom rack in the oven; fill pan with 2 inches of water. Turn oven to 450 degrees. Place baguettes on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake 10 minutes at 450F, then lower to 400F and bake for another 30 minutes or so. Bread should sound hollow when bottom is thumped. Cool on rack.

Do not cut until completely cooled.

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