Sourdough pain de campagne

Sourdough starter needs a little attention to keep it going. Not nearly as much as some would have you believe, but still it needs refreshment once in a while. There seems to be a lot more interest lately in sourdough and recipes to use excess spent starter, maybe because of the pandemic’s effect on at-home activity. I always just discarded excess but in the last few months have utilized it in cornbread muffins and sourdough crackers. Not much starter is needed for this recipe. You can use spent starter if it has been refreshed recently (within a week).

In the bakery we made pain de campagne – country bread – with yeast. This recipe uses sourdough starter instead, with the added plus of no kneading. I wasn’t planning on a no-knead version but the Kitchenaid I use for small batches of bread keeps dropping the planetary head. So I approached this version without the aid of any machines. Simply mix it all together and let multiple folds and time do the work. Plan ahead to allow time for 4 folds at 30-minute intervals, an overnight rise, and a few hours for shaping and proofing the loaf before baking. Use a heavy cast iron dutch oven with a cover that can withstand a 450ºF oven.

The distinctive flavor of pain de campagne comes from the wheat and rye flours added to white flour. This recipe can serve as a master recipe for any combination of flours, though the most successful versions will contain about 1/2 bread flour. I added ground caraway seeds to mine but there are many possibilities – wheat germ, flax seeds (ground or whole), roasted sunflower seeds, wheat bran, wheat or rye flakes, and soaked cracked wheat are just a few possibilities.

– Joan, 11 December 2020

Sourdough pain de campagne

  • Servings: One large loaf
  • Print

  • 108 grams whole wheat flour
  • 108 grams whole rye flour
  • 216 grams bread flour
  • 1¼ tsp. salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons seeds or other optional additions
  • 364 grams lukewarm water
  • 58 grams sourdough starter

Use a 3-4 qt. container with a lid. Mix together the water and starter. Stir together all of the dry ingredients, then stir into the liquid mix. As it begins to get difficult to mix, dump it all out onto a floured surface and gently knead it a few times to incorporate all of the flour. You don’t have to knead for long, just enough to get it all together. This can be tricky because rye makes a sticky dough, but avoid using lots of extra flour. When it all comes together it should get a bit of a bounce when you push and turn. Clean the container of large bits of dough and coat the inside with spray oil. Put the dough in and cover it.

After 30 minutes, fold the dough by taking one side and stretching it up, then folding it to the middle. Repeat on the other 3 sides. Turn dough over so the smooth side is on top, replace cover. Repeat this process at 30 minute intervals 3 more times. By the last time you should notice increased extensibility in the dough. Cover the container and allow the dough to sit undisturbed until almost doubled in size. It can be left in a 60-65ºF room overnight (about 12 hours), or refrigerated if temperatures are warmer. When dough has risen, remove from the container and roughly shape. Allow it to sit for 20-30 minutes, then finish shaping as desired. (I lined a dutch oven with parchment and let the dough rise there, but you can instead let it rise in a cloth-lined basket and transfer the proofed loaf to a pre-heated dutch oven when it’s ready to bake.) Cover and let it rise at room temperature till it’s about 40-50% larger. The time is totally dependent on the strength of your starter and the room temperature. My kitchen is usually 60-65ºF and it takes up to 6 hours to proof. About an hour before it looks ready, preheat the oven to 450ºF.

Bake at 450ºF with the lid on for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake an additional 20 minutes or so, until the loaf is well-browned. Turn out onto a cooling grid and allow to cool for 2-3 hours before cutting or packaging.

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