Pain De Campagne Boule, Scène Deux

Here’s a new measure of just how good your last loaf of bread was: count the waking hours until only crumbs remain on the cutting board. Twenty-two waking hours, and that beautiful boule that I hand-crafted was history. I’m glad I took a photo of it – I doubt I’ll be able to reproduce such magnificence again before I start collecting my pension. Time to make another, and pluck those doubts like a harp.

Same recipe: Pain De Campagne Boule. Well, almost – a few tweaks. A few should-I-shouldn’t-I decisions to make. I’ll re-write the ingredient list at the bottom of this post.

I started the cold soaker last night, using the ends of the boule, plus 3 lumps of the previous soaker that I froze … like any thrift-obsessed person. My husband saw the frozen soaker lumps in a freezer bag, and wanted to know why I’d only frozen three portions of cookie dough. Oops. Better use those up before he tries to thaw and eat them. I unceremoniously threw them into a metal measuring jug (whereupon they clunked and jumped like golf balls), filled it with 320g water (decided to use all the water this time rather than just part of it), and wished it sweet dreams. I didn’t want my soaker having nightmares; could cause no end of problem – nightmare dough, that sort of thing.

Incidentally, I altered the amount of water from 340ml to 320 grams. I suspect that my Pyrex measuring cup is inaccurate. As I understand it, 10ml water weighs 10 grams. I think I learnt that somewhere, and just in case I was dreaming about my old chemistry lessons 43-years ago, I just ran that assumption by my husband who’s the smartest spark I know. I was quite sure that his mind wasn’t wandering off on picnics in the park with the adorable boy sitting in front of me who couldn’t even remember my name when I said hello. When I measured 340ml of water, it was well in excess of 340 grams. So I weighed out 340 grams of water, and poured it into a caterer-grade measuring beaker. It was pretty close to 340ml. So I decided to use 320 grams water, and if I needed more, I’d add it a teaspoon at a time, if any dry bits remained in the bowl.

So I weighed out the bread flour, the active yeast (I measured it this time rather than weighing) and the salt (same: measured rather than weighing). Stirred with my fingers, and then added the lukewarm water (320 grams) into a deep floury mountain indentation. Mix-mix, and then let it sit for 10-minutes in the bowl. My last loaf of 22-hours ago was too sticky at this point, not helped by my ignoring the advice to let the dough rest for 10-minutes. I decided not to ignore anything this time around; if it barked or squeaked or croaked, wiggled, giggled or burped it had my undivided attention. I waited 10-minutes.

Then I oiled up my hands, grabbed my new favourite red dough scraper, and starting kneading by hand. I’m getting better at this kneading lark. And the dough was a perfect texture and poooofiness (yeh, I know that’s not a proper word but I never pretended to be proper). Only once did I require the assistance of my new red scraper. No oil on the work surface, no flour, no water … just a few drops of oil on my hands. After 10-minutes I stopped kneading, and gently returned the dough to the bowl to rise under the Admiral Hotel’s shower cap for an hour. Note to self: beg hubby to bring home more of those from hotels. Totally nifty trick.

And then I fixed myself lunch. Made my Four-Out-of-Five-a-Day salad plus the last slice of bread. That’s four out of five fruit and veg a day, not a method of scoring.

An hour later, the dough had doubled and it just gently rolled on to the work surface without a hint of clawing like the last loaf. I floured my hands, and stared at the dough. “Now you behave!” I told it. I pressed the air out, pulled the corners into the middle and shmoosched them into the middle, turned it over and pulled it round into a ball with cupped hands. Molly was watching. “Hey there.” I smiled. I was so happy that this dough was behaving. Must’ve been the wishing it sweet dreams and all, I reckoned. Molly was bored with the lack of profanity smoking up the air, so she turned and left.

Last time, I did as instructed by placing a large bowl over the dough whilst it “proved” it was dough, rather than a turnip or a cauliflower or a herring. On that occasion, the dough spread out like my husband does in bed on a hot, humid night. Darned dough stuck fast to the bowl. Piffle on that. So this time I covered the dough with a floured tea towel and set the beeper for 60-minutes.

And Molly and I took a walk. An empty dog is a happy dog.

The dough proved it was dough, rising up and up and up until it doubled in size. I gave the boule a few slashes, although I’m not sure if that helps anything or not, and then I poured 500ml cold water into a preheated hot oven. In slid the baking sheet and dough, and closed the oven door.

And then I went to pair and fold a week’s worth of black socks.

A short while later, the aroma of baking bread filled the house. I jumped up from the table and the pile of socks. “No! Damn! I forgot to set the timer!!” Molly sashayed into the kitchen to investigate the commotion. I shouted at the timer, “For hellva og poo for pooker!” Profanity it seems is an integral part of my baking.

This loaf, I’m pleased to say, is beautifully formed and gorgeously golden. The crust was hard and crunchy until about a half hour ago; now it’s gone a bit soft. Not sure why. Another question it seems for my worldly-wise baker friends…


Pain De Campagne Boule, Scène Deux


500 g strong bread flour
1 rounded teaspoon salt
1 rounded teaspoon dried active yeast
320 g lukewarm water (+1 or 2 tsp more if needed)
1 teaspoon oil for the baking sheet, or baking paper

Mix dry ingredients together, add water and mix. Let rest for 10-minutes. Knead for 10-minutes, and then let dough rise and double for one hour. Flour hands. Press air out of dough, flatten into a square and then shape into a ball. Lightly dust surface with flour and then cover with non-fuzzy tea towel to prove for one hour or until double in size. Preheat oven 230c about 30-minutes prior to baking bread. Bake for 15-minutes at 230c, then lower temperature to 200c and continue baking for another 30-minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting.


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Joanna says:

    Another splendid loaf and a very entertaining write up too. Do you both have black socks? – you could be there for hours… 😉 Softening crusts.. sometimes they do that. Only thing I can suggest is to bake a bit longer – or at the end of the bake, turn the oven off, leave door open and leave the bread in there for another ten/fifteen minutes. It’s very hard to overbake bread and very easy to underbake it, opposite to cakes. I have done that thing where you take the bread’s temperature and technically it’s at the right point, but it doesn’t sound right when you thump it. You want a really, really hollow, almost echoey sound. But lots of people like their bread a bit soft and sticky in the middle, so it’s down to personal taste.

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      Soft and sticky in the middle is not what we want. 😉 Peder would probably throw it in the toaster if I gave him a slice like that. I love the idea of letting the loaf sit in the oven (with the heat off) for a bit more in order to achieve that elusive crunchy crust. Thanks for that!

      Yes, we both have black socks. The only difference is that my feet are half his size, so sorting them isn’t too taxing on my brain. Now when my sons lived at home, it was tricky because at various times I could swap socks and clothing with them. Not any longer though; they’re both taller than me now.

      Peder can’t tell the difference in taste when I do or don’t use the cold soaker. Interesting, eh?

      1. Joanna says:

        Are you using the crust of the older bread, or just the crumb, most of the extra umami taste comes from the crust? The recipe I use it in is quite different from this one you have developed so maybe it doesn’t benefit a white bread in the same way as it does a multi seeded rye/wheat bread which is how I used it.

        If you put a piece of your new bread back in the oven and bake it until it is a medium brown, (not burnt) and then pulverise it/soak it, you could even mix it with new flour and a pinch of yeast and leave it overnight creating a hybrid sponge/soaker that might make it more umami flavoured… (speculates wildly here….) I will give it a go, if I can find a crust of white bread in the kitchen….

        1. Misk Cooks says:

          Crust and crumb. Both. I need to study Dan’s instructions on sponge because I think that’s my next learning step. I just don’t want to make more bread than we can eat within a few days, if you know what I mean. I saw a recipe recently using an overnight sponge but the total flour added up to over a kilo. It’s just 2 of us here. Don’t want to feed all of Sussex. 🙂

          1. Joanna says:

            I’ve chopped up some semolina levain bread and have incorporated it into a sourdough starter and then we’ll see what happens next, to ferment or not to ferment, that is the question….

            I’m sure Sussex would love to have Misk boules but yes, I understand exactly what you mean!

  2. Misk Cooks says:

    Okay. Let me play, too, please. How much old crust (I have some frozen), flour, dry active yeast and water should I use to create an overnight sponge or starter, and goodness help my brain — more terms to learn that I suspect are equally interchangeable like rise and prove….

    And what sort of idiot spell checker thinks that ‘okay’ should be spelt ‘OK’.

Please Leave a Comment. I'd Love to Hear From You.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s