William Alexander’s Pain de Campagne

I made this bread twice, because the first time I under-proofed the dough before it went into the oven so it blew way out and had a weird shape and no big holes in the crumb, and cut into it after it had only cooled for about an hour so the flavor wasn’t great, and I made the mistake of explaining this to my dad so when we both tasted it and I wasn’t impressed, my frickin’ DAD accused me of not giving the recipe a fair shake.  dsc03745dsc03746dsc03748

So I was guilt-tripped into making it a second time instead of moving on to testing the recipes from my next two books up for review, Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible and Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Which was fine, since I did it on my telework day so I was able to follow the instructions exactly as written and give it the time it required while I did my work in the living room.


This recipe can be found in William Alexander’s excellent book, 52 Loaves.  My review of the book is here.dsc03729

The first time around, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stick to the 4-5 hour rise he calls for because I have to work.  So instead of waking up and bringing my starter up to room temperature the night before, I stirred cold starter into the dough and gave it a 10 hour rise.  dsc03730I think that part was actually ok.  It was what happened after that.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For one round loaf, you will need:

260g 100% hydration sourdough starter

300g all-purpose flour

60g whole wheat flour

30g rye flour

13g salt

292g water

  1. Mix together your ingredients in a large bowl.  Let rest for 20 minutes, then mix again into a ball.  dsc03733dsc03734dsc03735
  2. Let rise 4-5 hours.  Gently punch down, re-shape into a ball and place into a floured banetton seam-side down.dsc03737dsc03738
  3. Let rise for 1.5-2 hours (this is where I messed up, since I only let it rise for one hour before baking the first time.  I think it really does need a lightly longer second proofing time).
  4. Preheat the oven to 550 degrees F with a pizza stone on a low rack and a cast iron skillet resting on the bottom of the oven.  Flip the dough onto the pizza stone and score with a sharp knife or razor blade.dsc03740dsc03741
  5. Ugh, that shirt does me and my butt no favors.  Yeesh.  Ok. At this point, wearing an oven mitt, pour a bowl of water into the skillet.  Quickly close the oven door to trap the steam.dsc03743
  6. Drop the temperature down to 480 degrees F and bake for 25 minutes.  Drop the temperature down to 375 degrees F and bake an additional 20 minutes.  Turn the oven off, prop the door slightly open, and keep the dough in the oven for a final 15 minutes.dsc03745dsc03747I was pretty disappointed when I looked in and saw that my dough looked like this.  But there was nothing I could do but let it finish baking and see what it looked like on the inside.dsc03748Not great, Bob.  As I mentioned before, I tasted some and wasn’t impressed.  But as the dough cooled a bit more, it did become more complex and tasty.  It wasn’t bad, all things considered.  Maybe it was true that I needed to give this recipe another shot.  So I did.dsc03749I started with an active sourdough starter this time, and let it rise 5 hours.  I placed the dough in a banetton, and let it rise 2 full hours.  I think that longer second rise really helped.img_6142This is the dough once I flipped it onto the pizza stone.img_6143After baking, I shut the oven off and propped it open with a wooden spoon.img_6144I was much happier the second time around.  The dough didn’t explode on contact with the hot pizza stone.  Also, this time I used a combination of water and ice and I think it worked well.  My one disappointment the second time around is that I didn’t score the dough deep enough.  I was worried that with the longer second rise, the dough would deflate upon scoring.img_6145img_6146The crumb was an improvement too.DSC03767.JPGNot great, considering the long second rise and wet dough.  I would’ve expected much bigger holes.  But I’m pretty satisfied. I went from this:dsc03748to this:dsc03767and this:dsc03746to this:img_6144I’ll take it!  And with that, I bid adieu to William Alexander.  Next stop: Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible.

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