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Pain de Campagne

This French country bread is a rustic loaf, typically a large round loaf. The technique below involves making a sponge first, which contributes a depth of flavor to the bread. Misting the bread once in the oven is a great technique for home bakers to achieve that hard, crackly crust so typical of good French bread.

Ingredients

Sponge

  • 1 C (237 ml) water, 80–100°F (27–38°C)
  • ½ tsp (1.6 g) active dry yeast
  • 1¼ C (156 g) unbleached bread flour
  • ¼ C (33 g) whole wheat flour

Dough

  • 1 C (237 ml) warm water, 105–115°F (41–46°C)
  • ¾ tsp (2.4 g) active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp (12 g) sugar
  • 1½ tsp (7.5 g) salt
  • 3¾–4 C (468–500 g) unbleached bread flour, additional for dusting

Directions

Sponge

Place sponge ingredients in a large bowl and stir to make a thick, wet mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature (65–75°F/18–24°C) at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

Dough

Pour water over sponge. Sprinkle yeast, sugar, salt and all but ¾ C (150 g) of the flour over sponge. Mix gently with your hands until flour is just incorporated (dough will be a little crumbly). Let dough rest 10 minutes before transferring to a floured work surface. Knead for 10 minutes, adding flour so dough doesn’t stick—but only as much as necessary; dough should be soft and a little sticky. After 8 minutes, dough will become smoother and more elastic. Transfer to a large greased bowl; cover with clean kitchen towel; let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1–2 hours.

Transfer dough to a floured work surface. Divide in half; form each piece into round loaf. Transfer seam side down to a baking sheet dusted with flour. Stack baking sheet on top of another baking sheet to keep bread from burning on the bottom. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature for about 1 hour, or until puffy and 50% larger.

Preheat oven to 450°F (232°C). Using a very sharp knife, slash shallow crosshatching into top of loaves; dust lightly with flour. Place baking sheets on middle rack of oven. Using a mister, spray water into bottom of oven to create steam, repeating every 5 minutes for the first 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 400°F (204°C) and continue baking until bread is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat; cool on a wire rack.

  • Prep time: 40 minutes.
  • Cook time: 35 minutes.
  • Makes 12–14 servings.

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