This week, the recipe was a true challenge that took two weeks to complete. Now if that doesn’t deter you from trying to mix up a batch of this bread, not much will! To make a traditional Pain de Campagne, you have to save a piece of the dough from your batch to act as a starter for your next loaf which means you are always working with a bit of old dough called a chef. If you find yourself without a chef, you have to start one with whole wheat flour and water and pray the yeast feels like cooperating.
This loaf was off to a bad start because not only was I chefless, I was also out of whole wheat flour. Because I was determined to make this bread, I grabbed my tub of whole grain rye flour and my tub of graham flour and when ahead and mixed up a half batch for two chefs-one with each of the flours. The worst part was knowing I would have to wait two days to see if either one grabbed yeast. They did ferment a bit and not in a nice sourdough smelling way. Even so, I kept on with the process and letting them sit longer than the recipe suggested just to see if it would increase the rise. In the end, I was only half successful. The rye chef never really got going and the graham flour only got going with about half of the rise.
The rye is on the left, the graham is on the right. What a disappointment it was, I had assumed that since I do a fair amount of bread baking here that there would be plenty of yeast to grab and get the starter going.
Out of curiosity, I sliced the loaves to see what the interior looked like. It was dense, moist and a bit gummy. Both of them were. It was pretty obvious that there just was not enough yeast in the chef and then the levain to give rise to the bread. Honestly, I was surprised that the graham loaf had a ribbon of raw dough along the bottom crust-it had risen pretty well. The flavor was surprisingly sour, a mild sour but it was there.
With that same determination that got me started on this loaf, I pulled my sourdough starter out of the fridge and measured out a tablespoon and placed it in a bowl. With my tub of graham flour still out on the counter, I mixed up another half batch of dough starting with the chef. After all of the refreshments, I actually had a piece of dough that showed some promise…
The little ball of dough rose nicely and because I ran out of time, I decided I would put the basket of dough in the fridge to rise overnight. Because I am curious, I pulled off a walnut sized piece and set it aside in the fridge; I was going to use it as a chef for a full batch of dough. The next morning, I pulled the basket out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter to warm up and rise a little more.
When the time came to bake the loaf, I was excited-this one actually rose! There was oven spring too-it rose more! The only thing I did not understand was the pale color of the crust on the top, it browned nicely on the bottom. The interior looked nice, no stripes and no gummy crumb. It also had a nice sour flavor. As for that piece I set aside, I used it to start a new loaf but this time, I made a full batch.
The shaping was easy to do and I cannot remember when I did this type of baking last-perhaps at school…My wheat stalks in the bottom of the basket.
The loaf was placed over the wheat stalks.
The loaf gets wrapped with a braid of dough and then it is left to rise in the basket. Two hours later, I turned it out onto the peel and let it rise some more. Just before baking, I brushed the loaf with a wash of egg whites and snipped the wheat stalks.
Fresh out of the oven, my wheat stalks look more like paws.
The scissors did a nice job on the stalks. It was fun to make this loaf and now it is sitting on the counter taunting me…May have to make another one just so I can make those wheat stalks again! Be sure to visit the Tuesdays with Dorie to see how the other bakers did this week.