One of these days I’m going to be reduced to channelling my inner toddler and writing a blog post that simply says:
“I made bread! Look! Here it is!”
Actually, that would fit inside 6 seconds, maybe I could make a Vine?
Anyway, as my general loquaciousness means that I am far from running out of ridiculously long and slightly obscure words, and I love talking about bread, please sit back and enjoy/ run and hide (delete as applicable) as I prepare to become extremely verbose about baking. Again.
This time I’ve scooted forward a chapter in The Book from Whence all Loaves Shall Come (otherwise known as 100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood). We’ve waved farewell to the Farls, so long to the Soda Bread and cried “miss you!” to the Milk Loaf (seriously, run and hide people, run and hide) and crossed the English Channel to the land of milk and honey, or Café au Lait and croissant if you prefer.
But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves because the first on the table is a good hearty Pain de Campagne (pg 39).
The most traditional version of a Pain de Campagne is a sourdough, with a nice long proving time aided by the rye flour in the mixture. The rye was really a bit of a serendipitous accident; rye grew among the wheat, was too much trouble to weed out and so was milled with it, ending up as anywhere up to around 10 percent of our French farmer’s flour crock, and went from there straight into the bread dough. The serendipity is that rye flour ferments faster than wheat, so if you were to go down the proper sourdough route (and Mr Hollywood doesn’t – at least not here) it should give you a faster prove.
Aside from the flavour it adds, it’s another reason to add a good slug of rye flour to the mix the next time I tiptoe into the world of sourdough.
This recipe deviates from the days gone by in the way of a sachet of yeast rather than a sour starter and I rather suspect that the true Pain de Campagne doesn’t contain oregano either, fresh or otherwise. My oregano plant is not really at its peak right now, being more of a twig shaped marker of where an oregano used to grow, so I used a hearty pinch of the dried variety and it seemed none the worse for it.
I might go so far as to say that this loaf is a lesson in why, if I want a photograph of the finished article for the blog, I should have the camera ready as I take it out of the oven. In fact, perhaps I should be taking the pictures through the oven door (note to self, clean oven door first. Vigorously) because I’ve now made this loaf twice, on both occasions bringing it into the world, hot and fragrant, after the rain clouds had slipped well over the yard arm, and by the following morning I’ve been left with only a smidgen over a third of the loaf.
That wiggly bit on top is the only remaining evidence of the square cut into the top of the loaf, which should give you a vague indication of the original size before the gannets descended, sorry, before my beloved family asked for just one more slice and/or used it as the latest vehicle in a tiny but determined effort by a certain small daughter to eat her body weight in butter before her third birthday.
In the eating it clearly looses nothing from the variations. I don’t have a taste-metaphor today, although I’ve been to France a few times. It isn’t our trip to Paris on our first wedding anniversary, that was croissants and orange juice in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe. It isn’t trips to Brittany or Normandy with my family either, which are more fresh baguette dipped into enormous bowls of milky hot chocolate; and it certainly isn’t my French exchange to the Vendee, where my French did not materially improve thanks to the majority of my conversations being with my host’s 8 year old brother on the subject of table tennis, and I was sadly unable to establish whether there genuinely is a piscine in La Rochelle. Perhaps we need to go again.
So the floor is open. Bake the loaf (you really won’t regret it) and let me know what you think its story is.