Pain de Campagne
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A Beginner's Recipe.

It's not the only recipe for Pain Poilane, but you will learn quite a bit if you follow the technique. Read through the entire recipe; it includes directions for hand mixing, stand mixer and food processor. Good Luck!
[My supporting notes are at the bottom of the recipe]

Breads, Books & Biscotti


Pierre and Lionel Poilane (pere et fils) are the most celebrated of Parisian
bakers, and their most celebrated bread is the round 2-kilogram (4.4 pound)
peasant loaf baked in a wood-fired oven in the basement of the boulangerie
built over the ruins of a fourteenth-century Gothic abbey on the rue du

Each of the big Poilane loaves measures about a foot in diameter and is
slashed across its domed top with the traditional and functional jets that
allow the crust to spread and the dough to expand. Poilane's most famous
design is a cluster of grapes made of dough, complete with twisted tendrils,
on a large leaf resting on the loaf.[...]

The Poilanes have their flour grown and milled in the south of France, and
while it is difficult to duplicate precisely in the United States, the
whole-wheat starter in this recipe imparts a fermentation, flavor, and color
that is close to the original and which drew praise from Pierre.

Allow 3 days to prepare this recipe.


1 cup fine or stone-ground whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk
2 packages dry yeast
1 cup hot water (120-130F degrees)

2 cups hot water (120-130F degrees)
3 cups bread or all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt
3 cups all-purpose/bread flour

1 baking sheet or 2 twin open-ended baguette pans, greased or Teflon

To make the starter, in a medium bowl, measure the flour, non-fat dry milk,
and yeast. Stir in the hot water to make a batter. Cover tightly with a
length of plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature. The batter will
rise and fall and continue to ferment and bubble during a 24-hour period.

The next day, make the sponge: turn back the plastic wrap and pour the hot
water into the starter. Stir in the white flour. The batter will be thick.
Re-cover and leave at room temperature, another 24 hours or at least

To make the dough, remove the plastic wrap from the bowl. Stir briefly and
add the salt. With a large wooden spoon or rubber scraper, stir in the white
flour, 1/2 cup at a time, by hand or in an electric mixer. When the dough
becomes dense and difficult to stir, work in the flour with your hands or
with a dough hook.

While this is an elastic, soft dough, sufficient flour must be worked into
the mass to enable the shaped loaves to rest on the baking sheets without
slumping, as hearth loaves are prone to do.

Knead the dough with a dough hook, or turn the dough out of the bowl onto a
floured work surface and let rest for 3 to 4 minutes before kneading. If the
dough seems slack, without body, or is sticky, throw down liberal sprinkles
of flour to work into it during the early kneading.

A dough scraper in hand is convenient for keeping the work surface free of
the film that often collects while the dough is moist and sticky. Lift the
dough above the work surface occasionally and bang it down hard to break the
kneading motion, and, at the same time, hasten the development of the dough,
10 minutes.

Prepare the starter and sponge by hand in a medium bowl, as above.

To make and knead the dough on the third day, attach the short plastic dough
blade and scrape the sponge into the work bowl. Add the salt. Pulse.

With the processor running, add flour, 1/4 cup at a time until the dough
becomes a mass that will ride on the blade around the bowl.

Let the machine run for an additional 45 seconds to knead the dough. It may
be sticky when it is taken from the bowl, but sprinkles of flour will allow
it to be formed into a ball and dropped into the bowl to rise.

1-1/2 HOURS
Wash and grease the bowl. Drop the dough into the bowl and cover tightly
with plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature until the dough more than
doubles, about 1-1/2 hours. (If prepared with a new fast-rising yeast at the
recommended higher temperatures, reduce the rising times by half.)

Punch down the dough and turn it onto the work surface.

For a large loaf use all of the dough, about 4 pounds. If making a grape
leaf and cluster, reserve 1 cup of dough.

The dough may be divided into small loaves. While the loaves may be put
directly on the baking sheet to rise, they will have better shape if first
placed in cloth-lined baskets (bannetons) or wedged between folds of cloth
(couches). After the second rising they are transferred to the baking sheet.

If long French bread pans are available, the dough may be placed in these to
rise and to bake, without being transferred to a baking sheet.

In forming a ball of dough for the basket, pull the surface taut under
cupped hands. Place the ball of dough in the basket with the smooth surface
down and wrinkled side up. When the dough is turned on the baking sheet, the
smooth surface will be on top and the seam under.

In rolling a length of dough for a baguette or batard, keep it taut by
striking the length of dough with the side of your palm 2 or 3 times as it
gets longer. After making a crease down its length, fold in two (lengthwise)
and continue rolling. This forces out air that is trapped in the dough that
might cause unsightly bubbles in the bread, in addition to stretching the
surface of the dough.

Carefully cover the loaves with wax paper or woolen cloth. Leave at room
temperature until the dough triples in volume, about 2 hours. The large cell
structure so characteristic of French bread depends on this extra period of

Shortly before the dough is completely raised, make top decorations, if

Grape: If possible, use a grape leaf, cluster, and tendrils or a picture to
model the decoration. Roll the dough 1/8" thick for the leaf, trace the
design, and cut with a dough wheel, razor, or sharp knife. Work carefully to
trace the veins of the leaf. Pinch off 2 dozen small pieces of dough, and
roll into balls between your palms or on the work surface. Carefully roll
out a long string of dough to resemble a tendril. Reserve. They will be
assembled on top of the risen loaf.

To make wheat stalk decorations [...]
With sharp-pointed scissors, make small cuts from the top down 5" of the
strand - alternating right, center, and left - to create the illusion of
grains of wheat protruding from the stalk before harvest. Leave the
remainder of the stalk uncut and bare. Repeat the pattern for each strand.

Place a broiler pan on the bottom shelf of the oven 20 minutes before the
bake period. Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Five minutes before the pan is to
go into the oven, pour 1 cup hot water into the pan. Be careful of the
sudden burst of steam. It can burn.

Uncover the loaf or loaves, lightly brush the tops with water, and position
the decoration. If you are not making any decoration, slice the top with 5
or 6 parallel cuts in the other to end up with a checkerboard pattern.

Place the loaves or loaf on the middle and top rack if both are needed, and
change their positions 20 minutes into baking.

The water should boil away about the time the loaves begin to take on color
so that the bread will finish in a hot, dry oven for a brown, crispy crust,
35 to 40 minutes. If the water has not evaporated, use less next time.

The loaves are baked when a light golden brown and are hard and crusty when
tapped with a forefinger. If the bottom crust is not crisp, turn the loaves
over in the pans and return to the oven for 10 minutes.

(If using a convection oven, place a shallow pan on the bottom. Three
minutes before baking pour 1 cup hot water into the pan to create steam.
Reduce heat 50F degrees.)

Remove the bread from the oven and turn out, if necessary. Place on metal
rack to cool. The bread is best when cooled, which allows the baking process
to be completed. Warming bread after it has cooled is another matter. But
fresh out of the oven it should be cooled or nearly so before it is
introduced to the knife.

Source: Bernard Clayton's The New Complete Book of Breads, Revised and Expanded, ISBN: 0-671-60222-5, Publisher: Simon & Schuster 1987, pp. 258-261. $30.00 Cloth.

The method of banging or slamming the dough onto the work surface is actually practiced. I saw Danielle Forrestier exercise this method on french bread dough about 350 times (well, they sequed into and back from a commercial!) on the TV series Baking with Julia (pp 123-127 from the book). Forrestier was the first American woman to attain the title of <maitre boulanger> (master baker) and studied under Professor Raymond Calvel (considered by many as the father of bread).