Imagine stepping into a bakery in rural France and pointing to a rusty brown loaf of bread resting in a basket next to several others. You know it’s not just a typical French loaf, and the first bite confirms it. The crusty exterior gives way to flavorful interior that is both soft and chewy.
Pain de campagne, roughly translated, means “country bread”. However, it is so much more than that. It is French bread with a fully developed gluten structure that achieves its complex flavour from the sourdough process. I would recommend this pain de campagne recipe for everything from dinner rolls to sandwiches loaves. And having a slice toasted with butter is an amazingly delicious way to start your morning.
This bread is strong enough to handle the weight of additional ingredients. To add in additional ingredients allow your dough to rest for 10 minutes after the initial mixing, then sprinkle the dough with the ingredients. They will get mixed in during the folding process. Continue with the usual rising, folding and baking instructions in the recipe.
Here are a few of my favourite added ingredients:
- 2 cups of walnuts
- 2 cups of grated cheese
- 1 cup of caramelized onions
- 1/4 cup of mixed fresh herbs (parsley, basil and oregano) with 1 tbsp of diced garlic
- 1 cup of chopped kalamata olives
Rustic French Sourdough Bread
Traditional Pain de Campagne is a rustic French sourdough bread. It starts with an active sourdough starter and follows traditional techniques for a perfect loaf every time. Try adding in a few extra ingredients like chopped garlic or kalamata olives. See the section above for more flavour options.
- Prep Time: 2 hours
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
- Yield: 2-3 loaves 1x
- Category: Bread
- Method: Sourdough
- Cuisine: French
- 22 oz warm water (2 3/4 cups)
- 26 oz strong white flour (about 5 3/4 cups)
- 2 oz whole grain flour (1/2 cup wheat or rye)
- 1/4 oz amaranth (1 tbsp – optional for authenticity)
- 12 oz sourdough starter (about 1 1/3 cup)
- 1 tbsp salt
- Warm the water to approximately 33 C / 93 F), and mix with the flour. Leave the flour to hydrate for 15-30 minutes.
- One the flour has hydrated, mix in the sourdough starter and salt. See above for instructions on adding in extra ingredients.
- Allow to rise in a warm location until doubled in volume (about 6-12 hours). Use the dough folding procedure 3-4 times during this rise.
- Place the dough on a well floured surface and cut into 2 equal pieces.
- Gently shape the dough into a ball, using flour as needed, but avoid kneeding.
- Place the dough balls in floured baskets (or bowls lined with floured tea towels) and allow to rise one last time for 2 hours (or overnight in the refrigerator with an air-tight lid.)
- Preheat to 500 F (250 C).
- Gently put the loaves in the baking dishes (see notes for suggestions). Score the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.
- Bake for 50 minutes until dark brown.
- Cool on a rack before slicing.
- This bread recipe requires an active sourdough starter. Check out the basic sourdough bread techniques for more information on the folding and shaping techniques.
- Depending on the virility of your starter, you may want to add 1/2 tsp of commercial bread yeast. It is traditional for French loaves to contain a mixture of commercial yeast and starter. Just reduce the initial rising time to 4-5 hours.
- Depending on the shape that you want, you can bake this bread in a loaf tin, or on a baguette pan. Use a pizza stone for a flatter bread and dinner rolls. I like using a cast iron dutch oven (affiliate link) to make a traditional boule.
- If you want even browning then place the cast iron pot in the oven to preheat. Bake the loaf the pot (hot from the oven). Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, then cook uncovered until dark brown (about 20 minutes).
Keywords: vegan, dairy free, egg free, traditional, sourdough, white, baguette, bun, fall, winter