Pain de Campagne Bread Recipe (Sourdough)

 

Described as ‘the antithesis of the industrial factory loaf’ by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, pain de campagne (French for ‘country bread’) is my favourite everyday loaf.

What is pain de campagne?

Pain de campagne is a large round loaf of sourdough bread typically made with a combination of white and wholemeal flour. I always also add in some rye flour to enhance the flavour of the loaf.

The French country boule is the purest and most fundamentally satisfying loaf of bread there is. I love the chewy crumb, the thick crunchy crust and the characteristic wild bread aromas.

Pain de campagne
Pain de campagne – baked with a La Cloche baking dome

Pain de campagne sourdough baking

I found a way to conveniently fit pain de campagne baking into my daily routine. Although it takes about forty hours to prepare and bake the bread, the actual active working time spent on the loaf is no more than an hour.

The time spent preparing is rewarded with a loaf of brilliant longevity as the extra fermentation time traps more moisture in the dough and keeps the bread fresh. Sourdough also contains mold-killing compounds which act as natural preservatives.

If you are based in Edinburgh and looking for a sourdough starter, I’m happy to share some of mine! I have tried to bake pain de campagne with baker’s yeast instead of sourdough, but the taste, texture and flavour are just not the same.

Pain de campagne sourdough
Pain de campagne sourdough

Pain de campagne recipe (sourdough)

The recipe offers a guideline for timings, but you can easily adapt this to fit around your schedule. In terms of dough hydration for this pain de champagne recipe, I’m working with 71.5% here but feel free to adjust this slightly based on the flour you are using or personal preference.

Day 1
7am – Refresh your sourdough starter

  • 100g rye sourdough starter
    I’m using a pretty firm and mature starter at roughly 100% hydration for this recipe. (*)
  • 100g strong white flour
  • 50g wholemeal wheat flour
  • 50g wholemeal rye flour
  • 160g water, lukewarm(*) If you are new to sourdough baking and have used my how-to-guide to making a rye sourdough starter, make sure you add some extra flour so it’s not too wet. I would recommend to use 67g instead of just 50g wholemeal rye flour and slightly less water, 144g instead of 160g.

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients, cover with a lid and keep at room temperature.

Day 2
7am – Prepare the dough

  • 250g strong white flour
  • 100g wholemeal wheat flour
  • 50g wholemeal rye flour
  • 7g salt
  • 255g water
  • 300g sourdough ferment (from above)
    The rest goes back into the fridge for your next bake.
  1. Combine all ingredients and knead for about 10 mins.
  2. The dough should be quite soft, it should still slightly stick to hands and worktop, so carefully add a little more water in case the consistency is too tight and firm. Equally, if the dough is too wet to be workable, carefully add a little bit more flour. In general, for pain de campagne, wetter dough is better dough but it should be easy to work with and definitely not runny.
  3. Shape the dough into a pile on your worktop and cover with a plastic bowl. Moisten the rim of the bowl before placing it there. The dough is going to expand and flatten and will stick to the bowl otherwise.
  4. Leave the dough for about an hour.
  5. Use your dough scrapers to stretch and fold the dough a few times to tighten its structure.
  6. Prepare a plate with wholemeal flour, then pick up the dough and dip it into the flour, turn it over to ensure it’s completely covered.
  7. Transfer the dough to a liberally floured round proving basket, seam-side up.
  8. Cover the proving basket with a polythene bag and put it into the fridge. Make sure you don’t put the bag on too tightly, the dough shouldn’t stick to the plastic bag once risen.

Day 2
7pm – Final prep and bake!

  1. Take the proving basket out of the fridge and leave the dough to warm back up at room temperature for about two hours or so.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  3. Line a baking tray with baking paper or preheat your La Cloche baking dome if you have one.
  4. Swiftly but carefully move (flip over) the loaf from basket to the tray or bottom of your baking dome.
  5. Cut some slashes into the top to give it a nice pattern.
  6. Bake at 220°C for 10 mins, and at 200°C for a further 40 mins.
  7. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Pain de campagne crumb

Pain de campagne loaf

Pain de campagne

 

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  • abitofanenthusiast

    Hi Pam! I tried your recipe today – it was the google search winner in my book because of the helpful timings you included- and we LOVED it! Such a lovely rise and texture and flavour. Thanks for the recipe!

     
    • paemsn

      Thanks for your feedback & great to hear your Pain de Campagne turned out so well!

       
  • Angelina

    Usually I do not write comments (too lazy) but this bread turn out amazing! I did small changes like in Day one, after feeding sour starter I also mixed
    250g strong white flour
    100g wholemeal flour
    50g barley flour instead of rye flour
    285g water and let to rest in the fridge for 12 hours to autolyse.
    In day 2, I followed the recipe with autolysed dough and let to stay in fridge for 24 hours. After 4 hours on room temperature I baked as usual and I got the best bread I ever made.
    My idea was to mix your instruction with instruction from http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/19830/36-hours-sourdough-baguette-everything-i-know-one-bread and turned out light and fluffy!
    Thank you for sharing such great recipe.

     
    • paemsn

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Angelina. Great to hear the recipe works well for other bakers too! I really like the idea of autolysing the dough, will follow this for my next bake.

       
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  • Jim Pettet

    Hi Pam I’m confused with the timings. At the end of preparing the starter you say leave it overnight 16 to 24 hours and yet you start day 2 after only 12 hours. What am I missing.

     
    • paemsn

      Hi Jim, thanks for flagging! I’ve updated the sourdough timings . Start at 7am 🙂 Apologies for any confusion caused and hope all goes well. Best wishes

       
  • maria

    Hi Pan, you said make sure the sourdough starter is not too wet — Do i just feed it with less water to flour ratio then? I followed your starter recipe and tomorrow will be my day 5!

     
    • paemsn

      Hi Maria, great, hope your starter is looking good and lively! If you have followed my rye sourdough starter, your starter will be quite wet. For this recipe, I’d recommend you take about 30g of your new starter and refresh it (in a separate bowl) with 45g tepid water and 55g rye flour. Leave it for the usual 16-24 hours at room temperature which should then give you the consistency you want for the pain de campagne recipe. Hope this makes sense, let me know if you have further questions. Best wishes, Pam

       
      • happyxbelly

        Thanks so much! You have all the timings here — how flexible are the timings? A couple of hours here and there? Also, can i replace wholemeal flour with rye flour as I’ve just run out of wholemeal? Sorry, daft questions!

         
        • paemsn

          Hi Maria, you can be quite flexible, sure, especially if you are proving in the fridge. I would recommend to replace the wholewheat with mostly strong white flour in order not lose the wheat gluten effect. Hope it all goes well! Pam

           
          • happyxbelly

            One more question! Baking it for a second time now but could be pressed for time – for the second day how might i be able to quicken things up a bit? Thanks!

             
          • paemsn

            Hi Maria, if you are looking to speed up the proving process, you could simply prove the dough at room temperature and depending on the temperature in your room, this may happen in a matter of a few hours. Alternatively, I often leave my sourdough loaf in the fridge for longer, to suit my schedule, and this also works well. Let me know if that helps! Best, Pam

             
  • Andrew Hines

    Hi! Thanks for your brilliant website. Really useful details and I love the array of recipes. Ive just tried this one and the bread tastes great but I didn’t get as much of a rise as I was expecting. The only departure from your recipe was to substitute wholemeal strong flour for regular ( so the loaf consists of standar white strong flour with the small amount of rye you suggested. Any suggestions appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Andrew

     
    • paemsn

      Hi Andrew, thank you so much for your kind comment! Happy to try and help 🙂
      I presume your sourdough is vibrant and bubbly?
      Was the final dough quite wet or did it hold its shape well?
      Did you not get much of a rise at all or did the dough deflate when you turned it out from the proving basket onto the baking tray?
      If you can prove the dough at room temperature (perhaps on a weekend), I would recommend to try this rather than the overnight fridge proving. Perhaps, the temperature/conditions were slightly too cold and the time too short for a full rise.
      Let me know how you get on and if I can help in any other way!
      Best wishes,
      Pam

       
      • Andrew Hines

        Thanks Pam. Having my second go at this now. I think the rising at room temperature this weekend near the heaters could be a good idea.

        the trouble rising was a combination between my awkwardness flipping the bread and just a general flatness. However I noted you keep your starter in the fridge. I wasn’t. Have tried it this week and will see how it goes.
        Thanks!

         
        • paemsn

          Hi Andrew, good luck! Pam