Sunday, April 8, 2007


What a day! All studying, no running, no walkies, no filching kumquats from the downtown parks. However, I got a lot done, and feel better about life in general, though I'm still nervous about tomorrow's first rehearsal. I still have French to do tonight, too. But let's not worry about that now - I'm sipping my 'kaze and digesting happily to Planet Earth for awhile.

And because the weekends offer the opportunity of more intensive cooking, we celebrate the extra hours by trying to have one special meal a week. Tonight, we had madras-glazed tofu on a saffron-basmati pilaf with curried vegetables and a peach-lime chutney. My kamikaze makes an appearance as my dinner's date.

The weekend is also an opportune time for bread-making, as I'm around to read for the hours (or in this case days) of rising time. This is Beth Hensperger's Pain de Campagne, "the home-style version of the boule de Poilane," made at the Boulangerie de Poilane at 8, Rue du Cherche-Midi in Paris, on the site of a 12th-Century convent. It takes three days, but it is worth it. There is a thick, sharply-crisp crust, and a softly airy (and slightly sour) inside. And I can vouch: it's actually not too difficult to make completely by hand (just me, a whisk, and a wooden spoon). Though I did forget to glaze it. Oh well. Next weekend. This loaf isn't going to last long, I have a hunch. Oh man, I wish I had some brie.

Pain de Campagne:

1 Tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup lukewarm water (90-100 degrees F)

2 cups lukewarm water (90-100 degrees F)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

3 1/2 to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
4 teaspoons salt

1 large egg, beaten with 2 teaspoons water, for glazing

  • Day One: To make the starter, place the yeast and whole-wheat flour in a deep bolw or a plastic 4-quart bucket with a lid. Add the water and whisk hard until a smooth batter is formed. Cover and let stand at room temperature until foamy and it begins to ferment, about 24 hours.

  • Day Two: To make the sponge, add 2 cups warm water to the starter. Whisk to combine. Add the unbleached and the whole-wheat flours alternately, 1/2 cup at a time, changing to a wooden spoon when necessary, until a smooth batter is formed. The sponge will be very wet. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise again at room temperature for about 24 hours.

  • Day Three: To make the bread dough, stir down the sponge with a wooden spoon. Add 1 cup of the unbleached flour and the salt. Gradually add most of the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to make a firm and resilient dough.

  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, slightly tacky, and springy, about 5 to 7 minutes, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will form little blisters under the surface when ready to rise.

  • Place the dough in a greased deep bowl or container. Turn to coat top of the dough once. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until fully doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

  • Gently deflate the dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Grease or parchment-line a baking sheet. Shape the dough into a tight round (or two tight rounds - use separate pans if making two smaller loaves instead of one large one) and place it on the baking sheet. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rise about 1 hour at room temperature.

  • Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit. Using a serrated knife, slash the loaf decoratively (I forgot to do this, as well). Brush the entire surface of the loaf with the glaze.

  • Place the baking sheet on a rack in the center of the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the loaves are browned, crisp, and sound hollow when tapped with your finger. Transfer the loaves immediately to a cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing (if you can stand to wait. We had to have it steaming hot with melted butter soaking in).


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