fwsy: pain de campagne

Phew, now that I'm caught up on my Flour Water Salt Yeast Bake-Through-the-Book post, I have no excuse for falling behind. Right? Right.

Pain de Campagne is the first of the levain breads in the book. Building Forkish's levain was certainly a lot less time consuming than the one for Chad Robertson's Tartine Bread (with a much more satisfying result, in my opinion, although I seem to be in the minority with that.) The entire build process takes less than a week, but pretty much requires an entire harvest's worth of flour. LOTS of flour. There is, however a major ROI so it's definitely worth it in the end. And you can cut down on the amount of flour needed to maintain the levain once it's built, so there's that. Again, because this project is a learning tool for me, I really kept watch over the process. I did get a bit worried on Day 2 because the weather was HOT and we have no AC in the main part of the house and by the end of that day's fermentation period, the levain was totally deflated with very little activity. Definitely a heart-clutching moment but it sprang back into action once fed and I learned to just chill and trust it.

By the time the day-before-baking-day rolled around, I had a robust and fragrant levain and I was a happy girl. The dough mix for the levain doughs is basically the same as it is for the earlier FWSY doughs. All according to plan once again until I was ready to put my shaped doughs into our downstairs fridge for overnight fermentation…and found that the fridge was on the fritz. It was making noises straight out of a horror film and there wasn't even a hint of a chill in the fridge portion. So with absolutely nowhere to store a 12 quart tub in our kitchen fridge, I went into PANIC MODE! (Okay, not really but I love drama.) I certainly wasn't going to toss the dough, so I figured I'd just have to let the breads rise and bake them off right away, sacrificing a whole lot of flavor. But then I checked the freezer, which I thought was still cold enough for the overnight rise. Crisis averted. (Later on, the fridge revived itself—YAY!— although we still don't know what went wrong). On baking day, plan perfection again. These bake straight out of the fridge, no impatient waiting required.

What can I say about these breads? Just…oh my. Every new bread I bake from this book is better than the one before it. This one? It was all I could do not to devour both loaves by myself, they were that good (not a lot of photos here because I'd pretty much snarfed down an entire loaf before remembering the camera). The crust was thin and chewy, and the crumb? O. M. G. Moist and creamy beyond belief, so moist that I actually had trouble slicing it when it had cooled a bit (it got easier once the breads were fully cooled). The flavor is incredibly complex and it got even better as it sat for a couple of days. Mere words can't describe how good this bread is–you really must bake it for yourself.

pain de campagne



  • 100g mature, active levain
  • 400g white flour
  • 100g whole wheat flour
  • 400g water (85–90°F)


  • 740g white flour
  • 60g whole wheat flour
  • 620g water (90–95°F)
  • 21g fine sea salt
  • 2g instant dried yeast
  • 360g levain


  1. Mix levain ingredients by hand in a 6 qt. container (if you have one, which of course, I do. Several, in fact, because I'm nuts like that. I'm sure you could also use a big bowl.) Cover and let sit for 6–8 hours at room temperature.
  2. After 6-8 hours, mix together the white and whole wheat flours in a 12 qt. tub (or bigger bowl), then add water and mix by hand to incorporate. Cover and let sit for approximately half an hour.
  3. Sprinkle the sea salt and yeast over the top of the dough.
  4. Measure 360g of the levain into a container with a small amount of water in it, then add this levain to the dough container, transferring it with as little water as possible.
  5. Mix the dough by hand using the pincer/fold method (great video instructions here) until fully integrated. Target dough temp is around 77°F.
  6. Stretch and fold the dough three or four times, preferably during the first 1-1/2–2 hours (videos here again!), then let dough rest until it's about 2-1/2 times its original size. This should be about 5 hours after the initial mix, depending on ambient temps. (It was on the warmish side the day I mixed my dough so it was good to go much sooner).
  7. Flour your hand and remove the dough from the container/bowl to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half (check those videos). 
  8. Shape each half into a fairly tight ball, then place each ball into a floured proofing basket, seam side down.
  9. Wrap each basket in a plastic bag and place in the refrigerator to proof overnight.
  10. 12–14 hours later and at least 45 minutes before you plan to bake (my oven is tetchy so it takes about a hour to fiddle with the temp), move an oven rack to the middle position, place two Dutch ovens on the rack and preheat the oven to 475°F.
  11. Gently turn each loaf out of its proofing basket onto a lightly floured surface, then remove each heated Dutch oven in turn, remove the lid (Forkish recommends placing an oven mitt over the EXTREMELY HOT knob on the lid, so you don't accidentally grab it with your bare hand…and let's just say I fully agree with him and leave it at that), CAREFULLY place each loaf into the Dutch oven, again seam side up, cover and return to the oven.
  12. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for 15–20 minutes more or until the loaves are dark brown.
  13. Remove the Dutch ovens and tip the loaves out onto a cooling rack. Let the loaves cool before slicing (yeah, good luck with THAT.)

Adapted from the awesome Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish