I’d been looking for a simple bread to hone my bulk bread making abilities, and as I was leafing through an excellent book about wood-fired baking as a leaving pressie, I came across what looked like a simple candidate recipe for something called Pain Rustique in the excellent book “From the Wood-Fired Oven“.
Having had enough of variable results from whichever flour was available at the supermarket, I’ve taken once again to buying my bread flour from Wessex mill (see photo below). I’ve been buying rather large
16kg bags of their Strong White Bread Flour picked up at the mill’s tiny front door shop. They do ship nationally. However, looks like the biggest bags available online are 10kg (just £11), and they ship throughout the UK. I rather like them, not only because I ate bread my own mother made with their flour when I was little, but because they publish a grist map showing where the wheat they mill comes from – but they also print it on the back of every bag. This is local to me, so its a bit greener, but the flour is so good I’ve seen it for sale in West Wales. I have also heart that Shipton Mill flour is very good, but that’s a lot further for the flour to travel, but with any flour bought from the mill – you are getting better flour for around one-third less than the supermarket – which means the baking is relatively economic.
The Pain Rustique formula I followed started with an overnight poolish of 800g strong white bread flour, 800g water (32°C), and one gram of instant active yeast. I mixed it all up mid-afternoon with a wooden spoon in a plastic bowl, cling filmed it, and left it on the worksurface overnight for 17 hours. Now if you are turning into a mad baker, you need a mad baker’s mixing bowl so get yourself this catering grade 11 litre Araven polypropylene bowl and a small stack of smaller 6 or 7 litre bowls for smaller batches. They seem to be everything-proof, and don’t poison sourdoughs like steel bowls.
The next morning I added 300g more water (32°C), 800g more flour, and 3g of malt powder (dark malt flour from Wessex Mill). I left my dough to autolyse for an hour then added 1 level teaspoon of instant active yeast (~5g) and 28g of fresh ground rock salt. My favoured sea salt is Le Guerandais Coarse from Brittany, France – you might want to find out more about their cooperative. My favoured yeast is fresh, but I settled for Doves Farm Instant Yeast which seems to be easier to reseal, and
seems to stay fresh and viable much longer than other packets. This dough got about 5 minutes at low speed (setting 1), using the steel spiral dough hook mentioned before. I left the dough in its bowl, clingfilmed for about 90 minutes, giving it two folds every half an hour – try wiping groundnut oil around the rim of the bowl, it really helps get a good seal so your dough doesn’t crust and dry.
Finally, I floured a tea cloth up as a couche, tipped and spread the dough out a little, and cut it into four rustic shapes, each nested in couche – well floured, and proofed for 45 minutes, before transferring into my hot brick oven. I lost about another 15 minutes clearing the last ashes, and didn’t allow the oven to cool down enough, and neglected to wipe the oven. The plank you see in the picture is what I use to transfer the uncooked loaves the 100ft from the kitchen to the wood-oven, and back again, dusted with inexpensive NatCo coarse semolina.
I should have wiped down the floor of the oven with a wet clean traditional mop, one that won’t melt … keep one that you don’t use for anything else! I should have let the oven equalise and cool, but I didn’t. Largely – this was due to (lack of) timing, and coordination – if I’m brutally honest!
So here are the results.
They look good – but as the oven floor was too hot, being well over 330°C. The bread looks nice but the base was burnt in three of four cases.
I’ve also included a cross-section of one of the loaves below. You can see the nice open crumb structure, upon which I place a lot of value.
Disappointed that I hadn’t achieved perfection, I began the entire process once again, immediately mixing up the poolish for the next day – but the loaves from the following day’s bake were too delicious to survive to camera – so I can’t show you what they looked like. Happy baking!