I don’t know about you but I have a hard time following a recipe or, for that matter, reading it properly before starting baking from it. Having none of my bread books with me here in the Northwest, I had checked The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger out of the local public library and settled on Beth’s Pain campagnard which she describes as “a superb bread similar to the earthly wheat-rye loaves once made at harvest time in the French countryside”. It called for a yeast-based sponge but I planned to use levain. It also called for all-purpose flour and dark rye flour, both of which I had. So no problem!
I just hadn’t noticed that it also called for wheat berries (which I didn’t have) and that these wheat berries would have to be soaked… So I made the sponge 24 hours ahead of time as instructed. It smelled delicious when I uncovered it on Day 2 and I was looking forward to mixing the dough when I read : “Cover the wheat berries with boiling water. Cover with plastic wrap and let soak 4 hours at room temperature”.
My spirit sank until I remembered that I had some farro berries* (a variety of spelt). So I soaked these instead but meanwhile the sponge which had looked quite ready when I first started was truly asking to be put to work and I had to let it sit until the berries were plump enough and, believe me, it took more than 4 hours for them not to be al dente.
Since farro is way more tender than wheat, it would take even longer with the wheat berries and I would seriously advise boiling them instead of just soaking them. But that’s besides the point which is to read a recipe attentively before starting. How many times have I read/heard that? And do you think I ever changed my ways? No. I am a speedy reader and have always been. Not that I took a class like Woody Allen who did learn speed reading, read War and Peace in 20 minutes and when asked about it, said: “It involved Russia”.
I do enjoy what I read and I recall it vividly but as far as recipes are concerned, I tend to zoom in on some words, start thinking of different techniques which could be put to use and consistently overlook some of the ingredients.
The bread still came out pretty tasty and pleasantly chewy thanks to the farro but more sour than I would have liked. Is it due to the fact that the sponge was levain-based instead of yeast-based? Probably in part. But the sponge was definitely more sour when the soaker was finally ready that it had been when I initially uncovered it.
On the other hand as I was mixing the dough and looking for some indication of how much water to use, I couldn’t believe my eyes and had to read the list of ingredients closely three times to ascertain that there had been an editing mistake and that water had indeed been omitted from the final dough. If you have the book and want to try the recipe, make sure to add it back in!
Ingredients (This bread is made over 2 days)
For the sponge
50 g firm levain (40% whole-grain)
225 g water
180 g whole grain mix, freshly milled (45% wheat, 45% spelt, 10% rye) (Beth uses whole-wheat)
For the soaker
50 g farro, spelt or wheat berries, whole
boiling water to cover
For the final dough
6 g instant dry yeast
50 g dark rye flour
320 g all-purpose flour, unbleached
16 g salt
66 g water (from soaking the berries) + enough to get medium soft dough consistency
- On Day 1, mix levain, water and flour until a smooth batter is formed. It will be very sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 12 to 24 hours
- Also on Day 1, pour boiling water over the farro (or spelt or wheat) berries to cover, cover tightly and let stand for 4 hours (or more) at room temperature (Beth has you doing this on baking day but I think the soaker needs a bit more time)
- On Day 2, stir down the sponge with a wooden sponge
- Mix the flours with the yeast
- Drain the berries and add the water, the combined flours, the berries and the salt to the sponge (an other option is to add the salt after an initial mix and a 20-minute resting period and to add the berries after the dough has been completely mixed. That’s what I’ll do next time as it makes more sense)
- Mix until well combined (I mixed by hand using a series of stretches and folds)
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and do another series of stretches and folds, dipping your hands in water if necessary to keep the dough moist
- Place the dough in a large oiled bowl and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulks (2 to 3 hours), giving the dough three folds over the first 90 minutes
- When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate it. Divide into two equal portions using a metal dough scraper
- Pre-shape each of them as a ball and let rest, covered for 10 to 15 minutes
- Shape the two loaves into balls and place seam-side down on a half-sheet covered with a semolina-dusted piece of parchment paper (or place seam-side up in well-floured proofind baskets). Since I didn’t have any baskets on hand, I just placed the loaves on parchment paper)
- Cover loosely and let proof (rise) at room temperature until doubled in bulk (1 to 1 1/2 hour)
- Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450° F/232° C after placing in it a baking stone (on middle shelf) and a metal oven dish (on the lowest shelf)
- Turn the loaves onto a peel, seam-side down, dust them with flour (an optional step) and score as desired
- Place in the oven and immediately pour a cup of water into the preheated metal pan
- Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the loaves and bake another twenty minutes
- After 40 minutes, turn off the oven and leaving the loaves inside, open the door slightly
- Ten minutes later, take the loaves out and place them on a rack to cool.
* A reader kindly corrected me on this. I am posting his comment below:
‘The Italian language does not distinguish spelt (lat. triticum spelta), emmer (lat. triticum dicoccum) and einkorn (lat. triticum monococcum), and all of these are called farro. Thus when you buy farro, it can be any of these. The word farro originates from far which meant whatever grain was local, much like the word corn in our time. South of the Alps it meant wheat, and North of the Alps it meant barley. In Italian, the word far became farina for flour and farro for any ancient wheat. In French it became farine, and in Spanish it became harina. In English, the word bar became barleycorn and then barley. All these words go back to the archaic word far which was a loanword from the middle East.’
(Thank you, Benjamin!)