Chronic pain (& white bean soup)


To follow up my last post about my excursion into making (sourdough) pain de campagne, I’m happy to report that it worked … well enough.

Pain de campagne -- imperfect but tasty

By that I mean that my loaf was not big or impressive, but it tasted great, with a crunchy exterior and a slightly sour flavour. I was on my own for lunch the day I baked it, but I wanted to celebrate. So I set the table for one, with a clean(!) table cloth and matching (!) napkin, a bit of wine, and an Italian white bean soup.

The bread was still warm, and it was wonderful spread with soft, salted butter and dipped in the soup. The next day, me and my significant other (henceforth known as J) also found it fantastic as toast – nice and crispy on the outside, and spread with his mom’s homemade orange marmalade.

White bean soup on a rainy summer's day

After letting the dough rise for that first loaf, I cut off a bit to save for the next batch. That brings me to the title of this post, as today I’m making the second loaf with my saved levain, which has been in the fridge for three days.

I took it out of the fridge and left it uncovered on the kitchen counter, in hopes it would ferment a bit more and get a bit more sour, but also, maybe, to capture some of that yeast I’d heard is floating about. (If the yeast thing is a myth, please someone enlighten me so I can stop leaving my food to “ferment” on the kitchen counters.) After about 12 hours I measured out the amount of starter called for in a recipe I found online and left it overnight.

The next morning I mixed in the first “refreshment” of water and flour and put the starter in the airing cupboard (for US readers, that’s the closet where the hot-water heater and bath towels live), covered with an oiled piece of plastic. The following morning the starter had at least doubled in bulk and was looking bubbly and alive. I mixed it with lukewarm water, and three kinds of flour: white, wheat and Cotswold crunch (all from Matthews, a local flour mill, est. 1912). I added salt, kneaded it and put it in the cupboard again to rise. After about eight hours I punched it down (take that!) and put it in the cupboard for its final rise. In fact, I went wild (!) and left it to rise overnight, just to see if I could actually get a nice, fluffy loaf.

I couldn’t.

Once again, it tasted great and had a nice texture, though was a bit over-baked so rather tough to cut with a knife (fortunately, I find tearing the bread is fun and relieves stress). J said it tasted more sour than before, which I like but isn’t to everyone’s taste. I attribute that to leaving it sitting out for a long time with the lid off (or what some people might call “poor health and safety measures”). However, I’m happy with the result. Sure, a small part of me would like to have the patience, follow-through and skill to make a really spectacular loaf of pain de campagne, but that’s the same part of me that wants to have ripped abs and a couple of novels to my name.

I won’t be baring my midriff or going on a book tour any time soon, but I can make a passable White Bean Soup. Check out the recipe here.

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2 Comments on “Chronic pain (& white bean soup)”

  1. mwoolliams says:

    I went on a breadmaking course recently and am still no better at it! Ah well….

  2. […] Chronic pain (& white bean soup) […]


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