Boule De Campagne
A Hearty Traditional Bread You Can Make at Home
Boule de campagne, also called "French sourdough", is typically a large round loaf made from either natural leavening or baker's yeast. Professional bakers use enormous steam-injected ovens to bake this hearty bread, but home bakers can achieve remarkably similar results by baking a loaf in a sturdy Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid that holds in the steam released by the dough as it bakes.
Boule de Campagne
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (105 degrees to 110 degrees F)
- 1 tsp. active dry yeast
- 2 tsp. Kosher salt, divided
- Olive oil or vegetable oil spray
- Dutch oven
- Stand mixer (recommended)
- Plastic wrap
- Kitchen towels
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and set on medium speed, combine the flour, water, yeast, and 1 3/4 teaspoon of the salt. Mix until the mixture forms smooth, elastic dough, 8 to 10 minutes. (Depending on the size of the bowl, you might need to occasionally stop the mixer and remove the dough from the hook if the dough is not moving around the bowl and mixing well.) When the dough looks smooth, cut off a piece and stretch it. If it stretches to the point of transparency, proceed to the next step. If not, continue mixing until it does.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise until it doubles in size and does not spring back when pressed with a finger, 2 to 4 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 8 to 10 turns to release the gas and redistribute the yeast. Shape it into a loose ball. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.
Lightly oil or mist the inside of a round Dutch oven.
Shape the dough into a tight ball (the tighter the better) by rolling it on the work surface with your palms. Place the dough ball in the center of the pot and cover with the lid. Let stand until the dough nearly doubles in bulk, 30 to 60 minutes. The warmer and more humid the room, the less time it will take.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Gently rub the top of the dough with olive oil. Use a sharp knife or lame held at a slight angel to score the top of the dough with an X or a few short slashes, splitting the skin without cutting deeply into the dough. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt.
Cover the pot and bake 30 minutes. Remove the lid, reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F, and continue baking until the bread is nicely browned and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. It will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 200 degrees to 205 degrees F. Turn the loaf out on a wire rack to cool completely.