Is there anything better than packing up fresh local food and heading down to the beach, the pond, or your favorite outdoor spot for a bit of fun? Is there anything better than opening up a basket full of your favorite cookies and sandwiches and pouring a big glass of lemonade while you sit back, relax and take in the view? The sounds of summer...crickets humming, birds chirping, children laughing and the faint echo of someone's radio in the distance.
Summer. It's short here in New England. That's why we New Englanders get out and enjoy every second of summer that we can.
To me, picnics capture the essence of summer. What could be more important to a picnic than fresh crusty, chewy bread?
I'm lucky. My husband is the bread baker in the house and does he ever make good bread. Just take a look at this beautiful rustic loaf and imagine it with your favorite filling.
As if the bread and outdoors weren't enough. We came across this fantastic bottle of olive oil and had to buy it. Isn't it great? The olive oil is beautifully packaged, looks like perfume and even has an atomizer for spraying the bread. It's even produced by a wonderful maker. For $25.00 (US) how could we pass it up?
The next time you think about packing a picnic, ask yourself, "what kind of bread will make this picnic truly memorable?" - then try this recipe. You won't regret it.
Pain de Campagne (Country Bread)
Required Time: 2-3 days
Adapted from: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Preheat oven to 425 using a baking stone like this. We keep a cast iron pan in the bottom of the oven and add a pan of water to it right after the bread goes in to create steam and to help the crust form.
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
3 tbs. warm h20 (105-115 F)
1/2 tsp. milk
1/8 tsp. cumin
Make a well in the center of the flour and add the water, milk and cumin. Need for 5-8 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 2 days in a draft-free location. It will develop a light crust.
2 tbs. chef (above)
about 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. warm h20 (105-115F)
Mound the flour and make a well in the center large enough to hold the remaining ingredients. Tear open the crusty chef and scoop out 2 tbs. of the moist dough. Rip it up and add it to the well. Pour in the water and let it rest for a few minutes. Knead for 5-8 minutes until it's nice and stretchy. This is now called a Levain.
Place the levain in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a draft free location for about 18 hours or until there is a noticeable rise. Caution, this step is often not successful and you may have to try the recipe a few times to get it right. The temperature of your home and the amount of natural yeast in the air affect the outcome.
1/2 c. levain (above)
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 cup warm H20 (110-115F)
2/12 tsp. salt
Add the water to a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Tear the levain into small pieces and add to the water. Let rest for a few minutes. With the mixer at low speed, gradually add the flour until you have a shaggy mass of dough. Add the salt. Raise the speed and mix until smooth and elastic about 6 minutes. Briefly knead by hand to firm up the dough.
Fourth Rise: Place in bowl covered with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 5 hours.
Form the dough: Form into a ball and let rise at room temperature for about 4 hours. Dust with flour and slash with bread razor. Spray the oven with water. Bake for about 40-50 minutes until crust forms a rich, golden color.
Delicious. So, what's you're favorite picnic spot? One place you may want to picnic is the Crane Estate in Ipswich, Massachusetts. You can read about it here on my new blog Fresh Home and Garden. Check it out, I'd love to have you visit!