Pain de campagne

March 29, 2006 at 3:54 pm (Food)

There’s a cafeteria at l’Institut de cardiologie (Heart Institute) here in Montreal called La mie de coeur. Whoever came up with the name should be applauded, as the name can be translated as either “sweetheart” or “heart of the matter.” But, also, “mie” is the French term for that oh-so-lovely white part of bread. So, when I first saw the name, back in 1995, I thought to myself, “wait, there’s no word in English for that white part of bread,” and it became the basis of one of my oft-repeated jokes: “Wow, English has a word for everything! Except for the white innards of bread.” (Why yes, I do lead a sad, sorry life. Why do you ask?) In fact, a certain someone repeated the same line the other night, and I sat there, feeling sweet satisfaction knowing that I had passed some wisdom along.
So imagine my surprise, the other day, when I found out that there is, in fact, an English equivalent to “mie,” boring as it is: crumb. How boring is that? My reality has been shattered. Damn you, English-French dictionaries! Damn you all to hell!
Regardless, here’s the recipe. I love these types of recipes, as you can make them over a long period of time, without having to rush the process, similar to making confit, roast chicken or cassoulet. Mix some ingredients together, go off, have a glass of wine, read a chapter or two, return to the recipe.

  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1.5 cups flour (I use unbleached white)
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 2 c. warm water
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 3 + 1.5 c. flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • egg whites, if you have ’em

A day before you intend to make the bread, mix together the first three ingredients. Cover and leave overnight. I ended up ignoring it for about a day, occasionally lifting the plastic and breathing in the soury goodness. I’m thinking that, the next time I make this recipe I’ll substitute some of the water for a small portion of sour-mash beer, i.e. either some Guinness or Mort Subite. Heck, there’s already some yeast there, plus some bacteria.
When you can’t wait any longer, add the 2 tsp of yeast to 2 c. water. Add the soured starter, and the remainder of the ingredients, leaving the 1.5 c flour (and egg whites) aside. (This is why we shelled out for our mixer; it makes this part much easier.) When everything is blended, but still fairly wet, add in the remaining flour, about 1/4 c. at a time. Turn on to a floured surface, and knead for about 8-10 minutes. Think of the workout your shoulders are getting: it helps. Summer is nearly here, and ripped shoulders make the girls/guys go crazy. So I’ve been told. Place this dough in an oiled (please, olive oil) bowl, cover for an hour or so, and return to your glass of wine.
Stumble back to your bowl, freak out a bit at how much the dough has risen, and punch it down. Cut in half, roll out on a floured surface into any shape you want, place on a floured sheet, cover and let rise for another 45 minutes. Return, again, to your glass of wine. Isn’t this fun?
Brush with the egg whites, and bake for 45 minutes at 425 F. The result is these two massive loaves, very meaty and crusty. The crumb is thick, yet light at the same time. It absolutely soaks up the butter when toasted. Several days later, and it’s still fresh. A very slight taste of sourbread, but not overwhelming.
To serve? Well, um, grilled cheese sandwich, of course. The milliner uses gruyère, but I stick to American processed cheese food product slices.



  1. Christine said,

    YUM! That looks sooooo good! :)~

  2. Lisa said,

    Mmmm fake plastic cheese. Ain’t nothing better for a grilled cheese sandwich!

    How did your sourdough bread turn out?

  3. Michel said,

    Um, Lisa? This was it. The starter was left to sour.
    Thanks christine. It tastes even better.

  4. strawberry said,

    What a nice lookin’ bread 🙂 And it’s artisan too!

    I thought that Sourdough starter need some dark rye flour. But, I guess you can substitute it with whole-wheat flour, eh?

  5. Michel said,

    Wow, I never thought of the dark rye. That could work, so i’ll try it next time.

  6. stroppycow said,

    Doesn’t crumbs=miettes (ie, bits of “mie”) rather than mie?

  7. Michel said,

    That’s what I thought as well, until I looked up the definition.

  8. Lisa said,

    Yup, I thought it needed rye flour too – that’s why I didn’t realise it was sourdough bread.

  9. Michel said,

    I guess I over-simplified the “sourdough” part.
    So, the starter was slightly soured for a day. I bought a bread book on the weekend, and realised that keeping sourdough on hand is about as labour-intensive as owning a cat, i.e. you can ignore it most of the time, but you still have to feed it now and then. Because, otherwise, it raises a stink.

  10. the milliner said,

    and boy does it raise a stink.

  11. blk said,

    bread and baking intimidates me. i found a lovely soda bread from epicurious i need to try out.



  12. Anonymous said,

    Webster’s II: Crumb: 3. The soft inner part of bread.

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