Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Rustic Crust

My title

Pain de Campagne

After about thirty years of home baking, I'm now considering trying to make this a business. Once upon a time, when I lived in Greenwich Village, New York City, I would bake bread about three times a week. It was fun, and a stress relief. I had a tiny kitchen, and an even tinier workspace - the butcher block top of a rolling cart, wedged between my stove and the fridge.

After a period of baking loaves that could double as building materials (and I would like to insert a tribute to my sister Peri, who dutifully tried those woeful attempts, and didn't complain) I finally managed to turn out some reasonable products. I made rye bread, bagels, croissants and all sorts of things. Some were good, some disasters and some were very very good.

Since you almost always bake two loaves at a time, I had far more than I could eat (and I eat a lot!) So, I started to take me breads across the street to my local bar, a trendy and happening place called the Scrap Bar. 

Since I usually finished baking around ten PM, the breads were warm, when I went down to the Scrap Bar. New York bartenders work very late, usually until four AM, and they get pretty hungry around ten or eleven, so a loaf of hot fresh bread was a treat. They even started to buy butter and they laid in a bread knife and cutting board. I think it goes without saying that I got a lot of free beer.

Well, that was long ago and far away. The Scrap Bar is gone, and I now live in St Albans in England with my lovely wife, whom I met in the Scrap Bar. I bake as a hobby, but now I inflict the results on my wife and sometimes on the neighbours.

Well, no longer will I confine myself to small and infrequent bakings! I have a sourdough culture I made from rainwater and flour from the Redbournebury Mill, a mill that's only about 4 miles away. I want to use that sourdough and the local flour to make lots more bread. That way, I can have fun, and I get a wider audience. Also, with any luck, people will like the bread and buy it.

Sourdough Poppyseed rolls
I've recently made these breads, among others. They are all made with my sourdough culture, with no added yeast.  They stay fresh and moist for up to a week, easily, stored in a bread bin. They can be frozen and thawed with no ill effects; that's what I do when I have too much. The rolls are very good with dinner. The poppyseed rolls are good for sandwiches, and the stout and aniseed rolls are so moreish that I will have trouble letting them go, and not eating them all myself.

Sourdough Rye with Stout and Aniseed
I plan to write more about sourdough later. I may even put up recipes!


  1. Your rolls are perfectly shaped and look very tasty.:)

  2. Hello David!

    From one baker to another, so happy you're taking your bread seriously. I couldn't find your address (I know I wrote it down somewhere) but I wanted to wish you Happy Holidays and all that. It was great seeing you, if only briefly, singing French songs to the rats and just making the last Tube to N. London. Currently exploring Viennoiserie (see below) but still baking the odd Campagne. Curious to read your recipes if you post.

    We wish you much success in 2012!

    Your pals,

    Emily & Ira Cole