Rustic Wholegrain French-Style © ejmorris 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004

based on a recipe entitled "Pain de compagne sur poolish" in The Village Baker by Joe Ortiz published by Ten Speed Press

revised January 2003, January 2004

Ingredients (makes one large boule)

Starter Dough:
2 tsp active dry yeast
¼ c warm water
1¼ c room temperature water
½ c rye flour
½ c whole wheat flour
1 c unbleached all-purpose flour


1 tsp active dry yeast
¼ c warm water
all of Starter Dough
¾ to 1 c room temperature water
4 c unbleached all-purpose flour (more or less)
1 Tbsp salt

Starter Dough
  1. On the night before you are going to make bread, in a small bowl, mix the yeast in the lukewarm water (do the baby's bottle test on your wrist) and make sure that it bubbles (about 10 minutes).

  2. In a bowl large enough for the Starter Dough to triple, stir together the 3 types of flour with a wooden spoon. Add the water and the yeasted water and stir well until it has the consistency of pancake batter.

  3. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the Starter Dough rise in a no-draught cool room for 6 to 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

  1. In a small bowl, mix the yeast in ¼ c lukewarm water (do the baby's bottle test on your wrist) and make sure that it bubbles (about 10 minutes).

  2. Add the rest of the water to the Starter Dough bowl (if the Starter Dough has been refrigerated, allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour before starting) and mix well. Let your hands be your friends by squeezing the dough between your fingers.

  3. Put all but ½ c of the flour into a large mixing bowl (enough for the final dough to triple in volume. Add the starter dough and water. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until there are no dry bits of flour left and a rough dough has formed. Cover with plastic and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

  4. Scatter some of the remaining flour on a flat surface (wooden board) for kneading. Turn the dough out onto the board. Sprinkle the salt over the dough which should be rather slack. (It should look a bit like porridge.)

  5. Wash and dry the bowl. (Please do not be tempted to skip this step.)

  6. Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes, using a dough scraper (spatula if you don't have one). Add a little flour but don't be afraid to get one hand covered in dough. (The clean hand is manipulating the dough scraper.) The dough should be quite moist. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and pulls easily away from your hand and the board.

  7. Place dough in the clean dry mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a no-draught spot on the counter for 20 minutes. Lightly sprinkle the board with flour (there might still be some remaining from that half cup; otherwise use a little more) and gently turn the dough out, trying not to disturb any bubbles. Fold the left side into the center, then the top, then the right side then the bottom. Turn the dough over and fold in half once more. Place it back in the bowl smooth side up. Cover with plastic. Let it ferment at room temperature for 20 minutes again. Repeat this step twice. (This step is done at 20 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes after the first kneading.) After the final step, let the dough rise undisturbed in the no-draught spot on the counter til doubled - about 1 to 2 hours depending on the room temperature.

  8. When dough has doubled, gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Flatten it gently (try not to disturb the bubbles); fold the outer edges to the middle. Repeat by folding dough 4 or 5 times until you have formed a round. Place on a parchment covered baking tray - or peel if you have one. Sprinkle flour liberally over the loaf. Cover with plastic and allow to rise for about 1 hour til almost double. To test, flour your finger and press gently on the edge - it should very slowly spring back. For comparison, try pressing early on to see how it quickly springs back when the dough has not risen enough.

  9. Half an hour before you will be baking the bread, place baking stone on the second shelf from the bottom of the oven and turn oven to 450F. Put water into a broiling pan and place it on the bottom rack of the oven. If you don't have a baking stone, it's still a good idea to preheat the oven for a substantial amount of time.
    round slashes
  10. Optional step: Just before baking, slash the top of loaf with a very sharp knife at a perpendicular angle. Do this only if the bread has risen to almost half. If it has risen higher, the bread has a tendency to fall if slashed.

  11. Spray the bread liberally with water. Place bread in oven and immediately turn oven down to 400F; bake the loaf for 50-60 minutes until hollow sounding on the bottom. It's a good idea to turn the bread after about 20 minutes of baking to allow for uneven heat in the oven. Remove parchment paper at the same time if you are using a stone.

  12. Turn off the oven. Put the finished bread back in the oven and leave with the door ajar for 5 or 10 minutes. Remove to cool upended on cooling rack. Wait til the bread is cool before cutting it. If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after it has cooled completely.

Uneaten bread should be stored at room temperature rather than refrigerated. (the refrigerator causes the bread to go stale faster) Bread can also be stored in the freezer - double bagged airtight plastic. Take it out of the freezer and leave it in the bag until the bread has thawed. To reheat the bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the oven for ten minutes.