, , ,

rustic european bread all 081Many ex-pat cooks become adept at making what they have been accustomed  to buying ‘back home’.   Jams, jellies, peanut butter, pancake syrup, tortillas, English muffins, pasta and, of course, ice cream come to mind as representative of what the cook outside her native element learns to produce in her own kitchen rather than go without.

The current dk Menu ( Blunting the Keen Tooth of Winter:  A Supper Party following an Out-of-Doors Afternoon) includes an Onion Soup that requires a good sturdy bread that will not disintegrate on contact with liquid.  Anyone living in the vicinity of a bakery offering ‘country style’ bread or ‘pain de campagne’ will have no problem procuring the right sort of loaf.  But if your kitchen is not so conveniently located in this respect, this recipe is offered as a way to provide yourself with what you cannot buy so that you do not have to forgo making what you will.

And sometimes…even if you can buy it, it is more fun to do it yourself.

rustic european bread all 085Rustic Loaves (for 2 small loaves)

Note: To print this recipe, or any other diplomatickitchen recipe, go to the bottom of the page, at the end of the post, and click on the icon: Print & PDF. You will have the option of printing in smaller text size and without photos.

A Timing Note:  The starter for these loaves is made a day ahead and left overnight at room temperature.  Mixing, time for the dough to rise and baking  will take approximately 4 hours.  In this case, long hours do not mean difficult to make.  If you would like an especially crisp crust, add some extra time to this estimate:  turn off the oven, crack the door, and leave the loaves to cool in the oven.

A Measuring Note:  The amounts of the ingredients are given in American measurements and, in parentheses, metric ones.  To measure the flour using American measures, pour the flour into the cup and level it off.

rustic european bread all 005Ingredients for the Starter:

  • 2 and 1/2 fluid ounces of cool Water (about 70 ml)
  • 1/2 cup, minus 1 Tablespoon of Unbleached White Flour (57 grams)
  • 1/8 teaspoon of Instant Dry Yeast

Ingredients for the Loaves:

  • the Starter
  • 6 ounces of cool Water (160 ml)
  • 2 and 1/2 cups, plus 2 teaspoons, plus 1/4 teaspoon of White Unbleached Flour (305 grams), plus a little more Flour to sprinkle on the pastry board and your hands as you knead the dough
  • 1 teaspoon of Instant Dry Yeast
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of Kosher Salt
  • a very little Butter to grease the bowl in which the dough rises
  • some Water for brushing over the loaves before baking


  • a Digital Scale is useful for measuring ingredients because measurements by weight tend to be more consistent; however, this is not a fussy recipe and doesn’t require great exactness.
  • a small Bowl for mixing the starter
  • a large-ish Mixing Bowl for mixing the dough for the loaves
  • a Bowl in which to let the dough rise
  • an Electric Mixer with a Paddle Attachment is optional for mixing the dough;  it may be mixed by hand instead.
  • a Pastry Board
  • a flat metal or hard plastic Spatula for scraping the sticky dough away from your fingers and the pastry board as you knead it
  • a Parchment-lined Baking Sheet
  • a Knife for slashing the bread before baking

rustic european bread all 001I.  Making the Starter (The starter sits at room temperature overnight.)

1.  In a small bowl combine the water, flour and yeast.  Stir them together.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and set it aside at room temperature overnight.

II.  Making Rustic Loaves

1.  In a mixing bowl, combine the starter, the water, flour, yeast and salt.

2.  Stir with a spoon to mix the dough or use an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  When the mixture forms a dough which comes away from the sides of the bowl, but is still sticky.  Let the dough rest in the bowl for 20 minutes, covered, then turn it out onto a lightly floured pastry board…

rustic european bread all 016…Knead it until it is smooth…Depending on the weather, the dough may be very sticky.  Occasionally scrape it off the board and your hands with a flat metal or hard plastic spatula, sprinkle a little more flour on the board and your hands and continue kneading. (Pick up the dough from time to time and smash it down on the board.)  When the dough is sufficiently kneaded, it will still be damp to the touch, still a little sticky, but it will tend to pull away from the board and from your fingers instead of tending to cling to them:

rustic european bread all 0203.  Place the dough in a very lightly greased bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a towel and let it rise for about 1 and 1/2 hours or until it doubles in size.

4.  When the dough is risen, transfer it to a pastry board and divide it into 2 equal parts.  Cover the dough and let it rest for another 20 minutes before forming it into “bâtards” (small, oval-shaped loaves, slightly pointed at each end).

rustic european bread all 0385.  To form a ‘bâtard‘, press one half of the dough out into a rough, long-ish oval shape, about 10 inches across:

rustic european bread all 0556.  Imagine the dough divided (left to right) into 3 parts.  Fold the right third of the dough over the middle third, making a vertical crease down the center of the dough, and seal the crease line:

rustic european bread all 0567.  Pick up the top right-hand corner of the dough and bring it down to form a (very rough) right triangle perpendicular to the vertical crease with its right angle at the center of the vertical crease…

rustic european bread all 057…then bring the bottom right hand corner up to meet it (as though you were folding a napkin or handkerchief) and seal all the edges:

rustic european bread all 0588.  Now fold the remaining third of the dough on your left.  Beginning with the edge of the left-hand portion of dough closest to you, pick it up where it meets the bottom of the vertical crease down the center of the dough and bring it up to the midpoint of the vertical crease..

rustic european bread all 059…Now lift the left-hand portion of dough where it meets the top of the vertical crease down the dough’s center and bring it up to meet its mate.  Seal all the edges:

rustic european bread all 0609.  You have formed the dough into a shape with a sharply pointed end to your left and a blunter pointed end on your right.  Beginning with the blunter point’ to your right, roll the dough toward the more sharply pointed end on your left…

rustic european bread all 061…The  pointed tips of the ‘bâtard‘ form as you roll the dough, right-to-left:

rustic european bread all 06210.  Give the loaf a quarter turn so that the pointed ends are to your right and left, and pinch the edges together to seal them:

rustic european bread all 06311.  Turn the ‘bâtard‘ right side up…

rustic european bread all 064…Transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet and form the second loaf in the same way.  Let the loaves rise, covered loosely with a cotton dishtowel, for about 2 hours…

rustic european bread all 066…Once risen, they will resemble fat little footballs:

rustic european bread all 06713.  Near the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425 F (218 C).  Make a couple of diagonal slashes in each loaf and, with your fingers, smooth some water over the surface of each one.

rustic european bread all 07014.  Bake the loaves for 30 – 35 minutes, or until they are golden.  For an extra crisp crust, turn off the oven at the end of the baking time, crack the oven door, and let the loaves cool in the oven.

15.  This bread is very good eaten fresh.  It remains good for several weeks to use in any recipe requiring a bread of sturdy texture if it is stored in the refrigerator.

rustic european bread all 074A Note:  Slices from these Rustic Loaves are used to make Red Wine Onion Soup Gratiné in the dk’s Occasional Menu:  Blunting the Keen Tooth of Winter:  A Supper Party following an Out-of-Doors Afternoon.  The recipe for the soup will appear in the dk’s next post.  This bread recipe is based on one by King Arthur Flour for European-Style Hearth Bread.

rustic european bread all 075An Invitation: You are invited to request suggestions from the diplomatickitchen for your own menus for any occasion by clicking on the feature ‘Ask and Tell’ here or in the Menu at the top of the page. Do you have a menu concept with a gap or two that wants filling…or perhaps you are an expat looking for ways to adapt your recipes to what is available in your temporary home…maybe you are just looking for a new way to use a familiar ingredient or would like suggestions on how to adjust quantities of a recipe from the diplomatickitchen for smaller or larger groups…Replies will be published in ‘Ask and Tell’ or sent by email if you prefer.

© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012