Pain de Campagne
Country-Style French Bread
3 cups organic, unbleached white (or all-purpose) flour
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces; about the size of a large orange) levain from the previous step
1 1/4 cups very warm water
2 1/2 generous teaspoons salt
They have you do the whole fountain thing on the counter again, but as many times as I've made this bread, it always is too messy at this stage, so I cheat and use our Kitchen-Aid.
To mix the dough, make a fountain with the flour, add all of the levain, in little pieces, and the the water, a little at a time.
As the water is added, dissolve the levain in it and gradually pull in some of the flour to make a sticky paste. As the flour is added, the paste will become more and more elastic and should be stretched and pulled vigorously with the fingers of one hand. When all but about 1 cup of the flour has been incorporated, the dough will be moist and sticky. Clean your hands with the back of a knife blade or a plastic dough scraper and work those little bits into the dough.
Sprinkle the salt onto the wet dough and incorporate it by kneading it in, together with the remaining flour. Knead the dough for 5 more minutes until it is firm and springs back when touched.
Pour the warm water into the bowl with the levain, and dissolve it by working it with your fingers. Put flour in a mixing bowl, and add the dissolved levain, and begin mixing. After it has become a paste, sprinkle in the salt, and work in. Knead according to your mixer's instructions, or, knead by hand five minutes.
Let the dough rise, covered with a damp cloth, for between 8 and 10 hours. The dough will become noticeably inflated and will have risen to nearly double its original size.