sliced levain

Is there anything better than packing up fresh local food and heading down to the beach, the pond, or your favorite outdoor spot for a bit of fun? Is there anything better than opening up a basket full of your favorite cookies and sandwiches and pouring a big glass of lemonade while you sit back, relax and take in the view? The sounds of summer…crickets humming, birds chirping, children laughing and the faint echo of someone’s radio in the distance.
Summer. It’s short here in New England. That’s why we New Englanders get out and enjoy every second of summer that we can.

walden collage

To me, picnics capture the essence of summer. What could be more important to a picnic than fresh crusty, chewy bread?

slice of bread

We came across this fantastic bottle of olive oil and had to buy it. Isn’t it great? The olive oil is beautifully packaged, looks like perfume and even has an atomizer for spraying the bread. It’s hilarious. How could we pass it up?

olive oil (1)

The next time you think about packing a picnic, ask yourself, “what kind of bread will make this picnic truly memorable?” – then try this recipe. You won’t regret it.
Pain de Campagne (Country Bread)
Required Time: 2-3 days
Adapted from: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Preheat oven to 425 using a baking stone. We keep a cast iron pan in the bottom of the oven and add a pan of water to it right after the bread goes in to create steam and to help the crust form.

The Chef

1/2 c. whole wheat flour
3 tbs. warm h20 (105-115 F)
1/2 tsp. milk
1/8 tsp. cumin
Make a well in the center of the flour and add the water, milk and cumin. Need for 5-8 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 2 days in a draft-free location. It will develop a light crust.
Refreshment 1
2 tbs. chef (above)
about 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. warm h20 (105-115F)
Mound the flour and make a well in the center large enough to hold the remaining ingredients. Tear open the crusty chef and scoop out 2 tbs. of the moist dough. Rip it up and add it to the well. Pour in the water and let it rest for a few minutes. Knead for 5-8 minutes until it’s nice and stretchy. This is now called a Levain.
Place the levain in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a draft free location for about 18 hours or until there is a noticeable rise. Caution, this step is often not successful and you may have to try the recipe a few times to get it right. The temperature of your home and the amount of natural yeast in the air affect the outcome.
Refreshment 2
1/2 c. levain (above)
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 cup warm H20 (110-115F)
2/12 tsp. salt
Add the water to a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Tear the levain into small pieces and add to the water. Let rest for a few minutes. With the mixer at low speed, gradually add the flour until you have a shaggy mass of dough. Add the salt. Raise the speed and mix until smooth and elastic about 6 minutes. Briefly knead by hand to firm up the dough.
Fourth Rise: Place in bowl covered with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 5 hours.
Form the dough: Form into a ball and let rise at room temperature for about 4 hours. Dust with flour and slash with bread razor. Spray the oven with water. Bake for about 40-50 minutes until crust forms a rich, golden color.
bread and olive oil
Delicious. So, what’s you’re favorite picnic spot? One place you may want to picnic is the Crane Estate in Ipswich, Massachusetts.


Fresh New England

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  1. El, you are lucky indeed! I would have a picnic every night with this bread. My favorite spot is on anyone’s screened porch if I’m lucky enough to have an invitation, or if I’m really lucky and have planned a trip, on Monhegan Island in Maine. I just wrote lucky 3 times, I guess I’m feeling….lucky! Maybe a picnic is in my near future

  2. Ah! No picnic is complete without fresh bread!! with a bit of cheese. the idea of chilling, breaking bread and chewing slowly is just luxurious:)) Nice that your hub bakes such lovely bread….

  3. WHERE did you find that olive oil?! I went to the Chateau d’Estoublon a few years ago while staying in St. Remy in Provence… I’ve longed to procure their products since that visit! Also, BRAVA for finding a husband who will bake you bread.

  4. Fabulous! A bread-baking husband is increasingly rare these days…and that loaf looks fantastic. We’d always take the ferry over to the Cape (But not really in the summer so as to avoid tourist-central) or drive to New Hampshire for a weekend. Here in the Bay Area, we escape to Lake Tahoe where my family’s had a little house since I was in diapers. There have been many a picnics there on the docks. Great post, El. Happy summer!

  5. What an interesting bottle for olive oil! The atomizer is a great idea. I totally have a few friends who I would buy olive oil cologne for.

  6. The bread looks gorgeous and it really doesn’t need anything except good olive oil to enhance it’s flavour. What a great treat to bring to a picnic as well over a lazy weekend.

  7. I agree this bread is perfect El, but I am really in love with the olive oil in that cunning dispenser… so good for a light mist of oil… and the packaging is just stunning… thanks for the tip!

  8. yum! nothing beats a picnic does it? the boys and i went out the other week and i ate under an old oak as the boys tried their hand at catching toads.

    i’m definitely making a loaf of this bread for upcoming camping adventure.

  9. I can only dream of making a bread so perfect. It’s gorgeous! And, no, there is nothing better than heading out with fresh eats and enjoying them in nature!

  10. You can never so wrong with a simple picnic of bread & olive oil. Love that packaging too- so fun! For my bridal shower years ago, my mom got me a picnic basket stocked with colorful plates, and utensils. She knows me too well! This reminds me that I need to put it to use more often!

  11. I’ve decided that rustic / artisan bread baking is my next challenge, this is a great recipe for me to test the waters. What a great find the olive oil is. I like that it comes in a bottle with an atomizer.

  12. Stunning bread! I wish I had a husband who would make that for me. I’ve been meaning to make bread and feel like now I have no excuse. Seriously inspiring.

  13. Baking with Julia is a fabulous book. However this is a recipe that I have yet to try. I think it’s the time factor, I can’t seem to remember to start a few days before I want the bread. Seeing how beautiful your loaf is should inspire me to get with it.

  14. Oh my, that’s a recipe alright! Unfortunately I’m rather lazy and would probably just go to Panera and buy a loaf ; ) Unless I can get my husband to learn how to bake!

    I’m loving our summer this year! Though rather humid, at least it’s warm.

  15. I recognized that bottle of olive oil the second I saw it! It’s made in the area where I grew up in Provence. The town of Fontvieille is so rich in history and folklore! I hope you get to visit one day!

  16. Now that is a picnic! I WILL try this recipe… was just in Paris a little ove a week ago and am now sitting in a wireless cafe in Bosnia uploading some photos to try to post another Paris piece. I actually took a bread baking course while there at Le Cordon Bleu and it was incredible. I will be posting the learning while there eventually. Love your photos, as always… but the “perfume”? Incredible. Truly.

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