A Taste Of The Past- Pain De Méteil

A True Country Bread

Pain de Meteil - Rye and Wheat Sourdough

In the long-forgotten annuls of history lies the story of Pain de Méteil. The naturally leavened bread is rustic, bold, and raw in its nature; a true country sourdough bread, a bread of terroir. It is imbued with deep malty aromas of toasted bran and sweet nuanced tones of caramelized honey coming from the rye. The crust is thick and fissured like volcanic earth complemented by the moist and flavorful crumb. In 18th century France the joint cultivation of wheat and rye was done to produce a field blend for flour production, Meslin. This practice was made in an effort by farmers to make use of land unsuitable for the sole production of wheat. The ingenuity of the farmers led them to interplant generally higher-yielding and more valuable wheat crops with rye. Additionally, If a year was unfavorable to one species, it would often be favorable to the other, thus the meslin offered another safeguard.

Bread of the Impoverished

Milled together this flour and the resulting bread was valued much less than the 100% wheat bread of the time. In 1766 the price was fixed in at two-thirds the price of a wheat loaf, where a loaf of rye was one half the price. Given this fact, it is not surprising that this was the bread of the peasant class of 18th century France. The working class often subjected to eating bread of poor quality and mostly comprised of bran.

The decline of Meslin began in the 19th century with the appearance of triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye. This hybrid offered an alternative to farmers tending to poor soils and soon took place of the mixed production.

French Tradition, California Grain

Fast forward to modern-day Southern California where a project to stimulate the revival of local grain economies was born, The Tehachapi Grain Project. The project - founded by Alex Weiser (Weiser Family Farms), Glenn Roberts (Anson Mills), and Jon Hammond (Linda Vista Ranch) - focuses on the cultivation of heirloom non-GMO grains and revitalizing the independent grain economy of California.

Tehachapi grain project flour
Tehachapi Field Blend

In a chance meeting on the cliffs of the Pacific Coast at the world-class resort Post Ranch Inn (Big Sur, CA), I met Sherry Mandell of the Tehachapi Grain Project. I was working there at the time as a consultant for the bread program, under the direction of Executive Chef Jonathan Black and General Manager extraordinaire Gary Obligacion. Sherry was a warm and generous person, and extremely passionate about the project. She was kind enough to gift me a field blend of Red Fife and Landrace rye. I wasn’t sure what to make with it at the moment but I knew I wanted to keep it close by. So much so that it traveled all the way to France with me. I had a lightbulb moment when I learned of this bread in a book authored by my friend Thomas Teffri-Chambelland, Founder of The Ecole Internationale de boulangerie. A school focused on the instruction and development for bakers focusing on Organic naturally leavened (sourdough) bread with minimal intervention. At that moment I knew exactly what to make with the field blend (meslin). It was the perfect combination of circumstances that allowed me to find the flour’s ‘spirit bread’

Pain de Méteil- bread crumb shot

You can find the original recipe in Traité de boulangerie au levain a beautiful book that I highly recommend for anyone interested in the science of sourdough baking. Below is an adaptation of the recipe, yielding a 1.2kg loaf.

Pain de Méteil Recipe

1. Prepare your Rye levain and ferment for 12 hrs or a PH of 3.8 is achieved

2. Combine your flour and water 1 (88F) and mix for 5 minutes at speed one of a mixer or 7 mins by hand.

3. Add your Rye Levain and continue to mix for 5 minutes on speed one of a mixer or 7 mins by hand.

4. Add your salt and mix for 2 minutes

5. Add water 2 and continue to mix for 3 minutes until well incorporated.

6. Bulk ferment for three hours at 76F

7. Shape into a boule and place into a well-floured basket

8. Final Proof for 1 hour 15 minutes

9. Preheat oven to 500. Bake at 455F for 20 mins, 430 for 30 mins, and 392 for 25 mins


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