Sunday, May 26, 2013

Pain Cordon de Bourgogne

The Cord of Poverty

(switch to dutch) This loaf has it all. Great dough, great flavor, and; slashing not required! A rope of twisted dough, placed parallel on top of the loaf, magically takes care of that. And it has great visual appeal. The long twisted strand of dough is like an umbilical cord. Where it touches the dough, it folds open. It's almost hard not to have associations with life, birth and fertility when looking at it.

The origins of the bread go way back to the time of the crusades, to Vézelay, France. It was from this Christian enclave that people left for the 2nd and 3rd crusades. Among the many monastic orders around Vézelay, there were the 'cordeliers', followers of Francis of Assisi. They were called that because of the simple rope they knotted around their robes, as a symbol of poverty. They also used the rope for bread making. They marked the bread with it, and proofed the dough, draping it lengthwise over the cord, thus achieving a nice 'grigne' without any actual slashing of the dough. What would they use to hold up their robes while baking...

Somewhere along the line the actual rope was replaced with the doughy version. I think we all know why...

Pain Cordon de Bourgogne; crust

Pain Cordon de Bourgogne

300 gr. bread flour
125 gr. high extraction flour
75 gr. rye flour

First make the flour mix; weigh out all the flours accurately and sift all of them together


150 gr. active wheat starter (100% hydration)
100 gr. flour mix
90 gr. lukewarm water
20 gr. buttermilk
4 gr. fresh yeast (or 1½ gr. dry active yeast)

Pain Cordon de Bourgogne; crumb & crust

Dissolve the (fresh) yeast into the lukewarm water and leave to rest for 15 minutes. If using dry yeast, you can continue to the next step right after the yeast has dissolved.

Add the yeasted water and the buttermilk to the 150 gr. of active starter. Stir until it goes all frothy. Add the flour mix and stir it all together into a mushy porridge. Leave this, covered, at room temperature for about 1½ hours. It will be ready when it goes all bubbly and has doubled, or even tripled in volume.


the poolish
400 gr. flour mix
40 gr. buttermilk
170 gr. water
12.8 gr salt

Stir the water and buttermilk through the poolish. Add the flour and mix it into a rough dough with the back of a wooden spoon. Cover and leave to autolyse for about 30 minutes.

Knead the salt through the dough, either by hand or in a stand mixer. About three minutes. Cover and leave for 15 minutes.

Knead the dough for another minute or so and cover and rest for 15 more minutes.

Knead the dough one last time for about a minute, or 2 minutes by hand. Form into a ball, cover and let the dough rest for another hour or until the dough has more or less doubled in bulk.

Put a baking stone in the lower third of your oven and preheat it to 240°C

Turn out the dough on your work surface and cut about 75 grams of dough off the dough, shape it into a small ball and leave to rest for 5 minutes. 

Flatten the dough into a rectangle, and shape it into a 'batard'.

Dust your proofing basket royally with rye flour.

Roll the small ball out into two strands of dough, flour them lightly and twist them around each other. The cord should cover the entire length of the dough.

Place the cord in your proofing basket, centered and hanging over the far ends. Place the dough, seam side up on the cord. Cover and rest until doubled in bulk, about 1½-2 hours.

Pain Cordon de Bourgogne; proofing
When you poke the dough with your finger, and it returns slowly, your bread is ready to go into the oven. If it springs back within a few seconds, leave it to rest a little longer. When you poke your dough and the dent doesn't spring back at all.... you have over proofed your dough. Keep an eye on it, and remember; under proofing is a more common occurrence than over proofing.

Spray the walls of your oven with some water.

Transfer the loaf from the basket onto a peel. Bake it on the stone for 15 minutes on 240°C, then lower the temperature to 210°C, and bake for a further 30 minutes until the crust is nice and dark.



  1. Interesting story and great looking bread. Sounds like something I have to look into!

  2. hey Karin; I have added a 'crumb shot' for you! I'd love to hear from you if you ever make this one. It's a great bread! Most of all, I want to find out if this technique (putting a string of doug where you want to slash) will work on other breads. it would make a lot of home baker's lifes a lot easier :-)

  3. I will start with it today, it looks so nice. I would have expected the cord to flatten in the basket, amazing that it rose so nicely. Will let you know how it turns out.

    1. I was thinking the same thing, and did see some examples of that on the net. Even then, it does the trick of separating the dough, and curiously enough it makes the bread look more appealing; the cord is so flat that it isnt recognizable as such, but gives a wonderful structure on top of the love; a bit enigmatic. I am curious to know if the recipe works for you, and if you have remarks, serious doubts, tips and tricks :-) I'm carefully advancing in the 'baker's math'-thing, but sometimes not too sure if the numbers always add up.

  4. The dough is just warming up after a night in the fridge. I had to add a little more water. Am I right in assuming your mother starter is a rye starter?

    1. I used my normal wheat starter (started on rye, fed on wheat). Mainly because it is so extremely active at the moment. Yours should come out a tad more sour I suppose (when using a rye mother). Do you know the 'kipf' recipe from plotzblog by the way? over here we are quickly going crazy over that dough; very versatile, nice to work with!

  5. Freerk, did you use medium rye? Like German 1150? I took whole rye, and my crumb looks darker and denser. The bread tastes very good, though.

  6. I used whole rye as well, although most recipes I've been working with asked for "white rye" If you used a 100% rye starter, that would account for considerably more rye in your mix, with the denser crumb and darker color. I'll be more specific in my recipe about the starter!

    1. Yes, it must be the additional rye. I actually even used my default 75% whole wheat starter, but adjusted water and flour amounts, because I thought yours was a rye starter.
      But, no matter what, it's a great bread, whether with more rye or less. We just had some with butter and jam with our tea, and loved. Will post photos.

    2. can't wait to see the pics!

  7. Yes, I saw the Fränkischer Kipf, they look really nice, and are on my list. I made several times these Bauernbrötchen, rolls with old dough, that also have these pointed ends, from Ketex blog:

    1. interesting technique! why are there only 7 days in a week!

    2. My motto: So much to bake - so little time! (Eye rolling by my husband)

      If you want to try those Bauernbrötchen, I can give you my adaptation of the recipe.

    3. Sent it as message in FB. I like those a lot.
      We almost finished the Cordon de Bourgogne in two days, it tasted great!