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What is Pain Ordinaire?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2016
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In French, pain ordinaire simply means “ordinary bread.” This basic bread is a staple of French bakeries and cuisine, along with an assortment of more exotic breads. It is also very easy to make at home, and many bakers who want to explore the world of French breads like to start with pain ordinaire, since it is simple to make, but it has a remarkably complex and satisfying taste.

Classic pain ordinaire is made with white flour, salt, water, and a rising agent. While these ingredients are fairly basic, depending on how the bread is handled and baked, it can develop into a very complex loaf or a fairly simple, bland one. Pain ordinaire can be very crusty, or it may be handled in a way which promotes the development of a thin crust, and it may have an open or closed crumb, again depending on how it is handled and what type of rising agent is used.

Many home bakers like to use yeast when they make pain ordinaire, which is acceptable when experimenting, but the bread is really designed to be made with a starter, not with yeast. In France, many bakeries use an old dough starter, utilizing dough left over from the last baking to start the next batch. Old dough starters take longer to work, but they develop a much more interesting flavor in the bread, due to the slow fermentation involved.

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This bread can be baked in a loaf pan, for bakers who want to develop a regular shape which can easily be cut into slices for sandwiches and the like, but pain ordinaire can also be baked on a flat baking sheet or stone. In these instances, the bread is usually shaped into a round loaf and the top is slashed to allow the bread to expand as it bakes without cracking. Some people like to use a cloche in the oven to more closely replicate the conditions in a traditional brick oven.

You may also hear pain ordinaire referred to as “peasant bread,” since the recipe is so basic. The relatively mild flavor makes pain ordinaire a very useful bread to have around, because it can be paired with a wide variety of things, from strongly flavored cheeses to cured meats. Pain ordinaire also makes great sandwiches, and many people like to take a loaf along on picnics.

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anon67768
Post 2

"Bread" in French is indeed "pain". "Pan" is Spanish.

pixiedust
Post 1

I always thought bread in French was pan, not pain. Was surprised to see this type of bread spelled pain ordinaire instead of pan ordinaire.

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