Friday, February 29, 2008

French Bread - When Daring Bakers and Julia Child Collide

Here it is, folks... my 100th blog post!


This month the Daring Bakers made Julia Child's French Bread. This challenge was co-hosted by Breadchick Mary of The Sour Dough and Sara of I Like To Cook. Thanks to both of you for such a great challenge! Because really, who doesn't like fresh baked bread?

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I often dabble with bread baking. If I'm not whipping up a sourdough starter and baking sourdough bread... then I'm taking the easy way out and serving up no knead bread.


But this recipe was a little different from what I have been doing lately. Since my birthday, earlier in February, I have been happily baking away out of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Imagine, if you will, my shock in finding that this month's challenge recipe was supposed to take me 7 to 9 hours to complete. Um... I pretty sure there is a baguette in here somewhere... (pages of my new favorite bread book flipping). Just kidding!

Staying true to a common recipe is what gives Daring Bakers common ground, and the chance to share our experiences with one another. So, I decided this would be a great time to test the flavor and crumb of this bread against the quick method I have been using.

Need a quick taste of what's in store? Here is a sneak-peak of where we're headed with this:

So let's get started, shall we? For the record - this recipe is not hard. It just takes some time. Bread baking is sort of like laundry that way. Not a very glamorous comparison perhaps, but you would never choose not to wash your clothes simply because the whole process is going to take n hours. Because the machine does most of the work, you just have to be around once in a while to keep things on track. And, clean clothes are worth it. Same with bread.

First we mix up the dough. The ingredients (represented above) are very simple. Dissolve 1 3/4 teaspoons of instant yeast into 1/3 cup warm water. (The warm water tells your yeast, "Wake-y, wake-y... time to bake-y!" if you use hot water it will say, "Die, rebel scum!" or something like that.) Let it stand while you measure out 6 1/2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour into a mixing bowl. Add the yeasty water, 2 1/4 teaspoons of salt, and 1 1/4 cups of room-temp water to the flour and stir it together with your trusty wooden spoon (or plastic spatula... whatever floats your boat).

Now the recipe reads, "Wash and fill the mixing bowl with 10 1/2 cups of tepid water (70 – 80 degrees) and make a mark to indicate that level on the outside of the bowl. Note, that the bowl should have fairly upright sides; if they are too outward slanting, the dough will have difficulty in rising. Pour out the water, dry the bowl, and place the dough in it." So I chose a plastic, food grade bucket to let my dough rise in. I filled it with water and marked it like suggested.

Only to realize that my favorite method of providing a warm place for my dough to rise was no longer going to work. I couldn't very well shove my plastic bucket into a warm oven, now, could I? So I used a suggestion from our hosts and placed the bucket on a towel-covered hot pad. Doesn't my dough look cuddly?

You may have noticed that the lid looks like it is on pretty well in that picture above. It is. More about that later...

It took FOREVER for my poor dough to rise. When it finally reached it's mark...

I took the now-bulging lid off and *Poof!*

...huge bubbles deflated, and a bunch of those gases rushed out.

Since it had been rising for so long, when I put the dough on the table to knead it - it had baked a little on the bottom. Oops!

Well, there was kneading, a second rise (without the lid - thank you very much) and the forming of loaves. This is what they looked like just starting the final rise:

And aren't they beautiful?

How 'bout from another angle? Boy, I couldn't wait to get those into my oven.

But this may bring a tear to your eye. Look how sadly they deflated when I transfered and then slashed them. Poor things.

Oh well. I got them onto my pizza stone, threw some ice cubes into the broiler tray below, checked my new oven thermometer and got them baked. And they were very tasty.

One thing I was very pleased with, were the little blisters in the crust:

Here are two of the loaves, one split open to see the crumb.

Feeling like you would like to be munching on some of this delightful bread yourself? Take a look at the recipe (or download the recipe in pdf form for easy printing) so you can have fresh bread coming out of your own oven. Or, if you just want to ogle everyone else's, visit all the lovely Daring Bakers who participated in this month's challenge - and check out these DBers too.

So... what was our verdict on this versus the quick method I've been using? They do not produce identical loaves... but the convenience more than makes up for it. I prefer the quick method. But I am glad to have done it Julia Child's way, and thoroughly enjoyed this challenge.

29 comments:

Carrie said...

I really love your sliced bread on blue background photo!
Looks Great! :-)

Tracy said...

I've been wanting to try the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day stuff ... you're not the first Daring Baker to say how much easier that approach is. You're convincing me! But you did a great job with the traditional approach.

One Happy Hubbard said...

I'm with you on the fact that this recipe wasn't too hard, just took a boatload of time. Great job!

Beth G. said...

YUM!!Your bread looks fabulous~ great job!

Jaime said...

your loaves came out so pretty after the last rise - mine didn't look so great LOL - looks like you ended up with a great crust and crumb! :)

Karen said...

Nice job. You really had some great techniques in there.

Melinda said...

I love the laundry comparison!
I don't like being bossed around by my bread, it needed some time out in the fridge!
The Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day book has been quite the hit. Some fellow bloggers have had some great looking bread from it. Sounds like another cookbook will be ordered soon! Oh dear.

Gretchen Noelle said...

Great job adapting to your circumstances in order to make your bread. Glad you faced this DB challenge!

Pixie said...

Wonderful step by step photos; after viewing them I believe my dough needed loads more flour. I'm tempted to try this recipe again but maybe the next feb29 (in four years!)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your bread looks great! Very well done! I love your equipment...

Cheers,

Rosa

L Vanel said...

That is some beautiful bread! I loved your technique of rising it in the container where you could see the level.

dailydelicious said...

I wish I take the step by step photo as you, but I so nervous about the long recipe (I'm new) so when I know I already finished my bread.

Suzana said...

Lovely bread! It indeed an easy recipe, only time consuming. Great job on the challenge!

Half Baked said...

your bread looks great! Nice job on this challenge!

Tarah said...

Your bread looks fabulous! Great job!

hanne hanne said...

The crumb of those breads looks perfect! I agree that this wasn't tough. Just... long... very long. Of course, it's a nice excuse to stay at home and relax for a day.

culinography said...

I've been eyeing Artisan Bread in Five for a while now... I think I may have to buy it.

Your bread looks fabulous! Great job!!

Jenny said...

Looks great, I love the picture of the bucket wrapped in a blanky....

breadchick said...

What wonderful looking bread. I'm so glad you participated with us this month.

Sara and I had fun hosting and glad you had fun baking!

Jane said...

Your loaves look wonderful. And I will give this recipe another shot as I wound up having some problems this time around. But overall, I think I prefer a shorter process.
Artisan bread in 5 minutes... I'm all for instant gratification!

Allison said...

beautiful pictures! your dough looks so happy in all of them =) good job!

Susan said...

A lot of has the same deflating troubles...but your cam out great anyway!

Sara said...

Glad you enjoyed it, nice job!

sher said...

Great pictures. I can almost smell the bread--and I love the bubbles on your dough. Too bad that I can't eat the bread for real!

Astra Libris said...

Thank you so much for the lovely DB welcome on my blog!

Your bread is gorgeous! I especially love how you described the warm water waking up the yeast... :-)

Yvo said...

Mer, you truly inspire me. Wow.

the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said...

lovely rising photos!

Mer said...

Thank you all for your kind words and encouragement!

Christina said...

Not related to this post: I love your bento posts!

Back to regularly scheduled comments: Your bread looks lovely! Great pictures, too, especially the one of all the ingredients.

Mine also deflated quite a bit when I moved it over and slashed it, something I need to work on, but we both managed to produce excellent French bread. I blame it on the oven spring. =D

Christina ~ She Runs, She Eats