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.