Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Daring Bakers: French Bread

The February challenge for Daring Bakers, an online baking community, was Julia Child's recipe for French bread from vol. 2 of The Art of French Cooking.

One reason I like the Daring Bakers community is that the monthly recipe challenge really does force me out of my 30 minutes or less cooking mindset. At this point in my life, I am too busy for long, slow cooking or baking except on special occasions or once a month when I get the recipe challenge.

Ms. Childs' recipe for French bread has few ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast. Deceptively simple. How hard could this be, I thought. Well technique is everything, and after reading Julia's 30 page description of the technique, I really wondered if I could pull it off. The dough had to rise three times, but even that didn't seem like a big deal.

Well, twelve hours later the dough was finally ready. I suspect the dough would raise faster if it had been warmer in the house. A nice warm, low humidity day would be much better for this recipe.

The hardest part of the recipe follows after shaping the dough: scoring the top of the shaped dough and then after the third raise transferring the dough to a baking sheet without deflating it. It sounds so easy! Uh no, apparently not easy. One loaf I deflated when I moved it. It is infuriating to have 12 hours of success only to screw it up at the last minute. I was not happy. The other loaf did not deflate but it didn't turn out so pretty because I kind of mangled the top when I tried to score it.

The one successful loaf had the qualities you might expect in French bread, all obtained by the technique of course: hard crust, soft inside with big airy holes, nice salty bite. It was tasty but I think I'll buy my French bread half boule from La Ferme Bakery instead.

Anyway, I am not going to share the 30 page recipe because it was not a tremendous success. If you are interested in the recipe, head to the library or bookstore for the book.


Anonymous said...

I don't have a peel to transfer my risen bread to the oven, so I do my final rise on the bottom of a baking sheet (covered in foil, sprinkled with a LOT of cornmeal)

I do occasionally have deflation, but very seldom.

Angel said...

I think your bread looked nice, even with the deflation problems. You did a great job!

Matthew said...

I say if it's truly an endeavor of yours to make this bread than keep at it when you have the time. I wanted to make eclairs from choux dough (of course). It took my third try due partly to my wanting them to come out a certain way. I think I'll take a cooking/baking class from Le Farm in the near future though as I love good bread.

Matthew said...

Also I saw these two corresponding links, which I'm guessing you've seen too, and was wondering if you've tried this and if any of the attempts were worth it.