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.