Friday, February 29, 2008

Daring Baker Challenge: Julia Child's French Bread


This month the Daring Baker's challenge was Julia Child's French bread. I joined this baking group for one reason- to challenge my baking skills and learn in the process. Well, I sure did both of those things this month. Being not so fond of baking bread (as a result of my numerous less than perfect results) it forced me to dive into one of the most difficult breads of all- French Bread. The recipe was a little overwhelming at first sight- 16 pages, but after reading it a few times I found that it really was not all that complicated (ha-or so I thought). I set out to make my bread last Sunday, everything seemed to be working fine and even my husband who has made plenty of bread in his time helped a little. So we prepared the oven, got it all nice and steamy and put the bread in- The result was a crunchy crusty brick! I had to laugh, because after working on this recipe for most of the day (8 hours), I expected my bread to be gloriously good and what I created was far from it.

I think I may have established this before, but just in case I have not- I am a perfectionist. A French brick just is not going to do, so I started all over again. After trying to figure out the error of my bread making ways, I gathered it was the amount of flour and the time allowed for rising. "One cannot be a slave to the clock in making bread" Julia Child says. But when one has no idea what to look for- that seems like the logical solution and I can tell you, the lady is right- my method did not work so well. The 16 page recipe did explain what to look for- but I must have a yeast impairment (yes, that's my valid excuse).



Batch number two- pictured above was much better, I do realize I do still have a lot to learn though. I changed several things between the two batches. The fist batch was made in the mixer, I have a powerful 450 watt Kitchenaid so I thought it could handle it; the recipe cautioned about mixers overheating and I knew that would not be an issue. But then, I learned this has nothing to do with power, it's all about how the dough feels and I had a hard time figuring that out when it wasn't in my hands. The first baguette was tough, looked anemic and could actually be used as a weapon it was so hard. So for now, I will leave the mixer out of the bread making.

Batch number two I made by hand- much better, I was careful with the flour additions (paranoid to be exact) and allowed the dough to rise for a much longer period of time. The bread is far from perfect but a marked improvement from the first batch. I made a baguette, a Boule, and pan d'epi - the cuts could have been much better, I found using a razor blade and making a smooth cut to be harder than I expected. But, I am going to try really hard to not get OCD about this, I will instead read up on bread making and yeast, the more I understand the chemical reactions in the process the better off I will be. If you have any good suggestions for a book from where I might gain this knowledge- please leave me a note in the comments. The bread turned out pretty well, having a decent crumb and crust. This was a great challenge, it pushed me to learn by doing things which were out of my comfort zone.



Up until now bread has been more of a vehicle to carry all sorts of yummy toppings- (mostly butter laced with fluer de sel), not the main attraction itself, but hopefully as I become a more experienced bread baker that will change. The recipe can be found here.

18 comments:

  1. all your creations look gorgeous!!! love the way the crust is done!! great job for this month's challenge!!

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  2. Your breads look wonderful! I love their gorgeous golden color!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  3. Your bread looks great! Good job!

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  4. Congratulations on finally succeeding! It looks like your second try gave perfect results. It looks delicious!

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  5. Congrats on getting through this BOTH times! Yes, yeast and flour and the way they work together are mystery sometimes, even to the best of us bread makers. The magic never fails to amaze me, even after all these years.

    Thanks for participating!

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  6. Good for you for being so persistent! I don't have the patience!

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  7. gosh lovely, lovely, lovel, it is so great to get to ave a look of your fantastic creation of frenc bread, it must very very hard work!

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  8. Perfectly Golden! So wonderful!

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  9. Your bread looks fantastic! I love the top photo where you can tell how nice the crust is! You did great!

    I just got the Peter Reinhard Whole Grain Bread Baking book. I've heard his Bread Baker's apprentice is really really good.

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  10. I love, love your bright pictures. I'm impressed you gave it a go for round 2 - that's a true daring baker and it sounded like it was worth it!

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  11. Your bread is beautiful Katia. You really are a Daring Baker- you did it twice!

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  12. How daring of you to do it twice, and what fantastic results. I think both your breads look wonderful! Great Job!

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  13. good job! your bread turned out beautifully!

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  14. I'm so glad you made your second batch by hand -- I think that is the only way to learn to bake bread. You really can feel the dough when it is the right consistency, and that will change each time you make it, as the dough responds to humidity and temperature in your kitchen. It's like learning to do addition and subtraction, first without a calculator, so you understand the fundamentals -- then if you use the calculator (or Kitchenaid), you'll know what you're aiming for.

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  15. I'm discovering your blog with great pleasure and see that your bread challenge was a success. BRAVO!
    I surely will come back, as I think you have some of the nicest, simplest, cleanest pictures of all blogs I've seen... continue the great work, it is amazing.

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  16. I love the colour of your crust - delicious!

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  17. I commend you for trying again immediately! I agree that kneading it by hand really helps.

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