Saturday, March 1, 2008

February 2008 Daring Bakers - Julia Child's French Bread

My Jared and I were talking.
"So, what's this month's challenge?"
"Oh - Julia Child's 18 page french bread recipe from 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2'."
"EIGHTEEN PAGES?!? What the hell is she doing? How can you write 18 pages about bread?!?"

Easy - she spelled out every step so even I could figure out what was going on. :)

I made the recipe twice. Each time took nine hours of my life, even with the help of my trusty kitchen-aid mixer. It was so worth it. The flavor, the crumb, the smell that filled the house...

The first time the loaves weren't so pretty. I had the space heater keeping the dough at 70ยบ, or as close as I could get. I baked three batards - one on the pizza stone, two on the pan, and didn't steam but simply brushed with water - my pizza stone came with specific "DO NOT STEAM" instructions! They came out pale, but still amazingly delicious - crisp and chewy. I gave one away to a friend over visiting during the entire baking. The rest VANISHED before I could remember where I put my camera! Boom! Into bellies!

The second time I used a pan for baking, an old cast iron for steam, and lego-shaped ice cubes. Once again they VANISHED before I could take pictures. Wow! The smell made me dizzy with hunger and a craving for soup.

I gave one loaf to a friend (we traded arugula for bread) and she couldn't wait to get home and eat it, so she took out several bites. "Oh crap! I need to take pictures!" so she put it on the table and I grabbed my camera. So this is all the pictures y'all get, because the recipe was so amazing, so delicious, that the bread never made it to the camera stage.

Now to adapt things for whole wheat - the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book has an entire chapter on whole wheat french bread, though it's definitely less than 18 pages. I will admit I had it open as well during the entire baking procedure. Its pictures on shaping and slicing were invaluable.

Lessons learned and things to try:
* Get a real razor for slicing. My kitchen knives just aren't good enough.
* Steaming is INVALUABLE. (I'll try this "no-knead" style - baking in my corningware to help trap the steam in! It makes a beautiful crispy crust.)
* Keep the camera nearby.
* Turn the recipe to something whole wheat... it will be worth it. :)

Breachick, i love you and your challenge. Thank you for pushing my breadmaking further!


Carrie said...

It's definitely a good sign when your bread is so good it's being eaten before you can snap a photo!
Good work! :-)

shinykaro said...

Oh wow, I have to try this. I have to.

Fortunately, I always let picture taking precede any consumption.

L Vanel said...

Good trade! Still the one photo does the bread justice. It's gorgeous. I got multiple photos of the whole loaves, and then only one inside shot, because we were so busy gobbling it down.

glamah16 said...

To bad about the photos. But the one is looking good. I would like to see your wheat adaptation.

Joy said...

It's a good job you got one f
photo - it looks lovely.

Jaime said...

glad you still managed to get one photo! both the crust and the crumb look great!

Jenny said...

The steaming really made a huge difference, I think. Great job on this challenge!