Friday, February 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Julia Child's French Bread

I was nervous about this challenge. First of all, it is my first Daring Bakers challenge, and second, the sheer length of time needed was a bit daunting. I set aside my Saturday for bread making. I started around 11:00am and pulled the loaves out of the oven a little before 7:00pm.

The dough is simple enough. Comprised of flour, water, salt and yeast, I had all the ingredients needed in my pantry, but the recipe, when printed, was over 10 pages long. The techniques for making a beautiful loaf of French bread were mostly new too me. I have very little experience with yeast breads and had avoided using yeast for quite awhile until No-Knead Bread came along. I had several loaves made in my mom's bread machine not rise when I was a kid and was leery of using yeast for many years. After a few successful loaves of the No-Knead variety, I went for yeasted cinnamon rolls for my family and Josh's for Christmas morning. They turned out beautifully and some of my confidence in yeast doughs was restored. I even had fun making them. Bread dough is like Play-Doh for big kids, and you can eat it later.

For this bread, I went for the electric mixer method rather than the hand method because I have a mixer and love it to death. I had also used my mixer for the cinnamon rolls and had some idea of what the dough was supposed to look like in the mixer. The dough came together as it should and I started to feel good about this challenge.


During the first rise, I placed my marked container with the dough in my slightly warmed oven because my apartment doesn't usually get above 65F in the winter. The dough rose well, if a little faster than specified, to it's volume of 10 1/2 cups. My oven was a bit warmer the the specified 70F. The second rise went well too.

The shaping was the trickiest part for me. I wasn't quite sure how to go about it. I went with three small round loaves for ease's sake. My first one was a bit sloppy, but by the second I had an idea of what I was doing and it and my third one looked even with a nice tightness to the dough. They looked kinda cute wrapped in towels in the warmed oven.



They didn't rise as well as I had hoped, but were obviously bigger. Josh wanted dinner and so did I, so I got them out of the oven. A couple slashes across the top with the knife I received from the cooking competition and the loaves were ready for the oven.

I baked them on unglazed quarry tiles I picked up at Lowe's. The only problem, with the tiles was I couldn't fit all the loaves on one rack because only 4 tiles would fit on each rack which wasn't enough area for all three loaves. The bottoms of the two loaves on the lowest rack got a little burnt but they turned out pretty well otherwise.



As for the taste, the bread is salty. Saltier than I expected but should have due to the amount of salt in the dough. Normally, I don't like my bread that salty but I don't think I have ever had a loaf of "real" French bread so I do not know how it compares. I was hoping for a more rustic and crisper crust, not unlike what I can achieve with a loaf of No-Knead Bread, but either my technique or the recipe itself, didn't produce such a crust. The texture of the bread itself is nice; just what I was hoping for.

The first loaf made some excellent garlic bread to go with pasta and the second loaf was used to sop up creamy chicken and wild rice soup. The third loaf is still in the freezer, but may make an appearance during some cheese fondue this weekend or become garlic bread again since Josh was a huge fan of that. I doubt this is a recipe I will make on a regular basis, but it was a good experience. I enjoy a challenge and one that results in bread is not a bad thing.

ETA: Ok, I have now looked at other DBers' breads and many of them got a nice crusty loaf, so it must be me. Maybe I will have to try it again, but start a little earlier in the day.

11 comments:

LotusKnits said...

Wow that is some serious bread making.

Looks delish!

AndreaLea said...

A 10-page recipe?!?! That sounds overwhelming. But for cheese fondue, totally worth it. :)

Jenny said...

I thought they were a bit salty as well. I saw one post that mentioned that the "correct" percentage of salt should be 2% or less, and this recipe had more....

Gretchen Noelle said...

Great job completing your first DB challenge! I think that shaping was a bit tricky also. You did a fantastic job and should be very proud. Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

Mary said...

Shaping was really hard for me too. Congratulations on completing your first challenge though! I think your bread looks great. If you want a crispier crust, try sticking a pan of water in the oven when it's cooking and ocaisionally spritzing or basting it with water. (that's what I did anyway and it seemed to work.)

breadchick said...

Your bread looks nice and right crumb.

Try the recipe again, reduce the salt to 1 3/4 tsp and make sure your quarry tiles are heated for about 1 hour in the oven before transferring to the tiles. Also get lots of steam. That will help!

Thanks for baking with Sara and I

sarah said...

My shaping sucked! My loaves didn't go very brown but they were crusty. Yours look lovely - well done!

Deborah said...

It seems like many thought it was too salty - I didn't, so I'm starting to wonder if I put the wrong amount of salt in! Great job!!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Your loaves look terrific! Way to go. You need never fear the yeast again.

Did you try the steam in the oven? I did and I think that helped make it crusty.

Elle said...

Congrats on your first challenge...it looks like you did a great job! This was a tough one...so long and the shaping thing was difficult...plus the third rise didn't always work. Your loaves look beautiful!I like the sound of that garlic bread...lucky hubby.

lina said...

Mm, I also made garlic bread from some of mine, really yummy. For another time, I really do think that doing some of the rising overnight in the fridge (like first or second) will help making me able to wait long enough to let the shaped loaves rise properly.