Friday, February 29, 2008
Beauty is in the eye of the baker
I knew it would happen. A daring baker challenge that would make me want to pull the covers over my head and hide! When I saw this month's challenge, I almost opted to sit this one out. Only four simple ingredients, how scary can that be, you ask? Well the instructions following those 4 ingredients filled 13 pages when I printed them out. Yes 13! The time from start to finish is anywhere from 6 1/2 hours to about 8 to 9 hours. Scared yet?... I thought so! I've made plenty of bread, rolls etc... but have always shied away from French bread, and this was Julia Child's French bread. The French have very specific standards when it come to making bread, right down to the length. My oven isn't big enough to make baguettes, which are 24 inches long, so I made the shorter 16 inch batards. Or at least they we're 16 inches long when I rolled them out, things changed in the oven.
So after much waffling between running and hiding and actually giving it a try, I mustered up my baking courage and jumped in. I started early around 7:30 in the morning and made my dough. No problems there, easy in fact. How hard can mixing together 4 ingredients be. Well one them is yeast and I'm always afraid I'll kill it somehow. By the way how many things do you cook that you worry about keeping "alive"?!? Anyway, I put my happy dough with very much alive yeast into a bowl and went about my day. About 4 hours later it was ready to be deflated and rise again. About an hour and a half later is when I really started to get nervous. I'd made the dough but now what would happen. Would I cause Julia to roll over in her grave in horror? I must admit I was a tad confused reading the instructions for forming the loaves. So I formed my loaves, trying to follow the instructions. I let them rise yet again. Then came another challenge, how to get the bread to the sheet pan without deflating it. My first attempt was a little difficult. The dough did not want to cooperate with me at all. The second loaf was a little easier to manage. The round loaf was not a problem because I could kind of pick it up in the towel. Oh yeah I used kitchen towels for the final rise because I didn't have canvas and wasn't sure where I could even buy it! Next came slashing the tops of my loaves with a razor. I guess this just takes practice (or a sharper razor!?). My razor kinda stuck to the bread. I got sort of slashes in my bread and I was ready for the oven. No matter what happened at this point, I knew that when I put it in the oven,as Julia said in her instructions,I'd get bread! I may not be beauty pageant winning bread but it would be bread. When it came out it was ugly duckling like, but when I tore the end off it was gorgeous on the inside! The bread a had great crust and was soft inside with a beautiful crumb. I was so happy I immediately slathered butter on a piece. I broke the rules and didn't wait 2 hours until cutting the bread. My patience was gone after waiting on this bread all day!
Oh and it tasted marvelous as well. So suck up your fear and make yourself some french bread!
I looked at Mary's(aka breadchick) pictures today and boy I could have used those before I made my loaves! Mary together with Sara were our illustrious hosts this month, check out their picture's to see great this bread can actually look. Thanks Mary and Sara for making me face my fears! I learned a lot on this challenge. The bread was wonderful and maybe with practice mine will even be pretty!
Go here for the recipe and many instructions! Be sure to check out how all the other daring baker's faired on this challenge