Sunday

She who dares bakes...French Bread

One of my favourite things about baking is the fact that you start with a collection of ingredients that, by themselves, aren't particularly appetising (spoonful of flour anybody?) but when combined they result in something marvelous. This is particularly true of bread. It continues to amaze me that flour, water and yeast produce something so ridiculously tasty.

I love bread. If bread were a person it would have been the recipient of my Valentine's card last Thursday. I was, therefore, very excited when I saw that this month's Daring Bakers' challenge was Julia Child's French Bread (thank you Mary and Sara). I've made basic bread recipes before but I have never tackled baguettes. My early memory of the long French sticks is getting them at the supermarket with my mum, seeking out the warmest and then pulling the end (nub) off and eating it as mum did the rest of the shopping. Yum.

Despite having so few ingredients this recipe was surprisingly long and a little daunting. All in all, it took about eight hours to make which does seem a bit overwhelming. That said, you're not chained to the dough for all that time so you can get on with your non-bread related life in between stages. As much as I would love, love, love a Kitchen Aid (they're a bit too expensive in the UK) I was glad that I had to make the bread dough by hand. For me, one of the best things about making homemade bread is how tactile the process is and there's nothing better for a bad mood than kneading dough. In fact, instead of giving aggressive teenagers ASBOs maybe they should get them all to make bread. And then, they could distribute the bread to the homeless. Now how's that for sensible domestic policy?!
I must admit that I find cooking with yeast a little stressful. As I fussed over the correct temperature and every little bubble of gas that my dried yeast produced, I felt like an over-anxious new parent clucking over her little darling. Maybe cooking with something that you have the power to kill does that to you. Following Julia's instructions (very helpfully annotated by Mary and Sara) I was struck by how much the dough looked like my thighs:

First Mixing - pre exercise:
Second mixing - post exercise:

Although the recipe seems complicated, it is actually quite simple if you are methodical. My big fear was not having a warm enough area in which to let the dough rise. Luckily, my clucky anxious parent thing kicked in and I tucked in the bowl next to a radiator with a hot water bottle and a thick blanket. It's all about treading your dough how you'd like to be treated yourself.

In the end, the hardest thing for me was shaping the dough. Trying to shape the sticky elastic dough into a smooth, even batten proved problematic.

In the end, the results were well worth the effort. I have to admit that I didn't wait for the bread to cool down entirely (okay, at all) before I sampled it, but surely the main perk of bread baking is getting to enjoy it while it's hot? I think it's in the film Amelie where she says that one of her mum's favourite things is the sound of fresh bread breaking and, as I snapped a piece off my wonky baguette and heard the 'shattering' sound, I had to agree. So satisfying. I thought the texture of the bread was similar to ciabatta as there were quite a few open holes, however this is probably down to my technique as opposed to the actual recipe.


In keeping with the rules I followed the recipe exactly but I did add some grated cheddar cheese to the top of one of the loaves. However, in order to stop myself devouring the three baguettes that evening I put two in the freezer to enjoy later on and I shared the other, smothered with butter, with the housemates. So good.


Be sure to check out the dazzling array of, no doubt more perfectly formed, bread from the other Daring Bakers here and if you're tempted to have a try at the bread yourself you can get the recipe here.

32 comments:

marye said...

you did a lovely job! The bread looks great. I love the Farmer Boy quote...one of my favorite books...it is all about food!

Dhanggit said...

gorgeous french bread!! you did a great job for this month's challenge!! love the crust!!

L Vanel said...

Excellent looking bread and delectable looking crust! The ribbon is beautiful. I love the look of your yeast.

Katy said...

yum! looks great!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Great idea for teenage therapy!
Glad you enjoyed the bread and baking!

Janet said...

THAT'S the crust I'm looking for!!!! Well done. I am inspired to try it again and succeed.
Love the country bumpkin entry also!

Rivka said...

Beautiful!! the crust is so...um, crusty! Really, beautiful. congrats!

Mary said...

The crust looks fantastic! Great job! (and you cracked me up saying the dough looked like your thighs. Too funny!)

DawnsRecipes said...

You are too cute with the ribbons on the bread. Yes, with those colors, it is definitely French bread! The last photo really depicts the wonderful texture. Great job!

Barbara Bakes said...

Looks like award winning bread.

LizG said...

Great job! I love the idea of a water bottle! The teddy bear is so cute...:)

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Beautiful bread! Forming the loaves was the hardest part for me too. I had to have my mother help me! But, it all works out, doesn't it.

Breadchick said...

Your bread looks delightful and I think I'm going to have to sprinkle some cheese on top of one of the next boules I bake.

Thanks so much for joining Sara and i this month on the challenge!

Tartelette said...

You know I am loving the ribbon!! Your bread turned out so artisan looking, great job!

Jaime said...

your bread turned out great!

Annemarie said...

Lovely, lovely bread. I like your Asbo plan - victorian, put practical. :)

Gretchen Noelle said...

Wonderful to see your go with the French bread. You did a great job! cheddar cheese sprinkled on top sounds delicious!

glamah16 said...

Ypur bed looks lucious. Great post.I love the ribbions in french colors.Vive Le Pain.

jasmine said...

Very lovely post. Hadn't heard of ASBOs before...I agree with Annemarie, yours is a good solution :)

j

Lori said...

Your bread turned out great! The thighs comment made me LOL! I can definitely see some similarities between my thighs and the dough as well! Thanks for the comment. I posted the French Toast post if you want to take a look!

Claire said...

Hmmm...I didn't wait for it to cool either! Warm bread straight out of the oven is the best anyway! Looks great!

Sara said...

Love that first picture!

zorra said...

I love your water bottle and the bread of course too. :-)

Joy said...

Marye - Farmer's Boy is a brilliant comfort book and perfect for dreaming about food. I'd love to have stayed at their house!

Dhanggit - Thankyou. One of the nicest things anout French bread is the crunch of that crust.

Lucy, Dawn - Thank you. I bought the ribbons from a shop in Brighton after finding out about this month's challenge. They've done a great job of hiding the wonky shape of my loaf...

Katy and MKIHC - Thank you, I really enjoyed it (panics about yeast aside!)

Janet - Do try again. I think that the water really helps the crust. There's nothing better than the sound of breaking into it, although I did have lots of crumbs to hoover up.

Rivka - Thank you. I like your insightful comment!!

Mary, Lori - I'm always going to be able to make bread now knowing all that I have to do is roll up my trousers and check the stage of my dough. A perfect excuse not to do too much exercise!

Barbara - Thank you!

Liz - Haha I've had him since I was little and on cold nights he's the perfect bedmate. He definitely came into his own with the breadmaking too!

SGCC - I could have done with my mum's calming influence although she'd probably just tell me that I can buy perfectly good French bread at the shops...

Breadchick - Thanks for the challenge. Yes cheese on the top is a great addition. They call it 'Tigerbread' in the shops here. Delicious!

Tartlette - Thank you. I love the description 'artisan' it lets you get away with wonkiness, cracks and imperfections but you know it's going to taste better than the uniform factory stuff!

Jaime - Thank you.

Annemarie - Thank you. I was going to suggest the work houses but I'm not that Victorian!

Gretchen Noelle - Thank you. Anything with cheese + dough is a favourite for me.

Glamah - Vive le pain indeed. The ribbons had me humming Le Marseillaise!

Jasmine - Thank you. I may well write a letter to Gordon Brown!

Claire - You need a sainthood to be able to resist warm bread.

Sara - Thank you. Taking photos when it's sunny is so much better.

Zorra - I am such an old lady, but I love hot water bottles. Oh, and bread too of course!

Pixie said...

First, lovely blog and thanks for visiting me (us y's can get neglected at times lol). Your bread looks delicious!

Aparna said...

The bread looks good. I'm not surprised you didn't wait to taste it!

Jenny said...

If you are sending a Valentine to bread, I just want you to know you will have some competition for his love. :)

Great job on this challenge!

Sarah said...

Ohhh cheesy bread and butter, all I would need would be a lemon drop what a great combo!

cookworm said...

Nice job on the challenge! I wish my would have been crispier. Twas a very good learning experience, though.

Dianne said...

Your crust looks fabulous! Great work!

The Frosted Bake Shop said...

your bread looks great, especially the crust. wow.

Barbara said...

Nice touch with the cheese on top. Love it.