Monday, July 27, 2009

French Bread

Last night at 6:30pm, I decided to try out Julia Child's French bread. Ignoring the fact that it would take me at least 8 hours from start to finish (there are three rising stages) I began making my way through her very long recipe. First I mixed, then slapped, kneaded, slapped, tossed (got everywhere) and kneaded the dough which took a lot longer than I thought it would. After all that dramatic flair, I let the dough rise, then deflate, then slapped, kneaded, slapped, tossed (this time it wasn't so messy) and kneaded the dough some more. Again, after some dramatics I let the dough rise again, then shapped it into baguettes (it's more than just rolling it out, lots of folding and creasing is involved). Finally, I let the dough rise again and then transferred to a baking sheet and tossed in the oven. Julia's true master recipe calls for placing a really really hot brick in the oven with a tray of water and tiles (this all simulates a true french baker's oven) but since I had none of that, I followed her more simple recipe which uses a water bottle to spritz the dough at 4 different times in the first 12 minutes. This water is supposed to help the dough rise more and create a brown crust on the bread.

I was finished with everything around 2:30am. The bread looked pretty but it was definitely more of a pain-rustique look than a french-baguette look. Julia says this is okay, it takes lots of practice to get the shape right. The top didn't brown much at all but again, to get that look, you need to use that darn brick/tile method. However, the inside of the bread was excellent for a beginner (at least I think so) and resembled most baguettes I have eaten so I was super excited about that. I think the next time I make the recipe I'll either make it more of a boule shape or go out and get bricks/tiles that are required for the baguette look. Overall, it was a fun experience and one I'd be happy to try again.

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