Friday, February 29, 2008
Julia Child's French Bread...Do I Dare?
It’s six in the morning; do you know where your wife is?
She is in her pajamas, eyes half-closed, flour everywhere, a defiant mass of dough sucking viciously at her fingers as she valiantly tries to show it who is boss. She has made bread before…yeasted bread yes…but not with a recipe 10 pages and one day long. She mutters to herself…what possessed her to take this on?
Two things: 1. A not-so-little group of fabulous people called the Daring Bakers and 2. It’s Julia Child’s French bread…how could she say no?
And I didn’t.
When the challenge was first posted, fear and excitement competed with each other in my brain. Yay! Bread! vs Oh no! Baguettes! Ten pages! Would I have the guts? Would I have the time?
Finally, I set aside a day, set my alarm clock, and hunkered down to a day of trying to place my feet in Julia Child’s impressive footsteps.
Let me tell you, early morning is not exactly my best time to take on physical challenges (ok, I really have no best time for that). And this was a physical challenge, for me at least. Because this was the first time I was going to make French bread I wanted (bravely or foolishly, you be the judge) to knead it by hand. I struggled mightily but it seemed a long time before the dough resembled anything remotely respectable. It stubbornly stuck to my hands and fingers…refusing to lose grip! But I pressed on, determined not to be beaten. After much toil, it all finally came together and I was left to the long task of waiting.
This was the longest I have ever left a dough to rise (not that I have had many). At four hours for the first rise, and then two 1&1/2-hour rises after that, with a lot of slight kneading, folding, and shaping in between…this may be the most complicated bread recipe I have ever done! But like I always tell myself…I didn’t join the Daring Bakers to boil water.
And did I mention the hardest part? The three hours of waiting after the bread is baked before you can even take a bite? With the smell of freshly baked bread in the air??? A challenge from start to finish.
C made a roast chicken that night and we at last tried the bread. It was nice and hole-y, tasted lovely, and had a pleasant chew to it. Overall, taste-wise, I don’t think I did too badly. Perhaps it could have been less dense (any suggestions on how to make this happen are gladly welcome) but on the whole we were happy.
I don’t know…but this may just be the ugliest baguettes (or batards) I have ever seen. They are the ugly stepsisters of baguettes. Sigh...they don’t even deserve a pretty French name.
But I love them.
Because they are my baguettes :) And just like other parts of me (and I’m not naming names!), less then perfect, but still cute in a wobbly sort of way :)
And I think Julia would have been perfectly fine with that.
Thank you Breadchick Mary of The Sour Dough and Sara of I Like to Cook for coming up with this month’s classic challenge! Please visit Mary or Sara to see the full (10 pages!) recipe :)