Friday, February 29, 2008

Daring Bakers February Challenge - French Bread

So, time to post about another Daring Bakers challenge. This month's challenge was hosted by Mary of The Sour Dough and Sara of I Like To Cook, and the recipe they chose was a recipe for French Bread from a book by Julia Child. Julia Child seems to be one of the most famous food personalities in the US, though the only reason I ever heard of her is that I once bought one of her books on a book sale. It seems as if two of her books were translated to Swedish, one of them the one the challenge recipe is from. Sadly enough, the translation seems to contain some mistakes (one that I'm sure is a mistake is that 70° Fahrenheit certainly doesn't translate to 18° Celsius? but rather about 21° I'd say). The book in question (not the one I bought a long time ago) is out of print, but I found it at the public library. (The title is "Det goda franska köket, del 2".)

The recipe can be found here, thanks to our hostesses (it's really long so I'm happy with linking and not putting it into my post). To Mary and Sara: Thank you for a great challenge!

Now to my bread making. I made this bread a couple of weeks ago. The recipe was really time consuming, and since I wanted to keep true to the recipe I didn't fiddle with the timing. I was really annoyed, and quite sleepy in the end. But I consider it a challenge in itself to keep to a recipe different to the ones I'm used to. At times, you can really learn new things that way...

So, as a personal challenge, I decided to knead by hand (stand mixers were allowed). I hardly ever knead by hand anymore, since it's just very convenient to let a machine do it. The mixing and kneading all went very well. The dough was somewhat sticky, and I guess I did add some extra flour by trying to keep the dough from sticking to the counter by dusting the counter with flour. But the hand-kneading went much better than I was afraid it would. I may have been helped by the fact that air is quite dry here (temperatures below freezing for extended periods of time tend to do that). The recipe makes not very much bread, so the whole dough wasn't that big. And the kitchen was nice and warm, actually so warm that some time into the first rise I decided to move the dough into the living room. D was making chili in the kitchen, and the thermometer started to be steadily above 71°F (I changed the thermometer to Fahrenheit rather than run into troubles with conversions... I have ways to measure almost everything in american units by now, cups, a scale that can do lb and ounces and thermometer... Still don't understand "stick of butter" though.) The living room was cooler, about 68°F so the dough took a little more than 3 hours to rise for the first time. Pictures show it after first (right) and second (left) rise, second time it rose slightly less than first. For shaping, I decided to experiment a little. The bâtard and the triangle shaped one turned out fine, but the supposedly daisy-like thing was to wide for my peel, and sunk to much... I used my usual setup with a baking stone in the oven and water sprayed onto the heated stone right before the bread goes in. I also determined the times with a thermometer, those different shapes required slightly different timing.
The taste was fine too, pretty mild and quite like the "French bread" you can buy (franskbröd). This is not my favourite type of bread, I'm from the north and I prefer the deeper, more subtle tastes achieved by preferments, coarser grinds or sourdoughs (or a combination). But the bread was nice and fluffy, and not at all hard to make except for the investment in time. If I ever make it again I would probably do one or both rises in the refrigerator, overnight and during a working day. But I would certainly recommend anyone who wants a rather cooperative dough that gives a fluffy and good result. And I'm very happy with my hand kneading experiment, which reminded me both of that it's perfectly possible to do it, and that I really enjoy the kneading experience. Thank you again to Sara and Mary who gave us this challenge!

(Now, D is making chocolate mousse... and wants me to help whipping up the meringue. So I'd better stop writing if I want dessert. :) )

11 comments:

Ritsumei said...

Looks like lovely bread! I glad that yours turned out so well - and on the first time. I'm actually working on my 3rd, as I type the 2nd rise is rising.

The stick of butter thing. They sell butter in 1 pound cartons, each carton with 4 individually wrapped sticks inside. Each stick is 1/2 cup of butter. Now, if you could tell me where to get some metric measuring things, I'd be a happy camper! (Of course, I could probably also do an internet search for them, but I haven't gotten that far, being pretty new to the international nature of food blogging!)

Stop by and see my 1st 2 attempts and see how the 3rd is turning out!

L Vanel said...

Lina, your bread is really beautiful!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Great to hear about your bread baking adventure. I would totally recommend an overnight rise. I had my bread done by about noon the next day.

breadchick said...

I love that you found the book in Swedish, even if the translation had some error.

Your bread turned out lovely and looks exactly as it should.

Thanks for baking with Sara and I

Sara said...

Great job!

Pixie said...

Fabulous job! Your bread looks delicious.

Bev and Ollie "O" said...

yummy looking bread!

Deborah said...

Your bread looks wonderful!

Veron said...

Wonderful step by step pictures! Gorgeous bread, Lina!

Fin said...

it's beautiful... so glad to see your pretty pretty bread.

yeah - a stick of butter is a quarter of a pound... or a half a cup (each of these measures is "very nearly")

Barbara said...

Great looking crust. Well done.