Friday, February 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Pain Francais (French Bread)

I have always said I needed to learn more about baking bread, and to learn more of Julia Child's recipes. When I found out that this month's Daring Baker's challenge, hosted by Mary (Breadchick) from The Sour Dough and Sara from I Like to Cook, was going to be Julia Child's French Bread, I was excited! And then I was disappointed. I knew this month would be crazy, and since I rarely make challenge recipes before the end of the month, and I would be in Rhode Island for an entire week including the last viable weekend, I was afraid I would have to back out of this one.

Suddenly, yesterday, I was hit by a burst of insanity that is not infrequent in my baking inspirations (and I'm sure many of you can relate to me here) - if I started as soon as I got home around 4:30, I could wait out the entire 9 hour process and still post to my blog today! Call me crazy, call me delusional.... or just call me a Daring Baker!

I took pictures of some of my process, but to be honest most of them were in my dark kitchen and just didn't turn out great. I had this great one of a huge gas bubble after the dough had risen a second time, but it is blurry. Imagine, if you will, this marvelous dough with only four ingredients - water, yeast, salt, and flour - going through the long process of being mixed, kneaded, rising, kneaded, rising, shaped, rising, slit, baked, sprayed with water, doused with steam from ice cubes I threw on the oven floor, and then reluctantly allowed to cool overnight.

The recipe, which is at least ten pages long, can be found here on Breadchick's blog. As with most Julia Child recipes, you are very rarely left with a question as to what it is you are supposed to do. She is truly one of the great teachers in the culinary world. I did have some confusion over what folding lengthwise meant, but I just did what made the most sense. If you click on the link to the recipe, you can see Mary's illustrations of almost every step, and that will answer any questions you might have.

There were two routes to take for the process of the recipe - hand or stand mixer. I have a Sunbeam mixer with a dough hook but always feel best mixing and kneading by hand - it is much easier for me to tell if the dough needs extra flour or water that way. This particular day, I added probably an extra 1/4-1/3 cup of water.

Pain Francais (French Bread)
There were many shape options for the bread - since this was my first time making the recipe, I picked the 3 batards, a slightly fatter and shorter baguette. I'd like to go back and try the recipe again with some of the other shape options.

There were several options for baking the bread too - there were instructions on how to turn your oven into a baker's oven with quarry tiles, etc., but as I decided to do the challenge last minute I didn't hunt anything like this down. I did a version in between the two methods and sprayed the bread down every 3 minutes for the first half of baking, as well as throwing ice cubes into the bottom of the oven to add some steam. According to Julia, this extra moisture helps the outside develop a nice crust while also encouraging the yeast in its work a little while longer.

I am grateful for this challenge. Even though the process took all day, the actual time spent with the dough was minimal. I really should try more bread recipes! If you have a bread recipe that can't be missed, please post it in a comment!

Daring Bakers Orange Logo
This recipe was brought to you by the Daring Bakers. To see hundreds of other interpretations of this recipe, please visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

Categories: Bread, Daring Bakers, French, Vegan

69 comments:

Sarah said...

Your bread looks great and I applaud your last minute run to get this months challenge completed. Great job!

L Vanel said...

Gorgeous bread!

L Vanel said...

Wow, Jenny, this bread looks amazing. I think Julia would be proud.

reprehriestless warillever said...

I make French bread a few times a week, but nothing quite so "daring" or time intensive as this.

I leave my under-powered stand mixer to knead the dough while I go about getting breakfast on the table and lunches packed, then let it sit on the counter right in the mixing bowl until lunchtime. Grand total it absorbs 15 minutes of my day, but we have warm bread at dinner and the rest with lunch the next day.

I wish that I could try yours. It looks amazing!

Jerry said...

Looks yummy!

Andrea said...

Your bread looks great! Like you, I'll often bake on a whim, and usually when I don't have enough time! :-)

bbaking said...

well done, speedy bread there, and it looks delicous!

Meeta said...

Jenny - it looks fantastic and yes I think you are crazy but then I think all of us Dbs are a tiny bit mad! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Jenny- Your french bread looks AWESOME! You amaze me. OK, so what does it mean to "proof the dough in the oven?"

kate said...

it looks so YUMMY!

Cheryl said...

The colors on your bread are fantastic. The inside looks so delicious. Makes me wanna slather some butter on that.

Baking Soda said...

True to the spirit of a Daring Baker! Lovely even crumb Jenny!

Breadchick said...

Wow you are the ultimate Daring Baker this month!! What dedication and thanks so much for all the lovely comments about the recipe!!! Julia would have been thrilled I think today to see 500 of her French Breads on the web. Your bread looks spectacular!

Thanks for joining Sara and I on the challenge.

glamah16 said...

Sometimes you just hear that call and get to baking.

Gabi said...

You ARE a Daring Baker of course pulling off a coup like that at the 11th hour! :)
Beautiful job!
x x x

Pixie said...

Your bread turned out great, well done!

Quellia said...

Pulling it in under the wire - a Daring Baker tradition! Well done!

hanne hanne said...

I love that moment of insanity decision-making process. Happens all the time to cooks, I think. Anyway, it made me giggle.

And your bread is amazing. The instructions really were great, weren't they?

Deborah said...

Wonderful job!! It looks great!

Mia said...

Don't you just love those crazy moments of culinary inspiration when you just HAVE to make something RIGHT NOW? Your bread looks great, by the way!

If you are looking for more bread recipes...have you tried the no-knead method at all? It's not quite the same as doing an old-fashioned, kneaded loaf, but it's great for busy people and it reliably turns out delicious bread. I've done peasant bread, honey whole wheat, rye, oatmeal...all delicious.

PheMom said...

Hi-ya! Hooray for bread and Daring Baker Ninjas! Your last minutr buckle-down looks incredible!

PBJulie said...

Thanks for leaving a comment on my site Jenny! I am so happy to be a part of this group and to find so many others who share my love of baking. The challenge was so much fun---can't wait until the next one.

I love seeing pictures of your creations on your site and your bread looks fantastic!

Best,

Julie
(Peanut Butter and Julie)

kellypea said...

The crumb on your bread is so perfect! Sounds like you were able to try some of the variety of techniques to your advantage. Nice job!

Mer said...

Your bread looks great. Congrats!

As for a recipe...
If you haven't yet, I would give No Knead Bread a try. I love the method, and it produces a wonderful loaf of bread without a lot of fuss.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Great looking bread! Smooth, airy and beautifully golden!

Cheers,

Rosa

Melanie said...

Your bread looks fantastic! And I saw your post on ebelskivers and was super excited b/c I have an ebelskiver pan and we eat them at least once a month. They are so delicious! My recipe is a buttermilk one that is really light and fluffy. It's fun to see someone else making them b/c they aren't very common!

Megan said...

I'm with you, I wouldn't mind making it again and trying a different shape.

Princess of the kitchen said...

Thanks you jenny for your comments . Your bread looks wonderful. Well done!

Lunch Buckets said...

Your bread looks awesome! I really do hope I'll get a chance to try this recipe - maybe tomorrow!

Melinda said...

Hello Jenny, So nice to have you visit my blog and leave a comment. As a new Daring Baker I've never had this many visitors to my site! My husband said we will need a new server! Server? Is that extra help in the kitchen? OK!
Lovely bread and you are a woman after my own heart. My personal motto is procrastination is not for the weak hearted; it is a long drawn out process of excuses and strong nerves and last minute haste.
Retarding the dough was invented just for me, I sure!

Molly Loves Paris said...

Wow! You made it. Good job. And the bread looks great. I usually make French bread, but I also make oatmeal cinnamon bread from a well known Amish cookbook. Really yummy. The oatmeal dough is rolled out, spread with butter, and cinnamon and sugar, and rolled up and put into a long loaf pan.

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Jenny, Your bread looks beautiful! No one would ever guess that you were racing against the clock. Great job!

Aparna said...

A shortage of time doesn't seem to have shown on your bread. Looks real good.

Jaime said...

way to go, finishing the challenge at the last minute! and with beautiful results too!

prettybaker said...

Wow - your bread looks perfect!

Karen said...

Beautiful bread made in true Daring Bakers form! Nice job!

CB said...

Your bread looks so light and yummy! Great job! ps. procrastinators rule! ;)
-Clara
http://iheartfood4thought.wordpress.com

marion - il en faut peu pour ... said...

sure it had to ba patient for this very precise recipe :)
You did it very well and your bread looks so appetizing !!!!

Peabody said...

Job well done, bread looks wonderful.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Daring indeed you are! A Daring Baker for sure. I do understand finding my self delusional and in the kitchen thinking how did I ever think I could take this on now!
Yes, I've been doing all my breads by hand these days, I'm sure I'll use the mixer again sometimes. I seem to run in phases and not use it for long periods. Just really like feeling how the dough changes.
Your bread looks divine. I think I must bake it today with some split pea soup.

Half Baked said...

Wow I'm impressed that you did this at the last minute! your bread looks great really beautiful!

Joel said...

Your crust looks just perfect. Congrats on finishing this one, couldn't agree more on the by-hand vs. machine issue (though, I'd love to use a machine on "every day" stuff).

HeatherJ said...

beautiful!

Meryl said...

Beautiful bread! Congrats!

Sara said...

Excellent bread!

Priscilla said...

Way too good looking Jenny! Yummy!

Barbara Bakes said...

It's been so fun being a Daring Baker and visiting everyone's blog. Your bread looks delicious!

Joy said...

Lovely looking bread Jenny. I think there's more than enough in the world for us both to have a piece of him!

Michelle said...

WOW your bread looks awesome and you are truely a Daring Baker.

Elle said...

Beautiful bread Jenny! It's true that the actual time spend working on it is short, but you still need to be able to attend to the dough when it is ready :)Hope you make more bread.

Gretchen Noelle said...

How incredible that you really waited until the very last minute! Great job with your French bread! Way to be a really daring baker!

jasmine said...

You completed this after work?

Much more daring than I...


j

Lesley said...

Last minute? Could have fooled me! Your bread looks bakery-worthy!

SweetDesigns said...

Awesome looking Bread!! Thanks for stopping by!!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Your bread looks wonderful. And starting at the last minute shows that you're definitely a Daring Baker!

pacificoutpost said...

Wow - way to pull it out in time! Your bread looks great!

Claire said...

Glad the feeling of madness hit you and decided to make the bread. Looks great!

cookworm said...

Nice job on the bread! And I completely understand the bursts of baking insanity... :)

Ritsumei said...

Looks like beautiful bread! Yay you for doing it at the 11th hour!

Dianne said...

Gorgeous! Great work!

Snug said...

wow, that bread looks so good, it's making me hungry. yum.

Kevin said...

Nice looking bread!

marye said...

Your bread looks very tasty, and I love the long plate for the baguette too. I must find myself one of those! My bread always seems to hang off the end of my longest cutting board...

coco said...

I like the texture of your bread. And the light colour too!

Birdie said...

Your bread looks fantastic--I had a great time with my first challenge. Now if I could only get Julia's voice out of my head!

Christina said...

Jenny, lovely bread!

I can relate to you, for I too commenced the challenge the day before the posting date. At first, I thought I was nuts, but then I realized I wouldn't have to wait as long to post. ^.^ The lesson in that is that if you are a Daring Baker, you aren't alone when it comes to odd behaviors!

Christina ~ She Runs, She Eats

Barbara said...

I always end up making the challenge on the last day also. Yours look much better than mine.

Madam Chow said...

Your bread looks great - no deformed loaves for you!

Chara Gafford said...

Your bread looks so great! My mouth is watering just looking at it!