Pain Francais (French Bread)
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
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.
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!
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Categories: Bread, Daring Bakers, French, Vegan