Friday, February 29, 2008

Perfect, perfect French Bread

daringbakersbaguette-2

It's Daring Bakers time again, and this month, you'll see blogs overflowing with French bread. For French bread, surely you'd seek out a recipe from France, yeah? Ah, no, not really. Instead, our wise hosts, BreadChick Mary and Sara from I Like to Cook turned to the American cooking icon Julia Child. I have to admit that I know nearly nothing about her. I have a book - Mastering the Art of French Cooking vol. 1 - that I got from a friend who was moving and didn't want to lug this heavy book with him. I've read it (at the same time I read the archives at Julie + Julia, that uses the very same book), but I haven't cooked more than once or twice from it. I understand that many people, and many Daring Bakers, feel very strongly about Julia, but I really don't. Maybe it's an American thing.

daringbakersbaguette-1

That said, I frowned when I saw the recipe. 20 pages?? You're joking! Turned out a lot of it was quite skippable, and the recipe itself wasn't complicated at all. French bread contains four things - flour, yeast, salt and water. That's it. Julia also suggests using cornmeal, but Danielle Forestier who features in PBS Baking with Julia in the episode where they do this particular bread says that that's never done in France. And I admit, I skipped that part, seeing no real use for it. So, the recipe is long, and it takes a long time to bake. But, the only part I was worried about was shaping the bread. I watched this video clip of Julia and Danielle, and no more worries - it's really simple once you've seen it done.

pink_db

I made Batards - a small baguette - and while I would have liked them a little longer, I'm not complaining. They rose perfectly and all in all, came out pretty perfect. They have a very crusty exterior, and fluffy, soft interior. The only thing I might have done differently is that I sprayed in more water in the oven a few times during baking, to provide a really moist environment. I think that might have contributed to the nice crust. Oh - and I needed more flour than the recipe stated to make it work - it was much too sticky at first, barely a dough at all.

I'm glad I made two batches at once - seeing as it took over seven hours from start to finish. Seven hours of fun and expectations! And you're rewarded with beautiful bread, so don't hesitate to make this if you happen to have a day free. It's well worth the effort!

For the full recipe, please go here.
And for the Daring Bakers Blogroll, go here.

39 comments:

Gigi said...

Your batards came out perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Katie said...

Im so impressed with how your bread turned out, it looks so authentic - just perfect.

Dagmar - A Cat in the Kitchen said...

The batards look gorgeous. I'm re-thinking things at the moment. Maybe I'll bake the bread anyway as I still have the whole day left to post.... Hmm...

Anne said...

the title suggests it all..they are absolutely perfect! The crust is simply beautiful :)

Anne said...

Dagmar, if you have the time, definitely go for it. It's easy, and the bread is great - I loved it. Forgot to mention that I sprayed mine with water a couple of times during baking though - I'll go add that to the post now.

Rachel said...

Perfect batards!

Big Boys Oven said...

oh so lovely, mine was a bit burnt!

Joy said...

Your batards are so pretty. I wish I'd watched the video as well - mine turned out a little bit wonky!

Dianne said...

Your loaves turned out to be gorgeous!

Katia said...

Your bread looks wonderful. pretty perfect!

marye said...

great job!

Tartelette said...

Perfect indeed! I bet the aromas in the house were insanely good!

Katy said...

yum! great work!

Mike A. said...

About spraying water.... I made some french bread last weekend and instead of spraying water in the oven like my reciped said to do, I put a pie pan with an inch or so of water on the lowest rack of the oven while the oven was preheating and during the baking. It made a nice moist environment and I got some good crust on the bread.

cookworm said...

Your breads look great! Such nice shaping. Yeah, I think Julia is an American thing - watching her cook in person or video is a completely different thing than reading her books. She's unpretentious and not afraid to mess up, which made her very human and accessible.

Brilynn said...

I should have doubled the recipe! The bread was good, but I'm not itching to spend an entire day making it again any time soon.

Annemarie said...

That was very clever, making the two batches at once. I'd love to have done that too, since although I'd like more the next 7-hour chunk of time free isn't in the near future.

Quellia said...

What a good idea, doubling the recipe!
Your bread looks amazing!

Mary said...

That's brilliant to make two batches at once. I wish I'd thought of that. Your bread looks terrific!

Ilva said...

They sure look perfect Anne, and yes I will follow your example and make two batches next time!

Namratha said...

They look perfect Anne, great job! :)

Meeta said...

Lovely looking batards Anne. Really rustic looking.

kellypea said...

Wow! Right. So I guess it's time to take on the world, huh? You go girl! Excellent work of this challenge. Mine took 30 hours, so I will NOT be taking on the world. :)

DawnsRecipes said...

And a perfect title, because they really are...well...perfect!

Katie B. said...

How brilliant of you to double!! Twice the tasty bread! Great job!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your batards look gorgeous and ever so perfect! Wow, you did a great job here!

Cheers,

Rosa

glamah16 said...

Easy breezy! You cut through it all and got to the heart of the matter. They look perfect.Well done.

Vibi said...

Wow! Anne, the best French bakery would be reaaaaal happy to have you as their master baker, I'm positive!
Those breads are simply amazing! BRAVO!

Kevin said...

Nice looking bread!

Jaime said...

your batards are so pretty and perfect! i'm jealous :)

breadchick said...

Yup, I'd say those are absolutely perfect! Thanks for baking with Sara and I this month.

Andrea said...

Your batards look great! Making two batches at once is a smart idea!

jasmine said...

Very, very lovely.

Yes, Julia is very much a (North) American thing, opening the world of French food and its techniques to many viewers.

j

Sara said...

Thanks for joining us this month!

Peabody said...

That really is some perfect looking bread.

Deborah said...

Gorgeous bread!

Jenny said...

Nice job!

I want to play around more with the steam element myself.

Mandy said...

clever idea of making 2 batches at once! Your batards look perfect.

Claire said...

Looks fantastic. You have a nice little basket of bread there!