It's that time of month again; it's Daring Bakers time. This months recipe is French Bread, Julia Child style. Making my own French bread has been on my todo list for a while and this was a great time to do it.
One of the reasons that I joined the Daring Bakers was to challenge myself. Many Daring Bakers recipes are challenging in that they include several different components. This recipe may look simple when looking at the ingredient list but the instructions make up for it. Making French bread takes a bit of effort and time. A lot of time in fact. It includes letting the dough rise three times and letting the bread cool each of which takes 2-3 hours for a total of 8-12 hours. This is definitely something that you want to do on the weekend.
Making the bread, although time consuming was not too difficult. When I read the instructions the first time I somehow missed the third rising. By the time I finished the bread it was pretty late at night. I decided to form my bread into the classic baguette shape. The only problem that I had with the recipe was the folding stage. I could not figure out what I was supposed to be doing. Some pictures would have been helpful. I did some folding and forming and it seemed to turn out ok so it was not a problem.
When I pulled the bread out of the oven something seemed wrong. The bread seemed to be rock hard. I thought that I might have done something wrong and that I might have just wasted an entire days worth of effort. Instead of waiting for the bread to cool for the recommended 2-3 hours I immediately cracked open a loaf. The inside was so light, fluffy and just perfect. It was almost cloud like. Now that I had cracked open a loaf and seen the inside there was no way that I could not try just a piece right away. I cut off a slice and spread on some butter which started melting into the still warm bread. Despite the fact that the crust seemed a bit hard to the touch, it seemed perfectly crusty to the mouth and teeth. The bread was so good! The just one slice quickly turned into just one loaf! I really, really enjoy freshly baked bread with melting butter.
Overall the French bread was a lot of work and took a lot of time but it was worth it. It was some of the best bread that I have ever made or even had. I will be making this again but given that it takes a whole day I am not sure how often that will be.
- 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/4 cups tepid water
- Mix the yeast and warm water and let sit for a few minutes.
- Mix everything in the bowl to form a dough that should be soft and sticky.
- Place the dough onto the kneading surface and let sit for a few minutes.
- Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes adding a bit of flour if it is too sticky. The dough should be elastic and retract into shape when you push it out. The dough should also be cleaning itself off the working surface but still be sticky to your hands.
- Let the dough rest for a few minutes.
- Knead for a minute. The dough should look smooth, be less sticky and remain soft.
- Let the dough rise to triple its volume over the next 3-5 hours in a lightly greased covered bowl.
- Pour the dough onto a lightly floured surface and flatten it with your lightly floured hands.
- Fold the dough in half and in half again and place it back in the bowl.
- Cover the bowl and let the dough rise to triple its volume, about 3 hours.
- Pour the dough onto a lightly floured surface and and cut it into the shapes that you want. If you want one big round loaf leave it alone. If you want 3 baguette shaped loaves then cut it into three long pieces. Etc.
- Fold the dough in half, cover and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Dust a tea towel with flour so that the formed dough can rise on it without sticking to it.
- Form the dough into an 8-10 inch oval on a lightly floured surface with your lightly floured hands.
- Fold the dough in half lengthwise and seal the fold.
- Roll the dough 1/4 turn so that the fold it on top.
- Flatten the dough into an oval again and press a trench along the fold with the side of your hand.
- Fold the dough in half lengthwise and seal the edges.
- Roll the dough 1/4 turn so that the seal is on the bottom.
- Roll the dough back and forth and stretch it to form a long cylinder.
- Place the formed dough on the floured tea towel and form the remaining two loaves.
- Cover the loaves and let rise until they have tripled in volume.
- Carefully lift the loaves off of the tea towel and place them on a baking sheet.
- Using a sharp knife slash the tops of the loaves 3 times.
- Bake in a preheated 450F/230C oven for 25 minute. The crust should be golden brown and crisp. It should sound hollow when knocked.
- Let the bread cool for 2-3 hours.