Friday, 29 February 2008

Daring Bakers: French Bread

"Sacre bleu, we have to make French Bread!" I declared on seeing February's Daring Baker challenge.
"Sacre bleu!" echoed Mr A&N.
(Now if I'm honest, we didn't so much utter 'sacre bleu' as have another form of French escape our lips, but this is a family-friendly blog and I've given up bad language for Lent.)


The French bread recipe wasn't for the feint of heart or fle
et of food - or those with a short attention span. At 15 pages, this was a recipe to either break you or make you respect Julia Child for her commitment to helping you create France's food classics. With 3 risings taking at least an hour each, and kneadings and shapings in between, this was also a commitment to spending the best part of your day elbow-deep in yeast.

And so the work began. I always struggle when kneading dough, fighting against adding more flour to keep the dough from sticking to my hands or the work top. I fought that instinct and respected Julia, and despite some profound stickiness saw through
the tactile stages just with the amounts proscribed.


My dough rose beautifully. It had achieved its first rise in about 2 hours but due to one thing and another I didn't get to take it out and knead it again until almost the 3 hour mark. It rose beautifully again in the second rise, and again I had to leave it for the outer-edge of the suggested rise-time since I was busy with other things.The shaping stage was now upon me, and though I had to read the directions several times through and practice my hand formations before bringing out the dough, this also proved fairly easy and I emerged with 6 loaves of batons, waiting for their final rise before they could become real French bread.


And this was when my flawless Daring Bakers experience caved in on me. Or, more punningly, failed to rise to the occasion. On the third rise, nothing happened. The first hour passed, and they hadn't budged from their thin cigar shapes. Thinking that perhaps the kitchen temperature had gone down from earlier in the day (it was 8pm by this stage), I popped the dough in a barely-heated oven to encourage any yeast that was getting the shivers. I can't tell if it was my imagination or that the dough did make a feeble stab at rising, but come 9pm and still not being in possession of puffy baguettes, I baked them anyway.

The bread was beautiful in flavor, well crusted and had been the best dough I've yet worked with, so emerging from 9 hours of heavy flour and wrist action with only 6 flat breads to show for it was disappointing. The charcouterie and pate I bought in anticipation of stuffing them into my own French bread had to instead by eaten either on these bread-crackers or just eaten plain (gosh life's difficult). I asked other DB'ers for advice about what may have gone wrong, and the popular suggestion was that my poor yeast simply ran out of food.


On the bright side, I defrosted the potato bread dough I had rushed into the freezer during our November challenge. It seemed to somehow be more glutinous and yeasty than what I remember the fresh dough to be, and it baked into an absolutely fantastic loaf. Hooray for Daring Bakers bread making.

Please do visit our valiant hosts for the month - Mary/BreadChick from The Sour Dough and Sara of I Like to Cook.

43 comments:

LizG said...

They still look great, Anne Marie! The third rise was also my Waterloo. I gave up after an hour and a half. Unfortunately, I couldn't put it in the oven to cox it further, as it had been pre-heated in anticipation of the bread. Cheers!

Joy said...

I agree, they still look great and flatbreads are tasty too...

Mine didn't rise much in the final session either. Although I was so desparate just to get them in the oven that this was probably down to me rushing rather than a lack of food for the poor yeast.

Joy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan from Food Blogga said...

Your opening reminds me of a few years back when I was on an Alexander Dumas reading binge. After reading The Three Musketeers, I kept saying things like "sacre bleu!" I don't know how Jeff didn't stick a whole baguette in my mouth to shut me up.

I'm sorry to hear about the trouble with the rising. As I've been commenting this morning, I have seen several daring bakers mentioning similar experiences. It sounds like it was one serious challenge this month. Kudos for completing it and for making it look so delicious! :)

L Vanel said...

Beautiful bread despite the last rising. It looks delicious!

Ilva said...

oh what a disappointment it must have been! But do give it another go, it's a wonderful bread!

marye said...

they do look nice.. :)

Marie said...

OHhh Anne Marie, your loaves look picture perfect and so crunchy and delicious! Well done!

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

Lovely loafs & great post Anne Marie! How I laughed at the feeble rise! Ye Gads...that's what we DB's are all about I guess! Cheers Deeba

Big Boys Oven said...

I tink you did sowell, all tose hard work does pay at the end! well done!

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

Great job. I was a challenge well done! Even bad bread tastes good in my book!

Cynthia said...

I am inspired to try this.

Quellia said...

Now those look like they would make amazingly good croutons! Vite! Vite! Go make a big salad with them!

Mary said...

I really like flatbreads and these might be really tasty flatbreads...

And maybe I should start saying "sacre blue!" It is a nice alternative to the cussing (or maybe it was whimpering in the sticky phase) I was doing!

Lis said...

So I came here with high hopes that I'd think of something witty to say because I fakkin love the comments you leave me.. (Nigella one made me about choke on my tea.. bless you) but I'm freakin' out cuz I'm at work and my boss is here.. but dammit I'm not going to have time later or tomorrow.. and OH MY GOD like you and your readers need to hear this shite!

Anyhoo.. I'm sorry they ended up being on the anorexic side.. although dipping them into pate sounds like something I'd be up for!

When are you coming back to the states? We should try baking this again together! hehe

xoxo

Andrea said...

Oh, I can sympathize! When challenged by a recipe, there can be all sorts of colorful language in my kitchen, sometimes before I shoo the children away! Ooops!

Your breads still look good!

DawnsRecipes said...

The photography is beautiful! Sorry to hear your poor yeast went hungry, but the bread looks lovely anyway.

Brilynn said...

I wish I still had some of that potato dough leftover! Glad you got to enjoy some bread regardless!

Baking Soda said...

Anorex breadsticks and hungry yeastybeasties, all in one foodblog? Sacre Bleu!
I'm sorry you were disappointed in the last instant, still they look yummy to me.

glamah16 said...

We had identical first experinces. I do believe it was the temp dropping that time of night and no sunshine in the kitchen. That potatoe bread was good!

Emiline said...

I think I'm the only person that's not a Daring Baker.

How I feel for you guys!
That's so disappointing to put in all of that work, and not get the results you want.
But I guess that's the price you pay as a Daring Baker...

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

It looks like beautiful loaves!. . . just never know when life or yeast will play tricks on us.
And the potato bread was even better, guess those yeasties still loved you. At any rate you didn't go hungry and had good things to eat!

jasmine said...

Ils sont magnifiques!

Puffy baguettes are overrated :)

j

Molly Loves Paris said...

Isn't it nice that bread tastes good no matter what. My bread slowed down on the last rising, which was actually the forth due to things I had to do. Good effort.

Jaime said...

even though they didn't rise the 3rd time, they still look great!

breadchick said...

I'd say even though the yeasties didn't have any strength left at the end your bread still looks lovely

Thanks for baking with Sara and I

Princess of the kitchen said...

lovely rusctic baguettes. Bet they tasted fgood

Sheltie Girl said...

Your loves look beautiful. I'm sorry that they didn't rise more for you on the final rising. My breads never rose all that much...it's the whole yeast/gluten free thing. However they tasted great.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Gretchen Noelle said...

Bummer that the last rise sort of gave out. How fun that you still had potato bread dough in the freezer!

Pixie said...

I'm not sure I had much rising the third time either. Your bread turned out great!

Lore said...

They look great to me!
Hope I'm not making a sacrilege when I say that I would gladly eat a slice topped with just a thin lard layer and a tomato salad. Very paysan of me, isn't it?

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Wonderful looking breads despite your little problem! Very well done!

Cheers,

Rosa

Sara said...

Your pictures are beautiful!

Shandy said...

Your bread still looks wonderful and what a long process! I have to admit, though, that I loved learning so many new and different tips for baking a great loaf of bread. I also had to fight the urge to continually add more flour. Great job and beautiful photos =D
Shandy@Pastry Heaven

zorra said...

I'm sorry you did not get a healthy yeast, but your bread sticks looks great anyway.

Peabody said...

Bummer about the third rise...but they still look good to me.

bbaking said...

my bread was also a bit "lazy" with the final rise!
I still think your bread looks gorgeos though!

Jenny said...

You are lucky your potato bread challenge went better than mine, then. Hehe.

I hope you get an opportunity to try this recipe again - maybe your yeast was just being stubborn!

Elle said...

That third rise was not easy...mine didn't rise as much as I thought they should either...poor starving loaves! Your look great even if they are not puffy.

Lesley said...

ohhhhh, I know it's disappointing to put that much work into something and have it not work out. But you know, I thought on just looking at the pictures that you had made ficelles that turned out perfectly!!!

Deborah said...

Sorry you didn't love it, but it still looks great!

Kate / Kajal said...

ok all of you expert bread bakers ... u are absolutely putting e to shame. I still cant bake bread. But so many french loaves around ... who need to bake ... honey just send some over :)

Claire said...

Too bad they weren't what you wanted! They still look great.