Thursday, February 28, 2008

Daring Baker's Challenge: Julia Child's French Baguette









Ohhhhhh la la. I've always wanted to bake baguette, but I've been afraid, very afraid. I mean, I've been lucky enough to have lived in France and I know faaaaaar too well what a "real" baguette is supposed to taste like. A French baguette is a dream, to smell a freshly baked one is one of those Proustian experiences. And that's the mythical French baguette that is SO hard to reproduce. I've had multiple baguettes in the USA and none even come close to the real French baguette: a golden hue, a slight crunch when you squeeze it, giving in to a soft and chewy center with big holes and a great flavor. Some say it's a difference in the flour that is available in France versus the US. Regardless of why, I have always been a "baguette in France" aficionada!While living in France, I would eat baguette for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was one of those people who bought baguettes at the bakery and would gnaw the tip off in the subway before the baguette was even cool, making my fellow metro-riders green with baguette envy. Baguettes were a staple for me. I didn't think I could EVER make one of my own. Until now....

In come the Daring Bakers and the challenge posed by Breadchick and Sara: Julia Child's French Bread. At first I winced at the challenge, not because I didn't like it, but because I knew this was the one thing I had avoided for so long. And because I would know too well if it failed.

So I tackled the recipe, which is long but the steps involved are easy. I used my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook attachment, which made it even easier. Add ingredients, mix up, let rise. Easy as pie. I loved the way this dough rose: so fluffy and light with great big bubbles. It was a beautiful dough. My problem came in the shaping. I think I might have deflated too many of the bubbles. I had a tight crumb but was looking for something a bit more chewy and with larger holes. The final product tasted great, though, and the three baguettes I made from it disappeared within the day. I had a little left over the next day, which I spread with Nutella and had my semi-Proustian moment. No, my baguettes were not worthy of a Parisian boulangerie, but they weren't bad either. They just need fine tuning.

My one question for other bread bakers out there: how do I get that wonderful French baguette crust? My crust seemed so hard, too hard for baguette. I was looking for something that was golden, which gave a crisp crunch but wasn't too dense, and I found that my crust was too dense. What's the secret? (I steamed the oven, sprayed the walls with water, etc.)

If you plan on making this bread for dinner, be sure to start early, at around 9 a.m. at the latest. It takes a lot of time to ferment, so you need to time it just so. But the recipe says to let it cool for 2 hours before eating. Whatever. I cut into mine after 20 minutes!! SOOOOO good to have warm bread.

Anyway, I loved the recipe and look forward to doing it again because like all things I'm sure that with French baguette "practice makes perfect"!

Bon appétit! Here's the recipe courtesy of Breadchick! and of Sara, of Iliketocook. And to see the other amazing results, check the Daring Bakers blogroll!

22 comments:

Michelle said...

I think your bread looks perfect! Your dough had such big bubbles! I don't think I let mine rise enough, I got impatient!

L Vanel said...

Excellent. Simply excellent. I love your basket too!

Jerry said...

Lovely!

Mary said...

Your bread looks excellent! I'm not sure if it will help, but I stored my bread in a big ziplock bag and my crust softened right up.

Jaime said...

great job! sorry, but as a novice bread maker, i don't have advice on the crust for you...

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

It was hard to keep this covered well enough to keep a skin from forming while it rose. I may try putting my peel and cover in a plastic garbage bag next time to retain the moisture and see how that works. I hadn't thought of it until I read your post.
Your loaves look lovely. We also thought this is as close to Paris and France as anything we've found in this country.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I'm glad you liked this recipe! Very well done!

Cheers,

Rosa

Princess of the kitchen said...

great bread. Well done

Deborah said...

I think it looks wonderful!

breadchick said...

Your bread looks very nice and not bad for your first French bread. To get a crisp crust vs a hard crust you need two things hot stones/tiles and lots of steam in the oven. For the big holes, you need moisture in the dough and long rises. I suspect you will get there very soon!

Thanks for baking with Sara and I

Carrie said...

That is a huuuuge air bubble! Wow!

Jenny said...

A bread oven might do the trick. Not that I have one either....

Big Boys Oven said...

WOW! this is so amazing . .. lovely. I wouldn't to have send to me! well done! my was ok only, burnt!

Peabody said...

Steam, steam and more steam. Plus a good baking stone or tiles is your key to good crust.

Lesley said...

Argh, that's the frustration. I had a steam pan in the bottom of the oven going to town, plus I steamed the walls of the oven multiple times during the beginning of the baking process. The bread was on a pre-heated baking stone as well. That's my confusion.

I'm thinking I have to cover the baguettes with plastic while they are in their final rise, maybe that will help.

Sara said...

Great attitude! I can't wait to make this recipe again either. Next time I'm making epis.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Your loaves look so good. Funny picture of the enormous bubbles - it just says, "Pop me!"

Michelle said...

Wow your breads look amazing..everything on your blog looks wonderful!! Keep up the good work!

cookworm said...

Beautiful French bread! I like the giant gas bubbles. Nice job on the challenge!

Carla said...

Love the pics of the dough rising! And Nutella! I should have thought of that.

jasmine said...

I love the bubbles!

j

Tartelette said...

Great job on the challenge! We could have been neighbors on the subway!