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"!