Thursday, 28 February 2008

Julia Child's French bread(rolls)

This month's Daring Bakers (fondly abbreviated DB by other fellow members) challenge hosted by Mary and Sara involves making French bread following the recipe by Julia Child. Although I have made bread with success in the past, I felt rather dubious undertaking this particular project. I suppose it is partly because I want my first DB entry to be groundbreaking, to be successful and prehaps even triumphant. Alas, this is not the case.

I made 2 attempts at the recipe, the first being a failure I would prefer to forget. However, in the spirit of selflessness (which is quite unfamiliar to me... 'til now) and by sharing a personal flop so others may learn and never have to suffer the same frustration, I have decided to again live through and immortalise the painful mistakes I have made through picture and prose.

In retrospect, I should have saved my Waitrose: Super Strong Unbleached Flour for my very delicious rye n seed loaves. I suspect being a less processsed flour meant that it had a lower starch content to "soak" up the volume of liquid called for in the recipe. I should have picked up on how soft and sticky the dough felt during kneading - or should I say paddling. The dough was reminiscent of the one for the no-knead bread I made previously. Not soupy, but definately difficult to handle and shape. Still, I perservered until the bread were baked. Despite the disappointing outcome, I took photographs so you (my patient reader) can picture what I have been ranting about for the past paragraph.

A more promising outcome came at my second attempt, though still a far cry from the sticks, boules and loaves you get from a French boulangerie. At the risk of sounding like a defeatist, I did resign myself to the fact that I will never achieve a good quality French crust; one that is thin, crisp and crackles as you tear the bread apart, at home. To be fair, I think all of us who decided to embark on this challenge were doing so on a handicap - we were all lacking the right oven! Or perhaps I just didn't try hard enough(?)

I spent a restless night in bed after my failed first attempt (NB you should know by now if you are losing sleep over the failure to make bread, it is likely your obsession is pathological) trying to figure out where I went wrong. I decided then, at a little past 3 in the morning, to get back into the kitchen and to try the recipe yet again but using an all-purpose flour (the colour of all-purpose flour is closer to brilliant white compared to the super-strong variety, the bleaching process leaches some of the grains' protein) and a teaspoon of sugar to help the yeast along during the prolonged fermentation period. I added water gradually to the dry ingredients while mixing and used considerably less water (a total of 290 ml) to achieve what I thought was an adequate consistency ie. soft, slightly tacky and pulling off the sides of the mixing bowl.

I followed the fermentation times inerrantly and was pleased with the results after each of the prescribed rising times. I performed 2 book-turns after the pointage premier temps to develop the gluten further and after the pointage deuxieme temps, I divided my dough into half and from the one half, shaped six petit pains and the other into a batard.

So far so good... but here comes the point where I fell short. Short of patience that is.

So why is it that the final rise takes so long? It felt like an eternity! I was rubbing my hands with anxiety and I finally gave into placing my dough in the oven eventhough I knew they just weren't quite ready to be baked. A price I paid quite dearly as clearly illustrated in the image below.

Yup, no simulated baker's oven was going to save these babies! The crumb of the baked product was tight and dense. Although not unpleasant to eat, I can't say it made me sing or cry out with joy.

All in all, I truly enjoyed this challenge. Furthermore, it has reinforced my belief that we all learn from mistakes and I have learnt mine: patience is required when baking the perfect bread.


Gabi said...

Welcome to the DBs- you did a great job! I laughed at the obsession in the middle of the night as only one who has been there before could.
I think your rolls are lovely and the process of going back and trying to figure out how to adjust is the mark of a truly Daring Baker- so be proud of yourself... not so hard!
x x x

Tartelette said...

You did a fabulous job! Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

Pixie said...

Welcome- I think you did an amazing job for your first challenge and I'm in awe that you actually attempted it twice! I had to add quite a bit of flour each time as the dough was sweaty, believe it worked out in the end but not to what you would consider perfection. (i ramble sorry!) anyhow, well done!!!!

li said...

Thank you so much for your encouraging comment. I might revisit the recipe again... but not too soon! ;)

Thank you for dropping by!

Thanks! I had the same problem wiht the first dough I made. I thought this was quite a technical challenge so I think it is great effort on our behalf!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your breads look marvelous! You did a great job here!



L Vanel said...

I think that both batches look great!

Jerry said...

Maybe that is why I also, did not do well on my bread, I lacked patience. But no matter, you did a lovely job! We all have our troubles, but we mutter through! Just remember you are a Daring Baker!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Great breads! They look fabulous! A very daring baker makes things again and again - good for you for trying a second time! Congratulations on completing your first DB challenge - Welcome!

li said...

lucy, jerry n gretchen,
thank you for stopping by with your comments. believe it or not, i am trying this recipe for the 3rd time as i type... wish me luck!

Mer said...

Looks beautiful! And good job for trying it a second time when you weren't pleased with the first.

breadchick said...

Welcome to DB and now I see you are doing this for the 3rd time! I hope you have good luck today. Your first 2 don't look too bad!

Thanks for baking with Sara and I

Jenny said...

Hmm, I bet they'd be great toasted (my answer to any slightly imperfect end result - like mine!). Great job trying so many times!

li said...

mer, breadchick n jenny,
thanks for dropping by.
i was quite pleased with my last attempt (trial #3 ;D) although the texture was still a lil too dense (akin to a pane di casa). i just have to work on the aesthetics of the bread now... and i think i might have discovered just how to do it! stay tuned

Lunch Buckets said...

Welcome to the DBs!

Sheltie Girl said...

Welcome to the Daring Bakers! You did a wonderful job on all your loaves. This recipe does require patience...lots of it too.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Sara said...

Great post. Thanks for baking with us this month.

Figur8 said...

Well, your one year old sous chef gave it the thumbs up - that by my book is a victory in itself! ;o)

Deborah said...

I think you are being too hard on yourself - I think it looks wonderful! Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

Aparna said...

Welcome to the DB community. I think your bread looks pretty good. You should see mine. And I understand ( I don't know this for sure) that the French don't bake their bread but buy it!

li said...

lunchbuckets, sheltiegirl, deborah, aparna:

thank you for the warm welcome and for dropping by with your lovely comments.

figr8 : it is very encouraging that he approves!

sara: thank you for hosting this month's DB challenge

li said...

lunchbuckets, sheltiegirl, deborah, aparna:

thank you for the warm welcome and for dropping by with your lovely comments.

figr8 : it is very encouraging that he approves!

sara: thank you for hosting this month's DB challenge

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