Loafing Around With Julia (French Bread)

Friday, February 29, 2008


Well, here I am for my third Daring Baker Challenge and no plague, infestation or other calamity has befallen me yet! Unless, that is, you count the big chunk of my living room ceiling that fell in a few weeks ago, during an particularly strong thunderstorm. But, you know what? I’m not even going to go there. It’s a beautiful day and I have some gorgeous fresh bread loafing around on my kitchen counter, the heady aroma of which is still wafting through the house, making me swoon. Life is good.

The theme for this month’s DB challenge is Julia Child’s French Bread from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2. Mary (the Breadchick) from The Sour Dough and Sara from I Like to Cook are our hosts this month. I have to start off by giving them both a BIG THANK YOU for hosting this month’s challenge. It is obvious that they put an enormous amount of time and effort into selecting and fine tuning the recipe, so that even a doughaphobic bread baker like me, could follow it.

When I first took a look at the recipe, I almost died! It was about 18 pages long! I just knew that at the end of the day, instead of tasting delicious french bread, I would be tasting defeat. I tried not to get discouraged and sat down to see if I could disect the recipe a little. I’m so glad I did. While the recipe itself is pretty darn long, there was a substantial number of very important and helpful editorial comments by Mary and Sara, which probably made up a good portion of the total page count. (Thank God for those comments!) Once I extrapolated the actual recipe from the commentary, it seemed much more manageable to me. I was ready to plunge right in.

I decided that since I was already committed to making this bread, I should make twice as much. I was afraid to double the recipe, so I went ahead and made two separate batches. I began the process at around 10:00 a.m. and took the last loaf out of the oven at around at around 1:00 a.m. the next day. It was a very loooooong process!

….
Much to my surprise, I had no trouble whatsoever making the dough. I did have to add a little extra flour, but other than that, it went very smoothly. The dough was smooth and pliant, a little tacky, but not at all sticky. Whew! Good. I left it buried under plastic wrap and a towel for the first rise. I also set the thermostat to 70 degrees. Then, I went to get my hair done. (All that white stuff in my hair isn’t just flour, you know. A girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do!)
The first rise came off without a hitch. My dough had tripled in size and looked as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Next came the second rise. While that was happening, I went to my office to do some paperwork. (Those highlights don’t pay for themselves, you know!) When I returned, about two and a half hours later, the dough was again, just as it was supposed to be. By that time, I was really pumped up!

Here’s where things started to get, well…sticky. I had a hell of a time forming the dough into the shapes I wanted. I’d planned to make at a couple of long baguettes, one regular French loaf and one boule. My first attempt at forming the baguettes didn’t go as smoothly as I had planned. Actually, I made such a mess of it that I had to throw it out. I.Was.Not.Happy! It was a good thing that I made that extra batch of dough!

In the midst of me having a little temper tantrum, I got a call from my mother. She has this uncanny knack of always calling me when I am in the throes of one crisis or another. This time, her timing was just right. Apparently, she has Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2, AND has made this particular recipe on numerous occasions. Sooooo, I did the only thing I could do. I packed up my little lumps of dough and hightailed it over to her house. These are the things that a Daring Baker must occasionally do!

Thankfully, Mom only lives a few blocks away. Upon my solemn promise to share the finished product with her, she agreed to help me. It was a good thing too. From the remainder of my dough, we were able to get two long baguettes, one big fat loaf and one mini boule. After the third rise, she carved those slices in the loaves like a pro. I never knew she had such wicked knife skills. (Remind me never to piss her off!)

Since I had my simulated baker’s oven all set to go at home, I verrrrrry carefully transported my doughy little babies home to bake. I loaded a 9-inch cast iron skilled with some water, plopped a brick in it, and tossed a few ice cubes in for luck. Then I gently rolled my dough onto an extremely hot stone baking sheet and baked some bread!

When time was up, I opened the oven door and what I saw took my breath away. I not only had freshly baked French bread, but I had GORGEOUS freshly baked French bread! It was brown and crusty and shiny. Unfortunately, I forgot that it was one o’clock in the morning and my squeals of delight woke up Mr. SGCC, who was not quite as excited about my accomplishment as I was. Oh well, he certainly didn’t mind too much when he was scarfing down that bread the next day.

Now, for the million dollar questions: Am I glad I did it ? Absolutely! The rush I got from seeing those beautiful loaves come out of the oven was priceless. Would I do it again? Probably not. As thrilled as I was with the end result, the whole process took way too long, from start to finish, to work with my schedule. The important thing for me is that, even though I probably won’t do it again, I now know that I CAN do it.
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I had a ball taking the pictures for this challenge. You’ll notice that my big French loaf is also a big ham! She couldn’t resist dressing up a little for her photo op. I also finally got the chance to take my beautiful Hermes scarves from Paris out of their boxes. I used them for the backdrops.

As I noted earlier, this is the mother of long recipes. For that reason, and to prevent me from getting carpal tunnel syndrome, I am not going to type it all out for you. If you would like to see the recipe, you can click here.

Sincere thanks again go to Mary and Sara for this excellent challenge, as well as Ivonne and Lisa, who created this fierce and fearless group, the Daring Bakers! I urge you to take some time this weekend and visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see some of the other awesome French bread creations that this terrific group of bakers has come up with.
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44 responses to Loafing Around With Julia (French Bread)

  1. On February 29, 2008 at 5:05pm, Gabi said...

    Ooh they are SO beautiful! Very nice job and I agree it’s sometimes just as important to know that you CAN do something as whether you CHOOSE to do it or not!
    Take Care
    x x x

  2. On February 29, 2008 at 6:33pm, Hannah said...

    I love how you posed those pictures- So bright and whimsical! Not to mention, your breads all look perfect!

  3. On February 29, 2008 at 8:13pm, Big Boys Oven said...

    OMG! yours look so perfect and flawless . . . something I would love to see in my dining room! well done!

  4. On February 29, 2008 at 8:42pm, Carrie said...

    Beautiful!
    I love the photos! :-)

  5. On February 29, 2008 at 9:24pm, Kevin said...

    Great looking bread and nice photos!

  6. On February 29, 2008 at 9:44pm, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Gabi- Thank you. One of the things I love about being a DBer is that I am forced to climb out of my comfort zone. It’s not always fun, but it’s always satisfying.

    Hannah- Thanks! I don’t know why I did it. I was just feeling a little silly that day.

    Big Boys Oven- Thank you so much! I’m glad you like them. Yours were pretty fabulous too! ;)

    Carrie- Thank you! I got kind of attached to those little guys, so I personifed them a little. Oh no! Does that mean I’m a cannibal!? ;)

    Kevin- Thanks! I really loved your udon noodles!

  7. On February 29, 2008 at 10:44pm, Manggy said...

    I think your loaves have the most beautiful patterns I’ve seen yet!

  8. On February 29, 2008 at 10:50pm, Jenny said...

    Your bread looks great, and the pictures make it look even better.

  9. On February 29, 2008 at 11:31pm, marias23 said...

    Heehee, a glam photo op indeed and they all look gorgeous! :)

    Now, why didn’t I think of baked brie? That’s brilliant!

  10. On March 01, 2008 at 2:13am, zorra said...

    Great bread and very nice pictures. I like the one with the YSL lipstick, very girly. ;-)

  11. On March 01, 2008 at 3:02am, L Vanel said...

    I adore your photos and your bread looks amazing!

  12. On March 01, 2008 at 3:17am, ostwestwind said...

    Great bread, great pictures!

    Well done

    Ulrike from Küchenlatein

  13. On March 01, 2008 at 3:18am, Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

    Your loaves look perfect! You did a great job here! Mmmhhh, with some Brie, please!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  14. On March 01, 2008 at 3:33am, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Manggy- Thank you! I have to confess, my mom helped me form and slash the loaves. She has some mad ginsu slashing technique!

    Jenny- Thanks! I really had fun with it.

    Marias23- Lol! Thanks. They were very excited to get their pictures taken.

    We love brie. and it holds up better than butter for pictures.

    Zorra- Thank you. I’m sure you could tell which loaf is the girly one! ;)

    I Vanel- Thank you. I’m very happy that you like it.

    Ulrike- Thank you so much!

    Rosa- Thanks. I did have a little help from my mom with the forming and slashing. She’s the one with the finesse! I should have paid more attention when I was growing up! ;)

  15. On March 01, 2008 at 4:20am, Aran Goyoaga said...

    Your bread looks really really good! Especially under that beret! Hahaha. I’m sorry to hear that your ceiling fell, that must have been quite the thunderstorm! Well done!

  16. On March 01, 2008 at 6:10am, Baking Soda said...

    Oooh beauty breads and lovely pics! Love the lipstick, trés Parisienne non?

  17. On March 01, 2008 at 6:26am, Princess of the kitchen said...

    great bread and beautiful photos

  18. On March 01, 2008 at 7:53am, Bellini Valli said...

    Your loaves are a thing of beauty Susan. You certainly “rose” tp the challenge…did those French women ever sleep??? It certainly was a lengthy process but well worth the effort. I made baguettes just so that I could cheat and have some straight from the oven slathered in butter:D

  19. On March 01, 2008 at 8:07am, i shot the chef said...

    Holy Schnikes those are gorgeous!!! I love that one is wearing a beret. Totally fitting! Wonderful job on this challenge! – Candace

  20. On March 01, 2008 at 9:21am, Brilynn said...

    I love your Paris inspired pictures, lovely!

  21. On March 01, 2008 at 10:52am, Gretchen Noelle said...

    Adorable! What a crack up to think of you hauling your dough to moms and then hauling the shaped loaves back! What a kick! You do have some lovely loaves here!

  22. On March 01, 2008 at 11:03am, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Aran- Thank you! Yes, that loaf was a bit of a ham, lol.
    You should join the Daring Bakers. It would be right up your alley. It is a lot of fun and you will meet lots of other bloggers.

    Baking Soda- Merci beaucoup! Tha lipstick is for AFTER you eat the bread! ;)

    Princess- Thanks! I’m glad you liked them.

    Valli- Thank you! The funny thing is I’ve read that no one bakes their own bread in Paris. Why would they, with all of the best boulangeries in the world at their feet!

    Candace- Thanks! I couldn’t resist the beret. The bread insisted on the pink ribbon. ;)

    Brilynn- Thank you very much. Glad you liked them.

  23. On March 01, 2008 at 11:22am, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Gretchen- It was desperation! My first baguette was a tangled mess. Trust me, my loaves would not have looked as good without a little help!

  24. On March 01, 2008 at 12:04pm, Sara<3 said...

    Fantastic! I had mine with Brie as well. The first picture of this post is ADORABLE!

  25. On March 01, 2008 at 12:13pm, Jo. said...

    Your breads look simply fantastic :-) They must be ver tasty as well.

  26. On March 01, 2008 at 2:26pm, Joy said...

    I love the dressing up of your bread in the first picture – it’s so chic! They are beautiful loaves; hurrah for mums!

  27. On March 01, 2008 at 7:55pm, Jessy and her dog Winnie said...

    Beautiful!!!

  28. On March 02, 2008 at 12:49am, Cakelaw said...

    Hi Susan, Despite the loss of the first batch of dough, your finished bread looks amazing! And I love the fact that your big Frebch bread loaf “dressed up” in a big pink bow for the occasion.

  29. On March 02, 2008 at 1:45am, Emiline said...

    Your bread looks wonderful! The loaves are so skinny, which makes it look authentic.

  30. On March 02, 2008 at 8:38am, breadchick said...

    Your bread is pricelessly gorgeous.
    I love that you shared this moment with your mother. I wish mine was closer so we could bake together.

    Thanks so much for baking with Sara and I

  31. On March 02, 2008 at 11:18am, Merav said...

    Your breads are stunning and I adore the photos! Looks like you had a blast!

  32. On March 02, 2008 at 12:20pm, marion - il en faut peu pour ... said...

    it looks great !!!!! some french bakers are unable to di this :) congrats !!!!!
    ps : another day, try it with “real” cheese :))))))))

  33. On March 02, 2008 at 6:29pm, Elle said...

    Your bread IS gorgeous…crusty and shiny and golden…and the Hermes scarves are a perfect backdrop…not too sure about the lipstick, though.
    It is great that you mom was able to do some of the baking with you. Love the baking together thing. :)

  34. On March 02, 2008 at 9:31pm, Cookie baker Lynn said...

    Your bread is absolutely beautiful! So sad that you threw away a batch, but hooray for mother’s who know what they’re doing! Good job!

  35. On March 03, 2008 at 12:30am, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Sara<3- Thanks! What's a baguette without a little brie!

    Jo- Thank you! They did taste pretty great.

    Joy- I’m glad you like the photo. Yes, my mom really came through!

    Jessy- Thanks!!!

    Cakelaw- Thank you! Fortunately, I only lost one loaf from the first batch. That’s how I had enough to make the big one. I’m glad you liked her “outfit”.

    Emiline- I’m so glad you like them. The skinny ones were the hardest to make.

    Breadchick- Thank you! You and Sara did a fantastic job setting up this challenge.

    Merav- Thank you so much! I did have fun with this one.

    Marion- Thank you! I’m glad you like the bread. I grabbed that cheese at the market for the pictures. It wasn’t very good. The next day, I went to a nice shop and found some beautiful brie de meaux. Delicious!

    Elle- Thanks! I’m so happy that you like them. The lipstick made sense at the time – it was YSL – but I see your point.

    Lynn- Thank you! Yeah, my mom really saved my butt this time. It was funny, because I’d never seen her bake bread. She started doing it after I got married and moved out.

  36. On March 03, 2008 at 12:54am, Sara said...

    I hope you do try it again, your bread looks amazing!

  37. On March 03, 2008 at 7:06am, Half Baked said...

    Your bread looks beautiful! Nice job on this challenge!

  38. On March 03, 2008 at 2:57pm, Mansi Desai said...

    Looks like you totally nailed the recipe!:)

  39. On March 03, 2008 at 6:48pm, Claire said...

    WOW! Your bread is *gorgeous*! I love the settings of your pictures too. Keep on having fun with it.

  40. On March 03, 2008 at 9:20pm, Tartelette said...

    Would you please return my beret and YSL lipstick….Puleeze!!! Kidding! You did one smacking fantastic job with the bread! Bravo!!

  41. On March 04, 2008 at 12:10am, kellypea said...

    You are so right! Gorgeous bread. And how cool that your mom was able to help. Mine helped out on the bagel challenge which was a hoot. Very nice job!

  42. On March 04, 2008 at 1:12am, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Sara- Thanks! Maybe I’ll try it again during the summer, when my schedule is more flexible.

    half baked- Thank you! It was a great challenge.

    Mansi- There were some scary moments, but I survived! ;)

    Claire- Thank you so much! Glad you liked them.

    Tartelette- Oops! You caught me. They’re on their way back to you! ;)
    I’m so glad you like my bread. I still can’t believe I did it!

    Kellypea- Thanks! I would have been up the creek if my mom hadn’t helped me shape that dough.

  43. On March 05, 2008 at 11:19pm, Proud Italian Cook said...

    Fantastic looking bread! I love hoe you took your photo’s too, very french!!

  44. On March 12, 2008 at 1:05pm, Maddy said...

    Your loaves look gorgeous, as do your pictures! I am such sucker for just a simple plate of bread and cheese..yum!

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kiss the cook!

Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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