About a week and a half before the challenge I thought it might be wise to print out the recipe so I could get familiar with it. To my surprise there were 11 pages of it! It sort of made me laugh on the one hand but on the other hand it sort of scared me too. I had to actually plan reading it because there was so much of it. All these pages for a bread that only consists of water, flour, salt and yeast 😉
I was glad that there were so many pages because everything is explained so well. This is especially important to someone who doesn’t do bread (that much). Everything that you are supposed to feel or see is explained and also the thinks that you could possibly see. A very good recipe indeed, though time-consuming to read.
Onto the making of the French bread. One of my aversion of making bread (without a bread machine that is) is that it’s difficult to plan, especially with two small children that need attention during the day and part of the evening. When yeast is involved you never really know for sure when you can expect the dough to have risen to double or in this case to tripled-and-a-halve! The indicative time was 3 – 5 hours for the first rise, than 1 Â½ â€“ 2 hours for the second and finally 1 Â½ â€“ 2 hours for the third. I wasn’t sure if I was able to do everything in one day so I opted for a first rise in the fridge. I made the dough around 22:30 and went to sleep. The next day I had to leave home at 8:00 to go to class so I figured if the dough had risen to the required volume of 10 Â½ cups I would do the next step (to deflate and to let is rise again). If not, than the dough would just have to wait till I got home at about 13:00. I called home at about 12:00 to ask my dad (my parents baby-sit the kids 2 days a week) how the dough was doing. Turned out it still didn’t reach the 10 Â½ cups so I asked him to take it out of the fridge to rise quicker. When I got home at 13:00 it was still not high enough and I had to wait until 15:30 before I could form the 1 big boule I was going to make (no time to form a lot of breads). I thought that I could bake it afterwards but even after reading the recipe twice before I started I didn’t remember there was even a third rise! And one that was to take 1 Â½ to 2 hours…so at that moment I decided to let it rise in the fridge again and to bake it the next day.
The next day the dough had doubled but it had to triple. I took it out of the fridge around 8:00 and at 10:00 I was ready for the final steps before baking. The flipping of the dough onto a baking sheet (which I used instead of card board or ply wood) went very well. It was a bit difficult to get the towel off because it stuck to the dough at a few small places. But in the end I managed to do so nearly without damage to the surface. The only problem I encountered during the whole process was that I wasn’t able to transfer the dough to its designated baking sheet. So I baked it on the intermediate baking sheet that was sprinkled with corn flour. This baking sheet was a bit small, if the boule was to expand more than 1 cm (Â½ in) to each side it would go over the edge of the bakins sheet. So I placed the baking sheet onto a bigger one and baked the bread. I did the brushing with water thing and jumped under the shower. When I returned to the kitchen the boule had baked for 24 minutes and looked much darker than I expected. Had to be patient for 3 hours before I could finally taste it. So in the end from making the dough till actually tasting the bread it took 39 hours! But the amount of time you actually had to do something was not a lot. Because of the ultra long time it took me to finish it, the taste had time to develop 😉
It didn’t turn out looking like it should have but for me it felt like sort of close enough. Need some work on my slashing action but at least the crust was nice and shiny. I was not as crusty as I expected, I think that was because the bottom of the boule barely browned at all and therefor didn’t seal the bread with a good crust. A baking stone would be an asset I think here.
It tasted very good! The inside was soft yet chewy (in a good way) and nice and moist. It reminded me more of Turkish pide than of French bread though.
The only more or less downside of the recipe is that in my opinion the bread was a bit too salty, and this is coming from a person who likes her savouries to be pretty salty! Next time I’d add less salt. Not that I think that there will be a next time with of all the planning involved 😉
And finally a note, I think that my dough was a little bit too moist because the boule couldn’t hold its shape. So instead of rounded edges I ended up with very sharp edges.