Friday, February 29, 2008

Just Four Ingredients

frenchbread_slices


...and not a stick of butter or cup of sugar in sight!

I've been a Daring Baker for over a year now. When I first joined we were a group of only 10 bakers and we didn't have an official name. Now there are almost 600 members plus another 100 joining next month. Who are the Daring Bakers? We're a group of food bloggers who, once a month, make the exact same recipe and then blog about our experience on the same day.

The Sour Dough's Mary and I Like to Cook's Sara are the gracious co-hosts for this month's installment of the Daring Baker challenge. I knew that with Mary being one of the hosts the likelihood of the challenge being bread was quite high. She is the "Breadchick" after all! According to Sara and Mary, the French bread recipe from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2" takes up 18 pages in the cookbook! Although that sounds intimidating, the actual recipe is just four simple ingredients: flour, yeast, salt and water. Julia had a great love for le pain Francais and that much love cannot be contained in just a couple pages.

I'm happy to say that since joining last February I haven't missed participating in a challenge yet. I thought I might have to skip this month's challenge because I wasn't sure if I would have the time. Although the active time required for making the French bread was only about 1 - 1.5 hours, the bread dough would require 3 rises. The first rise could be from 3.5 - 5 hours, the second 1.5 - 2 hours and the final about 1.5 - 2.5 hours. It's not like I would need to be chained to my kitchen for 11 hours straight, but I had to find a day where my schedule would allow it. The end of the month was approaching quickly, but I managed to bake my bread last Saturday. That day turned out to be cold, windy and rainy which was great for staying indoors. I was a little worried that the high humidity could wreak some havoc on my dough, but I was worried for nothing.

Like I've done in the past, I used my oven as a proof box. I warmed my oven for couple minutes and then turned it off. When it had cooled to about 80F, it was ready for the dough to sit in there for the rise. Mary and Sara also gave tips for other ways to keep the dough at the optimal rising temperature of 75-80F like using a heating pad or the top of your water heater. I think other Daring Bakers have mentioned using their clean, empty dishwasher still warm from the heating cycle to proof their dough.

I had most of the equipment necessary for making the French bread. I didn't have a pizza stone or unglazed quarry tiles to put in my oven as a baking surface. I decided to take my chances and just use a baking sheet pan lined with parchment paper. I read somewhere that the parchment must be professional grade or it'll char or burn in the oven while the bread is baking. My paper turned pale golden brown but there was no charring or burning. I didn't have stiff board to flip my formed and proofed loaf. I guess I could've gone downstairs and rummaged for a piece of cardboard and then covered it with aluminum foil as a decent substitute, but I just used another baking sheet pan. I turned the pan over so that I could flip my formed and proofed loaf onto the underside of the baking sheet pan. That way I could slide it off without interference from the rim of the sheet pan.

Some of the other bakers mentioned that there was a video of Danielle Forestier making French bread from the Baking with Julia [Child] PBS television series. Although it was not the same recipe we were using, the techniques are the same. Even though the recipe given to us by Mary and Sara was very detailed and included all the information we needed (plus a lot of helpful tips too), the video helped me understand what it means to create the "gluten cloak" or how to "pucker" my loaf. I even learned how to flour my linen towel properly so that my formed loaf wouldn't stick to it. As a novice with yeast and bread baking, that video was invaluable.

frenchbread_loaf

Even though my bread didn't turn out to be good looking, it tasted pretty good. It's awesome that four simple ingredients can be transformed into something so amazing with just a little kneading and time. Even though I've only worked with yeast three times before, this French bread challenge absolutely felt like a turning point for me. The bagels, cinnamon buns and potato bread from previous DB challenges helped me to conquer my fear of working with yeast, but this challenge made me feel like I could eventually become a decent bread baker. The concept behind the Daring Bakers is so simple: just follow the recipe chosen by the host. It may or may not be a recipe I would've picked if left to my own devices, but occasionally being coaxed (well, forced) out of my baking comfort zone has opened my eyes to a whole new world. So once again I am thankful to be part of this wonderful group of bakers. Without the Daring Bakers I may never have had this incredible breakthrough.

db_logo_orange


Normally this is where I would post the recipe. Since the recipe is quite long, please visit Breadchick Mary's blog,The Sour Dough, to see the recipe.

frenchbread_crumb

71 comments:

Gretchen Noelle said...

Very nice french bread! It is amazing that with just 4 ingredients something comes of it that we can eat! Well put!

slush said...

Yours turned out much much better than mine. Great job!

chelley325 said...

Your bread turned out beautiful! Wonderful job!

breadchick said...

Alpineberry Mary, your bread is simply lovely! I'm happy *and Julia would be equally thrilled* that it was the French Bread that made you finally turn that corner to become confident in your bread making skills.

Thanks for a being such a great Daring Baker sister!

Karen said...

Beautiful bread! I agree, it did taste really good.

amanda. said...

Gooooorgeous! I'm almost embarassed to post mine now.

Anne said...

what a beautiful loaf!

Kitt said...

Looks good to me! I doubt I will ever get to the point of making "real" bread, having found the no-knead variety so appetizing and easy, but I applaud all who tackle its complexities!

Another solution for a warm rise I've found since I lost my gas oven: If you have an over-the-stove microwave, they often have a light underneath to illuminate the range. Put your dough in the microwave and leave the light on underneath. The heat from the bulb keeps the microwave warm enough for a good rise.

Dharm said...

Great bread Mary! I love how yours turned out so round! Great job.

bbaking said...

Gorgeous looking bread Mary! wowee

Rachel said...

Very nice bread..The slash is prominent too!

Joy said...

I completely agree about the marvel of just four ingredients producing such delicious results, although I probably slathered about a stick of butter onto my finished baguette! Your bread looks pretty and tasty. Very tempting.

Cakelaw said...

Hi Mary, A lovely looking loaf - and congratulations on stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Ann said...

I think your bread looks great! Mine was all pale and short.

culinography said...

Your bread turned out wonderfully!

Katia said...

Your bread turned out very nice. This was quite a challenge for me as well since I am not used to working with yeast. I thought it tasted great also.

Dhanggit said...

oh what a good looking french bread!! great job for this month's challenge!!

Veron said...

You did a fantastic job with yours , Mary! I think your bread looks gorgeous -mine turned out into irregular shapes.

Karen said...

Hi Mary,

I can imagine enjoying a slice right now for breakfast!

Will you shoot me an email about Daring Bakers? I thought I should have heard something by the end of the month about how to join the blog.

Thanks! Karen

marye said...

I think it is gorgeous... :)

Marie said...

Beautiful bread Mary. Much, much nicer than mine! Well done!

Cheryl said...

I think your bread is very beautiful. Such a gorgeous brown color.

Sarah said...

Great job! It looks great and I had the same feelings about this challenge. Always good to accomplish something you wouldn't normally do!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

It's the little things that make the difference, yes that video was really helpful. I would beg to differ with you, I think your loaf is absolutely beautiful.

Andrea said...

I think your loaf looks great! I love how four simple ingredients can make something so wonderful.

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

Great looking bread! Congratulations on a challenge well done!

CB said...

Absolutely gorgeous. I am so jealous. Great job!
-Clara

Jerry said...

Looks so yummy!

Annemarie said...

I disagree - I think your bread is very good looking. Hope you got that stick of butter out when it came time to eat this lovely thing.

Lis said...

Gorgeous, Mary!

Now why did mine have big holes and yours had little holes? I may be able to bake bread, but I sure don't understand all of the science behind it yet. Argh.

Loved reading your post, lovely lady!
xoxo

Quellia said...

What?!?! Your loaf looks great! Do not disparage that lovely ball of yeasty goodness! :-)

Brilynn said...

It really is amazing the 4 simple ingredients can make something so delicious!

Mary said...

I think your bread is lovely! I too got the feeling that maybe just maybe, after making this bread I could be a good bread maker. But I think yours looks better than mine! Well done!

I Shot The Chef said...

Absolutely lovely bread!

Candace

cookworm said...

I think your bread is very good looking indeed! The cross on top is particularly attractive. II agree, those videos were invaluable...without them, my bread surely would have flopped.

Gabi said...

I think your bread is beautiful- as well as your post!
I'm glad you found time to complete it.
x x x

Namratha said...

The Boule looks perfect, nice texture.

Lesley said...

I f ind bread baking amazing. Yours looks wonderful!

Meeta said...

We really have grown - there are towns that are as big as the DB club! LOL! Your bread look amazing. Love the deep color. Nice job!

DawnsRecipes said...

The title says it all! It's amazing how just a few simple ingredients can yield such wonderful results isn't it? Your bread is simply gorgeous! The color is lovely!

Merav said...

Your bread looks divine - I wish I could have a slice right now!

Baking Soda said...

Surfing and sampling french bread all evening I'm amazed at the variety I see. That comfort zone gets bigger every challenge. Love it!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Great looking bread! With just 4 ingredients, one gets a gorgeous loaf. Baking is like magic...

Cheers,

Rosa

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

I think your bread looks lovely. At least you didn't have to have your mom help me, like I did! I felt like a 4 year-old! ;)

creampuff said...

Mary, your bread is great! I use my oven as a proof box too and the results are always wonderful.

Well done!

glamah16 said...

4 simple ingrediants and you got a really good loaf of bread. And you utilised what you had and it turned out great.

Jaime said...

great job! must be exciting to be one of the original members of the DB Group :)

coco said...

I too made the cross slashes on my tiny loaves, but they didn't turn out to be so prominent. Nice bread!

Katie said...

Your bread looks a wonderful colour and shape.

Princess of the kitchen said...

Beautiful bread Mry . Well done!

Sheltie Girl said...

What a beautiful round loaf of French bread. It looks so delicious and rustic, like it's crying out for a glass of wine and chunk of good cheese.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

chou said...

It's cool to read about your baking journey over the past year. I'm so glad to have found the DB group--it's like walking into a room and having an instant group of friends. Beautiful bread. Keep at it.

Alice Q. said...

Beautiful Mary - nice post!

jasmine said...

What lovely results--and I agree, Sara and Mary did a good job with the notes.

j

Tartelette said...

You're right those videos were great! Your bread turned out beautiful, nice tight crumb and crust!

Marce said...

Wonderful looking bread, Mary! And I´m glad you are getting more confident with bread baking, it really is an art in itself and very rewarding in terms of making something amazing out of humble ingredients, and I also feel a sort of connection to history in a way when I´m kneading (which I´ve found is a great way to reduce stress, by the way).

Sara said...

Beautiful bread!

Peabody said...

No butter or sugar and I still loved it. :)
Great bread.

Aparna said...

That's absolutely delicious bread. And someday I sahll bake one like that.:)

Jenny said...

I think it looks great. And even though I didn't have butter or sugar in the recipe itself, I managed to make up for it by topping toasted french bread with butter and jam!

sher said...

I knew your bread would look marvelous--and it certainly does! And congrats on doing ALL the challenges.

OKPants said...

What do you mean your bread wasn't attractive?! I think it looks LOVELY! well done. :)

Claire said...

The beauty issue seems to be consistent among the DB...but yours is so pretty, and will look even bread topped with butter and jam and whatever else! Lovely work.

Deborah said...

Your bread looks absolutely perfect!

Claire said...

I thought that you bread was very pretty from the first picture...don't be so hard on it! :-) Glad you're feeling more confident in your skills!

PBJulie said...

Hi Mary!

Thanks for leaving a comment on my site. I really enjoyed the first DB challenge and am looking forward to "beaucoup" more! Your bread looks delicious--Julia would be proud.

Best,

Julie
(from Peanut Butter and Julie)

SweetDesigns said...

Wonderful Bread!!! Looks great!

Amy said...

It looks gorgeous! Great job!

Shannon said...

your bread looks beautiful, I love the crust

L Vanel said...

Mary, how could I have missed this post! Your bread looks delicious, and beautiful.

Kim said...

Oh your bread looks fab. I didn't get to the Feb challenge as my February had myriad other challenges that got in the way - that and the day of posting involved a day at hospital with our son. But I'm thinking this bread needs to be made in this house at.some.stage.