Daring Bakers – 5th Challenge: French Bread – The Julia Way

One of the exhilarating aspects of being part of the bakerhood that is Daring Bakers, is knowing that youBread Rising become a better baker after each new challenge. There is always a trick or two to pick up, a new way of looking at a process, a new direction to stretch your skills and comfort zone. This challenge proved this once more.

Hosted by  Breadchick Mary (The Sour Dough), and Sara (I like to cook), we were dared to bake French Bread, the Julia Child way. Well, I’ve baked a lot of bread from scratch, but I have to admit my jaw dropped when I read the instructions. How could a recipe with four (4) basic ingredients take so long!? Eight (8) to nine (9) hours?! Whoa! The bread I usually bake entails one proof/rise, shaping and a second shorter rise. Total time from French Breadkneading to fragrant bread out of the oven: 2.5 hours. My curiosity was piqued. We had been warned so many times in cooking school not to let the bread over-rise, that I was a bit skeptical. Nonetheless, on a quiet Sunday, I got up early and plunged in.

I’ve always made bread the old fashion way, kneading by hand. Since the option to use an electric mixer was offered with this challenge, I decided to try it that way. Improvement #1: It’s a lot more efficient to make bread this way. The mixer bowl is ideal for the first proofing. A keeper. Next up? Using the oven, with the light on, as the rising chamber. Brilliant! Even better, wrapping the bowl in a towel. That’s how I’ll be rising bread from now on. French Bread

The whole process was pretty straightforward, just time consuming. I may have gotten a bit impatient at the end. My shaped bread (three ficelles) could have risen a little longer. Still, I was really happy with the final results. I’m not sure I’ll be repeating the whole process in the future, but I’m sure the tricks learned will make my regular method even tastier. Thanks for the challenge, Breadchick Mary and Sara!

The full recipe is available here.

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