Monday, February 28, 2011

February recipe challenge: baking bread

I love to cook, but I'm no baker. I don't have the patience for it, or the attention to detail (as in strictly following the recipe and not experimenting). So, I decided that baking bread, something I had never done before, would be a perfect challenge. I used Julia Child's recipe for French bread in the second volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

My final assessment is this: how can only four ingredients lead to such frustration?

only four ingredients
The dough was supposed to rise the first time in about three hours. But after five hours with less-than-stellar results, I knew our house just wasn't warm enough to let it rise on the counter. So, I warmed the oven for a few minutes, turned it off, and let the bread rise in the warmed oven, which worked better, but it still didn't rise as much as it should have. In the picture below, the dough should have been about double the size that it was.

after the first rise
I gave up, kneaded the dough, and put it back into the warmed oven for a second rise.

ready to rise again
The second rise went better, and by the third rise, I felt like I was finally getting the hang of it. My three French loaves turned out a little smaller and denser than they should have been, but they still tasted good.

not pretty, but still tasty
I applaud people who bake bread on a regular basis. I am fairly confident in saying that I will never do this again.


kerryandtorey said...

I am impressed! I think the last time I made actual bread was in college with a bread maker :-)

Heather N. said...

I'm no bread baker either, but I do like to do cinnamon rolls. I've had trouble with the dough rising when my water is too hot and kills the yeast. This advice is from my very limited bread-baking experience so it might be something completely different! Good job though and your loaves look lovely. :) Oh, and thanks for working in the nursery on Sunday AM. Grant said he had a great time! ;-)

Jennifer said...

If you ever do decide to bake again, check out the King Arthur Flour website. They have great recipes and very helpful bakers. I've started baking bread and other good stuff, and now I'm hooked. I haven't tried to make French loaves yet.

Amy said...

Bread is challenging. I haven't done Julia's - I think its more complicated than it really needs to be. I've recently found the simplest recipe that I use to make French loaves and it comes out great everytime (maybe not quite as great as a real French loaf, but better than my old attempts using more traditional recipes). We also make our own pizza dough every Friday night. I confess I use the bread machine to do the kneading. I'll e-mail you!