Saturday, January 2, 2010

French bread (p. 601)

First things first--my mom's new dog loves to watch me take pictures:

I think that's about the cutest picture of a dog that I've seen in a long time.

I've been failing at the breads and coffee cakes chapter big time. It's mostly because I'm absolutely terrified of bread making at high altitude. The first time my mom visited she attempted to make bread. It failed and she swears she stayed up all night angry about it, so she got up at 5 am to try again. It was much better but still not to her liking. So I've always thought that if my mom, an accomplished bread baker failed, what the heck could I do?

So mom brought up making bread when I was home in Iowa. I thought it was a great idea and started flipping through TJOC. Mom had neither bread flour or milk, one of which is required in almost every TJOC bread recipe. I finally found one that would work--French bread (p. 601).

The recipe has very few ingredients--all-purpose flour, salt, and dry yeast were mixed together. This recipe is slightly strange because the yeast is mixed directly into the flour instead of being mixed with water first. My mom mentioned that my great-aunt, whose baking skills are legendary in my family, always made bread this way.

I made a well in the center and poured in some water:

I then mixed it with my hands until it was "soft and elastic".

The bread went into an oiled dish and was covered (clean towel, ziploc bag, almost the same thing):

Until it doubled in size (a couple hours):

I punched it down and then let it rise again. Eventually, I rolled the loaves out and laid them on a greased pan:

I scored the top of the bread (I did diagonal stripes but TJOC mentions that you can also do one long horizontal stripe):

It looked perfect!

The bread was delicious! Nice and crusty, like a good baguette (or even a good Italian bread). Mom and I expected it to get hard very quickly (because of the total lack of preservatives) but it really didn't. The baguette made amazing little ham sandwiches! The bread was easy and quick--it was actually really fun to make.

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  1. Just a head's up on yeast: if you're using "instant yeast" you can add it directly to the flour. That yeast is really fine.

    But if you're using the other kind of yeast (not sure what it's called), then you need to activate it in warm water first. This yeast had much larger granules than instant.

    I prefer instant yeast, but make sure you stir all the salt into the flour before adding the yeast because the salt kills yeast.

  2. yum! i'm scared to try making french bread, it just seems so daunting, but you make it look easy. also, awesome project to cook through JOY. ambitious, but awesome!

  3. Hi! I just found your blog. I'm also trying to cook alot from the Joy of Cooking. I'm working on getting a blog going!

    I live in Colorado Springs, so I know what you mean about the altitude and baking. What I've found works is to do a couple of things.. First, reduce the yeast just a little bit. Usually my breads call for about 2 tablespoons of yeast, and I do a tablespoon and a half. Then if it is anything that calls for eggs, use large eggs instead of extra-large eggs. That being said, I just can't get my cookies to come out as good here as they do at sea-level :( On cakes and such, I haven't had any problems with the collapsing. That's what icing is for anyways, right?

  4. High altitude baking was a challenge for me to until I discovered you have to reduce the amount of leavening, now my breads rise like champs and I don't have hockey pucks otherwise known as bagels and biscuits. Have to try the French Bread now...


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