Friday, February 29, 2008

Celebrating Julia

Julia Child. French Bread. 19 Pages. 9 Hours.

Chew fingernails, chew paper, chew clocks and timers, and then chew chew chew away to baguette heaven…

Breadchick Mary of The Sour Dough & Sara of I Like to Cook selected French bread as our challenge for February. Many would think, gulp! I thought, yippee! I’m in search of the perfect little loaf.

I used to live in Paris and a demi-baguette was my downfall, especially when I lived around the corner from Poujauron, one of Paris’ best boulangeries. Walking past it on my way to or from school, if a fresh batch of baguettes came out, it was an assault I could only submit to. How could I resist, when I could see the steam escaping from each loaf? Then the sweet intoxication penetrated my nostrils. Powerless and salivating, out came a few francs and then an instant of gratification.

These days back in Manila, I still have not found a baguette equal to Poujauron’s. I started making my own bread a couple of years now but I have yet to perfect French bread. And a long way that is too!

Of course reading the 19 page recipe was itself a feat. After perusing it twice over, I began just before noon. I mixed my all purpose flour, water, yeast and salt and kneaded the dough manually. Julia gives some very good advice such as heating the bowl used for the rising. The first rise took about 4 hours. Then I deflated it and waited out another 2 hours for the second rise. At this point I felt my dough was no longer at the correct temperature.

I cut up the dough into 3 and formed my baguettes. Then I put it in the canvas for the final rise of 2 hours. I thought I had allowed it to rise enough but I think it could have used another half hour or so.

I slashed the dough and then baked it in the oven atop my pizza stone. I sprayed it with water and spritzed the oven as well to create steam. My bread seemed to be a little splotchy which I think is due to uneven spraying. The slashes were perhaps too shallow as well. But it came out pretty good all the same.

I must admit though that it radiated such a heady perfume that I could not contain my excitement and appetite got the better of me. After a mere half hour, I had a slice, and another, and another…

The texture was perfect with all holes in the crumb and the crackling crust. I wanted to make this recipe again just to perfect the outer appearance but I just did not have the time. But I will definitely make this again! Thank you Julia for a wonderful recipe and thank you to Mary and Sara for a great challenge!