Friday, February 29, 2008

How Dare I?

I paced. I wrung my hands. I pleaded with God.
I considered pleading with the head of The Daring Baker's Blogroll herself, that this recipe was, well, too DARING.
Then I took a deep breath and flung myself off the cliff, accepting that I would attempt (with a 3.5 year old and 1 year old underfoot and only one successful attempt to make a loaf of bread ) to make a French Batard. All, so I could publicly parade myself about as a Daring Baker.

Come along on my journey: Mission 1:
1) First I decided I needed to attempt one more bread making excursion before embarking upon the Mount Everest of the bread-making world - a French Baguette. I decided to make Julia's Country Bread. Without closely reading the instructions, I presumed that since it was called Country Bread that it would be simple as surely people living on a farm (in the country) didn't have too much time to muck about with the necessary task of making bread. I never reread the instructions and simply began the process. During that process I learned (not until I came upon each broken bridge in my journey) that: a) this bread requires 3 different rises b) it required a baking stone of which I had none c) stabbing your bread with a large chef's knife is NOT the same as slashing your bread with a razor blade, d) spraying mists of water across the back of your gas oven could cause it to sputter and screw up its temperature gauging mechanism and e) pulling bread out early and then deciding it wasn't completely finished cooking and then putting it back in the oven while the cold oven climbed back to 400 degrees F does not produce edible bread.Status of mission: FAILURE

2) Next I thought I should read, re-read, and read again the instructions for making the French Batard (a short stubby version of the French Baguette) in hopes that I would be less likely to make a mistake. On about the third read through and 236th interruption by Sizzles and Sticky-Butt, I noticed that the recipe called for compressed yeast, also known as fresh yeast. I do not, nor have I ever, owned fresh yeast. I went to Whole Foods and found no fresh yeast. I went to the Dekalb Farmer's Market and found no fresh yeast. I called the Cooks Warehouse and found no fresh yeast. I called the critically acclaimed Alon's Bakery and was SHOCKED when I found no fresh yeast. Their head baker told me to call the head baker at Dekalb Farmer's Market (and tell her she told me to call her) and see if they might have some in the back. I still found no fresh yeast. She called her distributor and they don't sell fresh yeast anywhere in Atlanta.

Status of mission: FAILURE

3) Regardless, I soldiered on and knew I had to figure out how to substitute dried yeast for fresh yeast. Luckily, there are plenty of resources on the Internet that pointed out that one package of dried yeast is equivalent to a .6 oz cake of fresh yeast.

4) Make the bread. I was moving along nicely for about 15 minutes. Then I realized the appearance of my dough was not in step with Julia Child's description of the her dough. It was because I essentially added an extra cup of water and a tablespoon of sugar into the original recipe when I proofed the dried yeast, according to rough attempt at translating the package's instructions. So I figure I would wing it and toss in an extra 3/4 cup of flour.

Note to reader: Winging it while baking is NOT recommended.

5) I commenced with making the bread and had a heck of a time understanding the instructions, while keeping my children entertained. The small bowls of food I was putting on the floor for Sticky Butt, as if she were the cat, only bought me about five minutes at a time. Eventually, I started grabbing off hunks of dough and adding those to the piles of purple, blue and yellow bowls all across the kitchen floor. I even got desperate enough to let the girls play with a bowl of flour and measuring spoons. (My kitchen will never recover, somehow even the coffee maker ended up caked with flour). At some point during all this, I decided that I am a visual learner and googled away to find out if PBS had archival footage of this particular episode of Baking with Julia. AND THEY DID! Once I saw that, I got a clue as to the kneading and seam work required to make the batard.

6) Bake the bread. The first loaf was a bust. It turns out something is wrong with my oven (not a surprise as my 2 year old snazzy Kitchenaid has been nothing but a pain in my booty). I switched to the gas convection option and baked the remaining two to perfection.

Mission Status: THEY WERE GREAT!

So, I am officially a daring baker!


Jaime said...

hahaha... i love the nicknames you have for your kids :) congrats on your first DB challenge, your loaves look great!

L Vanel said...

Congratulations! This was my first challenge too and I really felt like the whole process of making this bread was really therapeutic and wonderful. Nice to be a Daring Baker with you!

Gretchen Noelle said...

This was really funny! Great job persevering! The image of your flour strewn kitchen and children with the bowls on the floor made me laugh. great job being daring!!

Jenny said...

Welcome to the Daring Bakers! It sounds like "country bread" has a lot of the same steps, so the next time you try it, you should be a pro.

I'm pretty sure I'll be finding flour in strange places for a while myself!

breadchick said...

Welcome to Daring Bakers. Yup, you can't "wing it" with baking, especially yeast bread, that is until you get a really good feel for it. Then you can wing away!

Glad it worked out for you finally.

Thanks for baking with Sara and I

MilliMe said...

The bread looks very very nice!!!

Amy said...

This was in our Sunday paper this week and it made me think of your blog.

I think that your kiddos are a bit more advanced in the cooking dept than this though!