So my first Daring Baker challenge has definitely lived up to its name, daring that is. It actually did exactly what I wanted being a part of the Daring Bakers to do for me---challenge me to try (with many other lovely bakers from around the world) recipes I might have otherwise skipped over, out of sheer laziness. This month's challenge was hosted by the lovely Breadchick Mary (from The Sour Dough) and Sara (from I Like to Cook).
There couldn't have been better timing on this challenge. Over my winter break, stranded at my parent's house taking care of my father who was miserable without my mother (who was on her yearly vacation in Iran), I began reading Julia Child's My Life in France. It appealed to me on so many levels. Having recently begun cooking and baking myself, I could so easily relate to the apprenehension with which she entered the food world (whatever that means....). Also, I am studying abroad next year in Nice, France (it's official!), and her intense fascination with all things french really mirrored my own. I love that she never tried to mask her adoration and passion for France which cynicism, but instead embraced it, regardless of how idealistic and romantic it may seem to others. Anyway, the book consumed a week of my life and I spent so much time just completely in awe of Julia and all she accomplished. On a side note, has anyone read Julia & Julia? I'm thinking of picking it up next...
This French bread recipe was quite intimidating, as it goes on for pages and pages. After reading about how meticulously Julia wanted to perfect it, helping American bakers get as close to authentic French bread as possible, I knew I had to give it a try, at least for Julia's sake (not to mention out of love and dedication to all my new Daring Baker friends!).
It was precisely as intense as I imagined it would be. I started at 10am, and had the first slice at 9:30pm (hence the poorly lit photo...sorry!). At so many stages in the process I paced my kitchen, panicked because I wasn't sure exactly what I was doing or I was missing some critical tool that was pivotal for a certain step int the process. There was some improvisation, not enough to compromise the integrity of the recipe (or of the Daring Bakers), but enough that is bound to occur in a college student's meek kitchen. It was definitely a serious undertaking. Then again, this was my first experience baking bread (pizza crust is probably the closest I've come...which was actually somewhat similar). That said, it was SO worth it. Me and my two friends devoured all three loaves as soon as the necessary cooling time had passed. I had planned to make a corn chowder to accompany it but we had so many amazing things to top the bread with, I didn't bother (double-cream brie, sharp white cheddar, strawberry jam, local honey, butter, vegan butter, etc.).
Like I said, the recipe was quite complicated, but I was amazed how (with a little patience) delicious French bread can be made. I'm not sure when I'll try it again, as I'm a little breaded out, but I know at some point I want to keep working at this recipe so I can see if it might improve when I am more properly equipped.
I made a batard, a regular boule, and a garlic sesame-topped boule. The consistencies of each were so different (eek...does that mean I did something wrong?) so I can't say which was my favorite. All I can do is encourage you to try for yourself. And please, invite me over when you do!