French Bread for the Daring Bakers:

The Daring Bakers is a group of bloggers who are very passionate about baking. Every month they take on a challenge set by one member of the group, and the recipe has to be followed to the T except for few allowed modifications. Each member posts the recipe for the completed challenge on the same day, like today.

Why am I talking about the Daring Bakers, well it so happens I am one now! I joined them this month and this is my first challenge.

What makes this group very interesting is that with over 450+ DBers(that’s what we call ourselves) from all over the world, each person’s outcome from the very same recipe is worth waiting for.

The challenge for the month of February was “French Bread” provided by Breadchick Mary( The Sour Dough) and Sara (I Like to Cook). When I first read the recipe (which was 14 pages long including the introduction) I almost lost it! I thought I would never be able to get past the first few steps. Then I read the recipe over and over, and over again. With every reading I felt more confident and stronger within. It really wasn’t as bad as it looked.

I finally got down to baking bread for the first time in my life. I had all the necessary ingredients, equipment and my recipe in print out with the important points and steps highlighted. Sounds like too much hype for a challenge, well it sure wasn’t. I wanted to make sure I got this right the very first time itself. And I guess I did.


French Bread
(From Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume Two by Julia Child and Simone Beck)

1 package dry active yeast (7gr)
1/3 cup (75ml) warm water (not over 100F/38C)
3 ½ cups unbleached All purpose flour (leveled)
2 ¼ tsp Salt
1 ¼ Cups Water @ 70-74F/ 21-23C

Method: (All instructions are for by hand)

Stir in the yeast in the 1/3 cup warm water and let liquiefy completely while measuring flour into mixing bowl. When yeast has liquiefied, pour it into the flour along with the salt and the rest of the water.

Combine to form a dough. Turn dough out onto a kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky. Let dough rest for 2-3 minutesUse one hand only for kneading and keep the other clean to hold a pastry scrapper, or to dip out extra flour.

Knead rapidly for 5 – 10 minutes. Let dough rest for 3 – 4 minutes. Knead by hand for a minute. The surface should now look smooth; the dough will be less sticky but will still remain soft. It is now ready for its first rise. Place dough in a lightly greased mixing bowl, cover with plastic and a folded towel. Let rise for 3-4 hours till dough has tripled in volume.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and flatten the dough firmly into a circle. Return to bowl and let rise again until it is light and spongy.

Forming the loaves:

French loaves come in various shapes and sizes. We were allowed to make any shape, make one plain loaf and the remaining with toppings if desired. I made 2 Batards and 1 Boule.

Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Let pieces rest for 5 minutes, covered.

To make a Batard:

Shape into an oval gently and fold in half lengthwise. Pat into an oval again and repeat folding. Place your hand in the middle of the dough and roll gently to lengthen the dough. Repeat the rolling movement rapidly several times until the dough is 16 inches long, or whatever length will fit on your baking sheet.

Set aside and keep covered while you shape the other loaves.

To make a Boule:

Gently shape the dough into a uniform circle by folding down edges and moving dough clockwise. You should have a smooth rounded top and the underside will be uneven. Pinch to seal the edges.

Cover and let sit for the third rise when it should triple in volume.

Since we were allowed to top all but one loaf, I decided to use some dried herbs on the Boule. I used ¼ tsp Dried Basil, ¼ tsp Dried Oregano and ¼ tsp Dried Thyme.

Preheat oven to 450F atleast 30 minutes before the estimated baking time.

Slash top of each dough with a sharp razor. 3 slashes for the Batard and two or more on the Boule. This helps create designs on the loaves while they are baking. I should remember to use a sharper knife the next time. :)

As soon as the dough has been slashed, moisten the surface either by painting with a soft brush dipped in cold water, and slide the baking sheet onto rack in upper third of preheated oven. The bread should be done in about 25 minutes; the crust will be crisp, and the bread will make a hollow sound when thumped.

Cool the bread for atleast 2 hours on a rack or set it upright in a basket or large bowl so that air can circulate freely around each piece. Although bread is always exciting to eat fresh from the oven, it will have a much better taste when the inside is thoroughly cooled.

It took me 10 hours to finally dig into a slice of bread, the efforts were definitely well worth it. While the loaves were baking, the entire house was filled with the heavenly aroma of freshly baked bread….I had never thought I would ever smell bread in my house. The bread was very tasty, the crust was a little too crispy for my liking, but the interiors were perfect-- soft and light.

I’m extremely pleased that this challenge worked out for me. I’m certainly looking forward to the coming challenges!

The complete recipe with detailed instructions can be found over at Mary’s blog here.

36 comments:

  1. Wasn't it wonderful? It was a great challenge. You got so many nice shapes. I wasn't so daring but next time will do the other shapes.

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  2. wow!! looks gorgeous...congrats on completing the daring baker's challenge....the aroma of baking bread is unmatched!!

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  3. WOW!! What a great recipe challenge. I am thinking I should join but I may not make it on time every month,this is way different from other events!:))
    Great job Namratha, enjoy. Great to garlic bread, Bruschettas too!Have a great weekend!:)

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  4. Namratha..Its great that you are taking up some challenging task and completing it. kudos to D bers!

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  5. Love the smell of baking bread!! Looks wonderful! :)

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  6. wow this looks gorgeous Namratha !! Congratulations on baking your wonderful French sticks and for joining the Daring Bakers.

    Rosie x

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  7. Congratulations Namratha.. A 14 page recipe you say?? Wow!! Kudos to you... the breads look great.

    Btw, I tried your salsa verde recipe to make enchiladas last night and we loved it. Thank you so much for a great, simple recipe.

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  8. Interesting story, gr8 challenge and an amazing recipe.. Never i have even thought of trying them at home...

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  9. 450+ DBers?! wow!
    You certainly did a good job on your 1st challenge.
    I could never be one of those DB's!

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  10. It sure was Vanel, I enjoyed every bit of it! Oh do try the shapes next time...

    Thanks Arundati, glad to have you over:)

    Oh you have a whole month to complete the challenge Asha dear, you bake a lot too so you should join...its fun! :)

    Thanks Lavanya:)

    Thanks Kalai:)

    Thanks Rosie dear:)

    Thanks Laavanya, yup dear..it was one long recipe with instructions, I still can't believe I got through this one. Glad you liked the salsa verde:)

    Thanks Anu:)

    Oh yeah T, there really is so many of us in the group :D Thanks dear :)

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  11. Such a fun challenge, wasn't it? I loved it too. Well done on your first bread!

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  12. Good job! Welcome to the Daring Bakers from a seasoned veteran ... OK, that was a slight exaggeration ... that this was my second challenge!

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  13. Great Bread! Your loaves look delicious!

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  14. Killer loaves! The texture looks just fantastic!!

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  15. Namratha, your breads look wonderful...congrats on getting them so well done and welcome to the group...I had to give it a miss due to other engagements...it does need undivided attention...will try to take it up sometime...I really wanted to make it :-(

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  16. great job! congrats on your 1st DB challenge and esp your first bread :)

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  17. You did a great job making your different shapes breads! Congratulations on completing your first DB challenge!

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  18. looks good and must taste good too! Love yours! well done!

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  19. Welcome to the DBs. Your first challenge has certainly gone very well.

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  20. Congrats on your first challenge - your loaves look great!

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  21. its such a pleasure to see the DBs every month with their posts :) the shapes have come out so well for you! :)

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  22. It's great to see how different the bread looks with the same recipe! Well done

    Ulrike from K├╝chenlatein

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  23. You managed to make such lovely shapes...too good

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  24. Your bread looks delicious! Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

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  25. There's certainly nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread, wafting through the entire house! :)

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  26. Excellent job on your bread.

    Thanks for baking with Sara and I

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  27. Congratulations on your first challenge!

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  28. It sure was Suzana, thank you very much! :)

    Thanks Tracy...oh you sure are seasoned alright, one challenge senior :D

    Thanks Brine:)

    Thanks Cakespy:)

    Thanks Sunita...oh yes dear, it does take up a lot of time...hope to see it on your blog sometime in the future :) You have been an inspiration and I have been reading your past challenges as well.

    Thanks Jaime:)

    Thank you very much Gretchen, glad you stopped by:)

    Thanks Big Boys :)

    Thank you Aparna, glad you stopped by:)

    thanks Nemmie:)

    Thanks Nags:) I'm looking forward to the next one!

    So true ostwestwind..thank you very much!:)

    Thanks E:)

    Thank you Mary:)

    Yup Y...it was heavenly!:)

    Thanks Breadchick, it was my pleasure..thank you for a lovely challenge:)

    Thank you Lunch buckets:)

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  29. Great bread namratha! :)

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  30. Cngrats on your first challenge!

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  31. Looks great namratha, congrats on becoming a daring baker...:)

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  32. great job on the breads!

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  33. Thank you so much for the comment on my blog! I have to say your slashes look beautiful, though... :-)
    Hooray for Daring Bakers newbies - and congrats on your lovely first bread!

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  34. Thanks Brines, Coco, JigginJessica and Sara :)

    Thank you Sig and Rachel! :)

    Thanks Astra, was my pleasure to stop by your blog :)

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