For February Daring Bakers challenge Mary of The Sour Dough and Sara of I like to cook picked the French bread recipe from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2". According to Mary and Sara the original recipe from Julia Child cookbook takes up to 18 pages. That made me nervous.
I'm quite proud of my bread baking skills, but till now I never made French bread. I usually bake with whole corn or rye flour and the process is in general much simpler than the process described in DB / Julia Child recipe. And I do not have the strict recipe that I fallow. I know in general what is needed to make a bread, but I usually do something different, always adding something like olives, capers, caramelized onion...
At the first I was overwhelm with the length and the precisions of the DB recipe. And I was sure it will be to complicated for me. Especially the part of the recipe that describes the kneading, rupture and all then hard "hand working" that I couldn't quite visualize.
Luckily for me, and all of you who need AV assistance when cooking something for the first time, I found a great video from PBS with Julia Child and Danielle Forestier that helped me understand what I'm supposed to do!
The process in video was a bit different from DB recipe and since DB rules request to follow the recipe I had no option but to follow the DB recipe and to use video only to help me with kneading and other technics.
From the very beginning I felt something was wrong. The dough was to hard to knead. I suppose I didn't add enough water, so for the next time I'll be sure to add more water. That was more or less the only problem, but it followed me trough whole process... dough couldn't rise enough, it was hard to knead and rupture...
I realized very soon that it needed more water but I was not sure could I just add it after the first rise. Well, next time I'll know better at the beginning.
The final result was excellent, no matter the problem I had during the process. Maybe it would be better if bread was little bit more "spongy", with more holes... I suppose it is connected with the lack of water... but it tasted great!
So, all I can say to all of you who are afraid of 18 pages long recipe is: "Do not fear!" Take one step at the time and just follow the recipe... it will take you there... "Let the force be with you!"