I am not a baker. So I joined the Daring Baker’s Challenge.
If I am not a baker, why in the world would I join a group of called Daring Bakers??? To get out of my comfort zone precisely. To try recipes I would never dare to try. To learn things, techniques I may be avoiding… to indeed, become a baker after all.
I was inspired last month with January’s challenge – Lemon Meringues. All the recipes I saw looked sooooo beautiful that I felt compelled to join. Please remind yourselves… I AM NOT A BAKER!!! My dessert repertoire extends to cookies and flans – anything else besides that is just baked fruits, fruit sauces, and boiling cans of condensed milk… ahhh, and buying Haagen-Dazs mango sherbet at the supermarket. Yet, after knowing all of this, I dared and joined the group. No pun intended.
I have to admit, I was daunted and excited when I received my first recipe – Pain Français from a Julia Child recipe…. Oh my gravy!!!! I was excited, as you know I take French lessons at the Alliance Française. To say I was super excited was an understatement!! But, why daunted??? French bread only has really 4 ingredients – flour, water, yeast and salt. What can be simpler??? Anything in this world is simpler, if you ask me.
And, I am not a quitter. I was not going to pass this up , my first Daring Baker’s challenge, just because I had an 11-page recipe - yes, this is not a typo, 11 pages… I was sent a video to see the kneading technique, the forming technique, the baking technique… I read the recipe 3-4 times. I saw the video twice. Yet… I never achieved the perfect loaf of Pain Français. The only thing I did change in the recipe… was the flour. I only like to use whole wheat products when I bake, so I used whole wheat flour… here are the results:
This is the flour I used – I do not recommend it for this recipe. This was the dough, before kneading. How dry it was should have told me something then, but I continued with the process as dictated in the recipe.
This was the dough after “kneading” for about 500 times… I was so tired after that, I had to lay down to rest. Really.
And this was the frustrating moment when, after 3 hours of “rising time” my dough was exactly the same size as it started.
But, in my opinion, there are many ways to define success. Success is not only demonstrated by showing here my “perfect loaves of french bread from the first try”… To me, success is also achieved by all the learnings gathered from trying to execute this recipe. I actually have a list of learnings I would like to share with you and all my fellow Daring Bakers:
You need a really large kitchen with lots of counter space to bake bread. – my kitchen is TINY and trying to knead bread almost inside the kitchen sink is not the ideal of any bread baker.
A Kitchen-Aid mixer is a must if you’re a petite bread baker. – I am sorry, but kneading 800 times by hand is not my definition of a good arm workout. My arm was about to fall off – I guess because the flour/water proportions were off when using whole wheat… but that’s another learning.
Stone-ground whole wheat flour is NOT ideal when trying to make Julia Child’s french bread recipe. - Start with whole wheat pastry flour and then move gradually to coarser flours, especially when you do not have a stand mixer.
Bread baking is not for the impatient. – You need a good day to make this recipe… no plans to go out, no plans for someone to come over, just stay home and bake bread. Now I know why Rachael Ray is not a baker…
Bread-baking is not for the compulsive cleaner. – No matter how clean I tried to keep the kitchen floor, there was flour all over… all over!!! all over my dishes, all over the sink, all over the counters, all over the floor, all over me!!!!
11 page recipes need to be left to professionals. – I am sure that if I had spent a day learning this by actually watching someone do it, I would have grasped it a little better. I felt consumed by the pages in the recipe.
I will try this recipe again SOON.- I was not able to do it all over before the posting date, but I will not let this recipe get to me.
Let’s say I have a new-found appreciation for bread bakers. And as a consolation prize for my ego… the only thing left for me was to try… The No-Knead Bread recipe. YEAH!!!