Friday, February 29, 2008

Daring Bakers February 2008 Challenge


This month the challenge was French bread, and it really wasn't great.

I miss cooking with Robb, although we are enjoying- immensely enjoying!!- the class we are taking (see previous post). Also, I don't like making something that's not very good.

With many things we face in this world, experience is a big factor. I take for granted the experience I bring to most of my kitchen endeavors. How big is my ego- sheesh! But, I have been cooking a long time and I'm really decent at it. I enjoy being good at it, I like making things that dazzle people. I like experimenting and learning, but with cooking, and to a lesser extent baking, even when I am pushing myself to do new things I have a feel for what is going on. I can make observations and corrections in mid-stream. I have confidence and way more often than not, I make good stuff.

Well, not so with some recent endeavors with bread. How frustrating it is to be on the steep part of this learning curve. In baking bread I have almost zero experience. I don't (yet) have instincts to trust. That will come with time of course. But for now, I am a real rookie.

The recipe for the DB challenge this month was from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and Simone Beck. There is a link that is supposed to be live by the time this is published. The recipe is LONG so I will not reproduce it, but click here for it if you are interested.

Given my lack of instincts and experience, I think that where I went wrong- well at least one of the places I went wrong- was in the very beginning. I noticed the dough was really soft and wet and I thought that I had read about other DBers having a similar impression of the dough when first mixed, so I proceeded. I felt somewhat of a slave to the recipe (very unusual for me!) so I didn't add more flour. I don't know how I thought this soupy puddle of wet flour was going to "turn into" beautiful crusty bread. It remained wet and shapeless through the rising stages, shaping, and proofing.

These loaves proof on a piece of floured canvas (towel in my case) and then get flipped over onto the baking pan. The wetness and lack of form at this point in the process really hurt the chances of getting nice loaves. It was so sticky that in peeling the loaves off of the towel, they were really manhandled. The loaves ended up quite flat, not brown and crispy despite much steam making effort, and with a moist interior. I should be honest. The bread itself wasn't bad if you were hoping for a flat dense wet bread. You know, that kind of bread that is so good for dipping in olive oil. The problem with the loaves I made are that I was hoping for a crispy brown crust and a dry interior that was actually like French bread!

There is sooo much to learn about baking bread and I am eager to learn. In my latest book buying extravaganza I got Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" and it is fantastic. It's thorough and there are lots of images. I am hopeful that as I continue to learn and gain more experience and have some successes that one day I will be able to make a good loaf.

Janet

14 comments:

Joy said...

At least you tried ! If it's any consolation I think your loaves look great.

L Vanel said...

I also think that your loaves look great. Having much to learn is a good thing!

Marye said...

I htink they look awesome...I have been baking bread for over 30 years and was challenged by these if it makes you feel any better :)
blesings,
marye
http://bakingdelights.com

Mary said...

I think your loaves look good despite your troubles. I too, had really wet dough and was very nervous about it. But by the time the recipe said if the dough is "sweaty and damp" dust with flour, I was dusting away.
I think you get an A for effort anyway.

Jenny said...

Beautiful job on your bread. Very nice. It was a fun challenge this month!

pickypalate

DawnsRecipes said...

Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy the experience, but your bread still looks very good!

Jaime said...

i'm sorry they didn't turn out for you, but they still look great in the pictures!

Gretchen Noelle said...

I hope you try again so that you can gain the kind of experience you have with cooking. Bread recipes seems to way easier the second time around since you are already familiar with the steps. This was great bread and definitely worth trying! Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

Kevin said...

I think your bread looks pretty good.

breadchick said...

Sorry you had problems.

Thanks for trying and baking with us.

marias23 said...

Looks delish, and about experience, isn't that why we are daring? ;)j

Megan said...

At least you dove in the waters. That's a Daring Baker. Better results next time!

Jigginjessica said...

It is so frustrating when things don't turn out how you plan for them! It does sound like maybe your dough was just too wet. Next time follow your instincts and add some more flour!

Deborah said...

Sorry it didn't go as well as you hoped for, but at least you tried!!