Friday, 29 February 2008

Daring Bakers February Challenge - Pain Francais

Pain Francais or French bread was this months challenge and was selected by joint hosts Mary from The Sour Dough and Sara from I Like To Cook.

Baking some French bread might not sound like much of a challenge at first but don’t be fooled, French bread actually requires a lot of time, patience and skill. The general process turned out to be quite straightforward but it was putting those process into action that was the challenging part. The recipe instructions alone were 12 pages long – yes 12 pages and they had condensed it for us!! I don’t think I have ever made a recipe with so many stages. This was partly down to the in depth detail of the recipe and also thanks Mary and Sara who had added their own helped hints and tips along the way. These proved most helped – thanks girls.

The dough is very wet and sticky to work with, keeping it on the move proved the best way to deal with it and its stickiness becomes more manageable as time goes on. The bread goes through 3-4 rises which take in total nearly 10 hours, so this is not the kind of bread to make in a hurry – but with a little time and patience its really worth the wait. The end bread had a thin crisp golden brown crust and an airy centre that had just the right amount of chew to it. French bread likes hot humid atmospheres and this is achieved by giving the bread a sauna as it bakes by throwing in a mug full of water into the base of the oven and then slamming the door shut, trapping the hot steam inside. Just remember to stand back when you next open the oven door or you will get a face full of steam too.

We were given the choice of what style/shape of French bread we wanted to bake from the list below. The recipe would allow us to make:
3 - baguettes (24” x 2”) or batards (16” x 3”) or
6 – short loaves, ficelles, 12 – 16” x 2” or
3 – round loaves, boules, 7 – 8” in diameter or
12 – round or oval rolls, petits pains or
1 – large round or oval loaf, pain de menage or miche; pain boulot

I opted for 2 short loaves (ficelles) and 8 petits pains.
The petits pains turned out very cute and were perfect for dipping into soup, but my favourites were the ficelles which looked (to me) more traditional and how I always imagine French bread to look. They also had a higher chewy inside to crust ratio than the petits pains which I liked. Thanks Mary and Sara for the challenge it was a lot of and has given me a great respect for professional French bread bakers and the work and time involved in producing such a wonderful bread.

Please visit Mary and Sara’s blogs for the recipe and don’t forget to visit the blogroll to read about fellow Darking Bakers breads.

38 comments:

Gigi said...

Your French bread looks amazing! You did a nice job in achieving the baguette shape. Great job!

Tartelette said...

Great job Katie! The shapes are perfect!

L Vanel said...

OOooh that bread looks soo delicious.

Dharm said...

Nicely done Katie!! The bread looks just great.

zorra said...

Well done! I hope you did not get the face full of steam.

KJ said...

Fantastic. What a great job!!

Rachel said...

Amazing bread!

Big Boys Oven said...

got to say, it looks cool, and especially you make it yourself! well done!

marye said...

wow..yours came out beautifully as well! Everyone seems to have done such a great job

~Amber~ said...

Your bread looks so wonderful. Congratulations on a job well done.

Andrea said...

Your loaves look wonderful, especially the petit pans!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

What lovely bread! Good job!

Annemarie said...

I kept getting huge, whacking great facefuls of steam, and silly me forgot EACH TIME even though the previous oven-opening encounter was only 3 minutes before. Great bread, though. :)

Mary said...

Your bread looks great! What an exciting image of throwing the mugfull of water into the oven and getting a facefull of steam!

Meeta said...

Oh these look lovely. Katie you did an awesome job!

DawnsRecipes said...

Ooh! I especially love your petits pains! Beautiful...

kellypea said...

Very, very nice job. Had I only known how long it would take...*sigh* I was too chicken to try the batards. Yours look great!

Baking Soda said...

Love the little dipping breads, this bread is perfect for soup! Nice job Katie!

Jaime said...

your loaves turned out great!

Allison said...

That color is beautiful; go you!
And mmm dipped in soup sounds so good.

breadchick said...

Your petit Pains are so adorable!

Thanks ever so much for baking with with Sara and I!

Ashencircle said...

Wow French bread! I'm impressed. And they look so authentic. Well done!

myriam said...

nice one!

Half Baked said...

Beautiful bread! Great job on this challenge!

Hannah said...

Aw, now I wish I tried making petit pains- Yours are so cute!

Thanks for your nice comments on my loaves, by the way. :)

Deborah said...

Wonderful job!

Mindy said...

Woo, Katie!

I like you description of throwing a cup of water in the bottom of the oven and slamming the door-

See my blog for my picture of my pan of ice cubes- I think I like your method better!!

happy March

jasmine said...

Your loaves look so lovely!

j

Sara said...

they all look fabulous! thanks for joining us this month.

Shandy said...

WoW! Nice Job! Your baguettes are truly a work of art and you are so right about this being a skill. The instructions were long but I bet everyone that participated in this challenge walked away with something he/she didn't know before.
Shandy@Pastry Heaven

Peabody said...

All your shapes look wonderful, excellent job.

Jigginjessica said...

Your bread turned out great! Congrats on a successful challenge!

Jenny said...

I really wish I had tried multiple forms like you did, but I was such a procrastinator, I decided to just make three batards. Looks great!

Lesley said...

Yum yum, great job. The breads look really good!

Pixie said...

Well done on your challenge Kate!

DaviMack said...

Glad that it turned out so well for you!

Claire said...

Your bread looks fantastic! Great job.

Barbara said...

Great bread Katie. I love ficelles too.