August 9, 2009

Pain Francais

Out in the kitchen there are three nice-looking loaves of French Bread just starting their final rise before going to the oven. I started putting them together at about 9:00 this morning. I would have included bread in my Julia and Julie menu without urging, but these sentences from the Foreword to the second volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking really hooked me:

One is not really dining a la francaise without proper French bread to mop up the sauce on one's plate, without a fine terrine or pate to start the meal, without boudins blancs for New Year's Eve or for the turkey stuffing. One also need a symmetrically baked, beautifully textured sandwich bread for hors d'oevre, and brioches and croissants for breakfast. These everyday staples in France were once considered luxury items here and, in fact, when you buy them now in gourmet shops they are luxuries. But you can make them yourself with pride and pleasure and at a fraction of the cost.

Well, I have to wait until  I get the bread on the table, but I'm anticipating good results. I've made enough bread to know when the dough is behaving well, and this batch has been behaving very well. Julia spends a lot of time talking about someone who helped her adapt recipes for home baking, and it seems to me the effort shows. The dough was easy to work, it rose to good volume, and it shaped easily. I have long been tantalized by the creed of only water, yeast, salt, and flour, and if these loaves  turn out as well as I think they will, I can see making them a regular part of my baking routine.

aiting for the Oven
I've been learning the hard way today that it's hard to blog and cook at the same time, so I may as well point out that I took advantage of the first rising period to make dessert. There's a very tempting blueberry clafouti waiting for the end of the meal.