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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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August 20, 2016

Making French Bread - a diary

This really is a diary because I want to remember how I made this batch and what I want to do differently the next time.  You can skip all the verbiage and see my two pictures at the end of the post.  I have to say, I feel encouraged.

This first attempt is based on a video from wayyyy back when with Julia Child as the French Chef making baguettes!  Obviously this was the first one I would try because for one thing, it was so totally uncomplicated.  Julia's was basically mix the ingredients (the four listed already) together and start the raising process.  And that's where hers differs dramatically from other recipes.  She raises the dough in the bowl - once for about 3-1/2 hours and then another time for about 3 hours!!  And she wants it to be about triple in size.  Very different from the let rise until double in size which is the only thing I've seen in recipes.  The video is lengthy but charming - it's so nice to see her in these first shows she did on TV when she wasn't having guest chefs tell her how to cook - those just made me sad.  Here's the link.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iH3hjDUhWw

First I gathered what I would need.  Had bought a 5 pound bag of bread flour before I found the video and then had her tell me that I shouldn't use bread flour, I should use all-purpose and preferably unbleached all purpose.  So took back my bread flour and exchanged for the AP unbleached.  I had one packet of yeast left from when I made bread while Sophia was here.  I had what I think they call a bench scraper for cleaning stuck dough off the counter and for cutting the dough or helping to manipulate it.

And today (Aug. 20) was my first attempt.  It's not over yet - just on it's second raising and it's 5:30 p.m.!!  I should have bread before midnight at this rate. :)  Overall, it's going okay.  I had figured out the amounts for half of her original recipe and had both the original and 1/2 on my printed recipe.  Once I started measuring everything was going well - just used 1/2 the packet of yeast.  She dissolved the yeast in 1/3 cup of water and I even figured out that that meant 2Tbs and 2tsp for my 1/2 recipe which was all kind of finicky.  Then once you've measured the flour and salt and the yeast has dissolved, you add all the rest of the water and mix up your dough.  Well, I added the 1-1/4 cup of water that the full recipe called for!!!  When I got it all in there, along with the yeast water, I thought "hmmm....this can't possibly work".  Checked the recipe and I was right, it couldn't possibly work because it was wrong, wrong, WRONG!!!  So through the garbage disposal it went and with 1/2 packet of yeast left I figured I'd try again.  So I did and that's what I'm waiting on now.

The only other problem was that she used a glass bowl and mentioned how it was best to have a straight sided bowl because the dough should rise to where it is 3-1/2 times the "bulk" of the unrisen dough.  In this recipe that meant it should rise to 10-1/2 cups.  So she said you need to add that much water to your bowl and mark where it comes to and then in the 3 or 3-1/2 hours, hopefully the dough will have risen that high.  I should have just used one of my stainless steel, curved side bowls but I remembered I had a crystal salad-type bowl and it had straight sides so I used that.  But its diameter was so big that it never came close to reaching the mark I had made on the side of the glass.  So I don't know if that's because it didn't raise enough or if it's because it raised enough but raised out rather than up.  For its second raising, I've put it in my stainless steel bowl.  I debated not even doing the second rise because there's a good possibility (maybe even very good) that this first attempt will not be stellar.  We shall see.

9:30 p.m. - Well, I went ahead and did a second rising and then formed the loaves and left them to rise.  They rose a little but sure not very much so I figured rather than wait any longer, they were going in the oven.  So I made the little slashes on top sprayed them with water and put them in.  Then I sprayed them again at 2 minutes and at 4 minutes, and then it was time to move them to a higher shelf.  They were to bake a total of 20 minutes so I took a look at 16 minutes and was really disappointed because color-wise and general appearance wise, they looked like any other loaves of bread I've made.  Plus which, of course, they were skinny little baguettes because they just didn't rise very much during the third rise.  But rather than throw them in the trash, I decided I'd do the last thing Julia said to do in the video and that was after the total 20 minutes, turn the oven off but leave the loaves in for another 5 minutes.  I did and look what I ended up with...their appearance had really changed - still too skinny but hey, it was a first attempt. :)  I'll post one more picture after I cut into one.

And here's a hunk cut open - it looks pretty French bread like inside too...

I will be making this again before long and have already made notes about what I'll do differently.  Incredibly enough one of the main things will be to decrease the salt.  When I was making it, even I, who loves salt and am blessed with low blood pressure so I can love it, thought "good grief - this is a lot of salt!"

Need to put yeast on my grocery list. :)

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