The recipe was really long. Really, really long! But I read through it several times before getting started, and I am pleased to say everything went smoothly. I mixed and kneaded my dough by hand, resisting the temptation to add more flour when it seemed a little sticky. That is my biggest mistake whenever I make bread, so this time I just scraped the counter, kept on going, and in the end the dough was beautiful. Into the slightly warmed oven it went for the first rise, which ended up taking about 4 hours. I was really confused about the directions for making the dough into a “cushion shape” for the second rise, not sure if I was anywhere close, but it didn’t seem to matter. Second rise took a little less than 2 hours.
On to shaping. This was the hardest part, since I apparently missed the fact that there is a video out there showing how to do it. I made 3 batards, and the first one was not the prettiest! But the 2nd and 3rd looked good, and I managed to not tear the “coagulated gluten cloak.” (Who knew bread-making had such technical words!) In for the last rise on my floured dishcloth.
Flipping them over onto the baking sheet was hard, at least for the first 2, the last one was easy since it was now alone on the cloth. I slashed with my sharpest knife, no problems there. Baking went smoothly, and I even remembered to do the spraying thing the correct number of times. They did come out a little darker than I was expecting. I brushed the tops with water after they came out of the oven for shine, although I didn’t really notice that making any difference.
And now the waiting. My 4-year-old daughter came into the kitchen to say “I smell something yummy, like bread.” My husband wanted to know if we had to wait until they cooled, or if it was just a suggestion. Two hours of torture! But so worth it! This bread was good stuff. It even passed the crackly-noise test my husband devised after we watched Ratatouille. After 12 hours of off and on work, it made an excellent dinner with some cheese and fruit. We felt like we were back in Paris again (the fact that we ate dinner at 8:30 pm helped with that feeling!) Those 3 batards disappeared awfully fast. And now my husband wants to know when I will be making French bread again. Soon probably! I think in the future I will invest in some of those wavy baguette pans, and see if it comes out as good without all the floured cloth and flipping. But this recipe will have a permanent place in my house. Just imagine, you can get great bread here, right in my own kitchen!