Friday, February 29, 2008
Going to New Heights
I am not comfortable with heights. I don't like standing near the edge of a gorge, tall building, or bridge. I really didn't like the Grand Canyon. So why, a reasonable person might ask, did I choose to go sky-diving? For two reasons. One, so my fear wouldn't control me, and, two, so that I could say I did it. No matter what else I chickened out on in life, I could hold my head high and say I'd jumped out of an airplane on purpose.
Joining the Daring Bakers is kind of like that. It pushes me beyond my comfort zone, makes me do things I might be ordinarily too cowed to try, and I only have to do it once and then the rest of my life I can say I did it.
This month's challenge was quite a high altitude jump. Breadchick Mary (The Sour Dough) & Sara (I Like to Cook) gave the recipe of the month - French bread from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It took 15 pages to print out. Yikes! I read it over and over as I baked, my brain straining, hoping that I was doing it all OK.
It took all day, but that's because of the long rise times that develop the flavor in the dough. There were some tricky steps, the most tricky for me being transferring my risen loaves to the hot oven onto the hot baking stone. When I was approaching that step I shrieked, "Ah, how am I supposed to get these into the oven without a baker's peel?"
My adorable and handy husband dashed down to his workshop in the garage, took a piece of wood, shaped it, planed the edge and had it up to me in about 5 minutes. What a guy!
Transferring the bread to the oven worked out well as a two person job. I then used a squirt bottle to spray mist into the oven and tossed a couple of ice cubes in the bottom of the oven. Thankfully they avoided the heating element (angel watching over me), but I think next time I'll put a shallow metal pan on the bottom rack to toss the ice cubes into.
I was so excited to watch the bread rise and crust up nicely. Honestly, it's better than TV, watching a happy loaf of bread bake!
Definitely the hardest part of the recipe was letting the baked loaves cool for 2 hours. I want them now! But it was worth the wait. I got to hear the crust crackling (which is bread's way of saying, "I'm yummy. You will love me!") as it cooled and then we all got to saw off slices, slather them with butter, and slide into bread heaven.
Now you might think I've put that gold star on my chart and moved on, but my husband said a few days later, "Do you think you could make that bread again? It was really good." Well how could I refuse my sweet, woodworking husband? So I made it again, only this time trying the longer loaves. Still fun, still good. And easier, now that I had more of an idea what I was doing and which part of the directions applied. I know I'll make this recipe again and again, because, like skydiving, the scariest part is just before you jump. Once you jump, it's a rush!
Since I'm too lazy to type in all 15 pages (do you blame me?), you can go here to find and print out the whole recipe. If you're up for a great challenge, take it on. I think you won't be disappointed! Plus, you can always say you've done it.
Check out what other Daring Bakers have done with this challenge at the Daring Baker's Blogroll.