I am a big fan of Julia. I love her independence, her humor and her can-do spirit and I admire her efforts to educate people about the pleasures of good food. I even own both of the Mastering French Cooking volumes - First Editions, in fact, so I was very excited to see this challenge. This was also perfect for me because I'd been meaning to try french bread at home, after doing it on my culinary school classes last year - and just hadn't gotten around to it. I even have this fancy pan, which I talked my mom into buying me for Christmas last year - and I think I've used exactly twice (for shame!) For my loaves, I did a boule, a small oblong loaf, and two ficelles. I didn't add any flavorings - but I did see some loaves at the store the other day with some sea salt sprinkled on them - might be an idea for the future!
Sadly though, I did not have the best luck with my bread. Everything seemed to be going along swimmingly until I got to the third rise - when I went to slash my loaves for the oven, they deflated like sad little balloons. The ficelles fared a little better, but even they had a slightly tough crust and a slightly mealy crumb. I think somewhere along the line perhaps I let it overrise? Or in the proofing (third rise) I didn't cover it well enough? It seemed like it formed a gluten shell that was a little too thick. I do think I may have overworked the dough on my smaller loaves because they had that swirly look - but when I ate one last night (after they had cooled!) and again this morning for breakfast, they were delicious.
At least what I wound up with was tasty, and I do plan to work on my bread baking skills - I am hoping to take a bread class this fall in my culinary program (if they offer it at night.) In the meantime though, I think I'll let my local bakery (Bread and Cie) take care of this particular task for me - since they do such a much better job of it!
Cheers to another completed challenge!