Sunday, February 14, 2010


In honor of the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, I made French bread. Baguettes, which are long loaves, cannot be baked in a regular oven. Batards are a shorter, rounder loaves made of the same ingredients.

I consulted Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II, for the recipe. It was seven pages. Four simple ingredients--unbleached flour, salt, yeast and water--took seven pages of masterful cooking technique (science really) to accomplish. The process takes a minimum of eight hours. Most of that is sitting and waiting for the yeast to act in the flour.

When all was said and done, I had six loaves. I was told they were tasty, but there were tons of problems. The bread didn't rise in the oven. I could tell because the slits I cut in the top just before baking were about the same size afterward. The bread had a slightly sour taste, indicating the yeast did not have enough time, or too much time, to work. The outside of the bread was perfect and crusty. The inside did not have enough holes.

While I walked the Camino de Santiago, I passed a woman delivering bread from the back of her car, just west of Ponferrada. I do not remember her face, but I remember almost 100 loaves, unwrapped, jutting from baskets.

I have a newfound and tremendous amount of respect for that woman.

Bon Appetit.

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