They were the hostesses of the February 2007 Daring Bakers challenge and they chose French bread as the task we were all to attempt.
I’ve told the story many times that growing up, a meal could not begin in our house unless the bread and wine were on the table. And I’ve also shared with you the joy I’ve discovered ever since I started baking bread on a more regular basis.
Mary and Sara decided to throw the French bread challenge at us and they chose the great Julia Child’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2, as the starting point.
One of the truly dynamic things about this baking group is the variety of reactions to each month’s challenge. While I think Mary and Sara chose wisely, there was some consternation among members of the group over the length of the recipe and the instructions that came with the recipe. Some people appreciate lots of instruction and advice, while others just want to cut to the quick.
To be honest, I have so much respect for Julia Child that I’ll happily read whatever she advises. However, having had some experience baking bread, I also wouldn’t be intimidated by getting straight to the recipe.
Either way you cut it, I loved the end result of this recipe. I chose to make three small baguettes out of my dough. The bread had a lovely crumb and beautifully golden, crusty exterior. In fact, I was quite impressed with the results that I got from my humble home oven.
Here’s a little photo essay of the making of the bread.
The dough after the first rise:
Shaping the dough into a pillow for the second rise:
Shaping the baguettes:
Ready to go into the oven:
So what did I do with the bread? Well I’ll be honest, most of it was eaten with butter.
But I did save one baguette to finally try a lovely appetizer recipe from Tyler Florence’s Tyler’s Ultimate: Brilliant Simple Food to Make Any Time. There’s an incredible recipe for Caramelized Onion Toast that features a butter-slathered baguette covered in caramelized onions, anchovies, thyme, olives and Parmigiano Reggiano.
I made do without the anchovies and also made a few other changes but the end result was fabulous! And it was even better because the bread had come from our own oven.
Mary and Sara, I thank you!
As usual, if you want to see what all the other Daring Bakers did, please visit the blogroll.
Here’s the recipe for my version of the Caramelized Onion Toast:
1/4 cup butter, softened
a few tablespoons of unsalted butter (for sauteeing the onions)
a few tablespoons of olive oil
3 onions, sliced thinly
several sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of olives, pitted (any olives will do)
a handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
extra olive oil for drizzling
In a large pan, heat the few tablespoons of butter and olive. Once hot, add the onions and thyme and cook slowly over low heat (uncovered), until the onions are golden and wilted. You’ll have to stir the onions every now and then to ensure they don’t burn. This could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on how low the heat is.
Once cooked, add salt and pepper to taste and remove the thyme branches (the thyme leaves will have fallen off while cooking).
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Slice the baguette in half lengthwise and spread the quarter cup of softened butter equally over both halves of the bread.
Pile on the caramelized onions and then dot the onions with the pitted olives. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper and then drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the bread is golden and toasted.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle liberally with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Serve immediately and enjoy!