Friday, February 29, 2008

French bread, oh, French bread. How do I serve thee? Let me count the ways...

French bread is one of my favorite things ever. It is so simple yet complex; crusty yet chewy; and delicious both unadorned and ... well, adorned! So imagine the joy (and slight apprehension, which I will get to later) when the wonderful Daring Bakers announced that our mission for February is to make French bread with Julia Child's (deceptively) simple recipe. Upon first inspection of the recipe, I was simply floored by its length and contents. I mean, really, we're going to need canvas? And plywood? Sounds more like an art project, no? And can you blame my slight apprehension? I'm not going to wax poetic too much about it but when you come right down to it, baking is artistic!

Unlike my normal baking/cooking projects, I set out to be uber organized this time. I printed out the recipe (10 pages long, thank you very much!), laid out all the special equipment and ingredients ("mise en place") before I even started. Baking French bread took way longer than my usual baking recipes (think a whole Sunday!), but it was totally worth it because my French breads turned out beautiful! It was Sunday anyway, so during the multiple proofs (or incubation steps, as we call it in lab/geek talk), I just tinkered around the house, reading the paper, watching TV and doing little chores.

I made the mistake of digging into one before it was cooled completely. I mean, it took 2 whole hours to cool and let the crust set, but I was just sooo seduced by the aroma of fresh bread out of the oven. I couldn't resist! The bread tasted good but the crust wasn't as crusty as I was hoping. Fortunately, the second bread that I let cool for the whole 2 hours was much better: super crusty crust and chewy, bubbly middle. Although it isn't a French bakery-standard bread, it comes pretty darn close! And as usual, there are a few hundred DB posts up today. Kinda crazy but oh so worth it to check out! So take a look the creations of my talented friends here!

As the title of this post suggests, how did I serve this divine bread?

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1. By itself: So simple and delicious! This may make me sound like a freak, but my favorite part of bread is actually the crust. Whenever I get a loaf of bread, I always attack the ends. Chewy middles are a distant second in my opinion. So the high crust-to-innard ratio of baguettes is a huge plus to me!

2. With butter: Still very simple and oh, so decadent. I think it might be especially yummy if you can get butter from dairy farmers who make small batches of unhomogenized and sometimes, unpasteurized butter as featured in the NYT.

3. With butter and jam: To further bring your taste buds nearer to nirvana, add jam to #2. Not jelly please no! But J-A-M. My current favorite is this awesomely flavorful blackberry jam from Trader Joe's. I just ran out but I'm hoping it's not just a seasonal item...

4. With butter and roasted garlic cloves shmeared on top. Now, THIS is sheer heaven!
Roasted garlic-1

5. As part of a bánh mì: If you haven't tried one of these yummy sammie, you have to try one right now. And I mean, go to a pho place right NOW! Banh mi is a Vietnamese-style sandwich made with baguettes. It is usually made with pork, chicken, pickled carrots, some veggies and cilantro.

6. With chocolate: As exemplified by fellow DBer Tartelette here.

7. With extra virgin olive oil as dip: Droooooolz!

8. With cheese of all kinds: goat, brie, blue, Cheddar. Oh, the possibilities are endless!

9. With Nutella: I suppose Nutella could be considered chocolate. But I think Nutella is just so good it deserves its own category. I really think the USDA should really reserve a place for this delicious hazelnutty chocolatey goodness in the food pyramid. Don't you?

10. As crostini: Sliced thinly, toasted and topped with various yummies like chopped tomato and basil, garlic hummus and pine nuts, roasted tomato puree and sliced mozzarella, etc.

11. For croutons: I've never been a fan of croutons and consider this one to be a bit of a waste of good bread. But hey, I'm sure there are folks out there who beg to differ and can't live without croutons...

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That's only eleven of the ways I can think to serve French bread. Care to share any of your own ideas?

23 comments:

kellypea said...

There is no way that your crust wasn't crunchy. I can tell by the beauteous color! I love the list of what it can be served with...Nutella is quite the bomb right now, isn't it? Nice post, full of spunk and personality. You go, girl!

jesse said...

Hi ci, okay, your French loaf looks SO much better than mine. If you go to my post you'll see that mine is like a freak Siamese-twin loaf. But anyways, how to serve it... why, I think you have the right idea with the roast garlic! Andandand!! It makes a surprisingly yummy French toast as well, not to mention a super rich bread pudding. And my all-time fav way... bruschetta... mmm!

zorra said...

12. With stews, dip in the bread, yummie!

ostwestwind said...

Great job, I prefer them to eat just with butter!

Ulrike from Küchenlatein

Bev and Ollie "O" said...

wow the slashes on your bread are fantastic! oh and the roasted garlic, wish I hadn't gobbled all the bread in such a hurry because that is a brilliant idea!

Baking Soda said...

Great going! Wonderful looking bread. Eeh, pan catalan? rub with garlic, brush with tomato wedge sprinkle with pepper and salt...

Candace said...

After reading all the ways to serve French Bread, I have drooled on my keyboard! Nice job on your bread, its gorgeous!

Carrie said...

Baking is most definitely artistic!
Nice list of ways to love your bread! ;-)

glamah16 said...

Oh I miss those Vietnamese sandwhiches. Where can I get in Chi town? Up North. You did a excellent job and welcome back.

marion-il en faut peu pour ... said...

it's perfcet :) a very good looking french bread, and with roasted garlic, it was certainly fantastic :)
congratulations !

Andrea said...

Great bread! I love it with olive oil or cheese. Yum!

Susan said...

Your crust looks the picture of crispness! I agree about the croutons but this bread doesn't stay fresh for long so croutons or panzanella (bread salad) are good ways to use it once it stales a bit.

L Vanel said...

Beautiful loaves. I think I really like it best with butter and salt. Or just some cheese.

Dharm said...

Nice Post Maria!! Well done on the Bread - it looks just superb!!! Serve it with a generous slather of Sambal!!!

Big Boys Oven said...

I am so excited and so happy that you did so well, what a bake you have there. My was a bit burnt but I think I learn something interesting, going through that long long recipe! lol!

Simona said...

I vote for bread and chocolate. My husband ate it mostly by itself. Nice job!

Peabody said...

Wow, that is a lot of ideas for what to do with this bread. What a lovely loaf of bread you made.

DaviMack said...

Yep - definitely with chocolate, as yours looks simply fabulous!

breadchick said...

Wow, your bread is so beautiful and I love all the serving suggestions

Thanks for baking with Sara and I

Veron said...

Your bread does look divine. Great job!

glamah16 said...

Maria,
I'd love to get together with you one day to try some places. We just returned from C town tonight and went to Happy Chef. Theres a Vietanamese place next door. We are trying to pla a trip up to the Argyle area with one of CS's coworker. Just drop me a line when your up to it. Maybe we can get the other Hyde Parker Chou@balance to join too?
cococooks(AT)hotmail(DOT)com.

Half Baked said...

Gorgeous bread! I made a sandwich of fresh mozzarella and prosciutto with some of mine mmmm.

lina said...

I used one of my loaves for chili eating, sucking up the sauce with the bread. The second became garlic bread, slather on some garlic butter and roast. The third loaf went into the freezer, and I will have to decide which thing on your list to do with it... :)
Great looking bread!

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