All the breads that I have featured here have, so far, been recipes collected by two Danish food journalists and they have been published by one of the largest Danish publishers around. There is little competition for their book, there are only one or two other real contenders for bread and pastry recipes. Despite the fact that Denmark has experienced a flurry of interest for cookbooks of all sorts and kinds, the diversity is still rather depressing compared what you may find if you venture abroad into English books. The largest detractor for this is, of course, that there is an annoying tendency to measure everything by cups in these books, which is extremely unfamiliar to us Danes as most of us have very good scales at home—even the cheapest kitchen scales here measure within a gram of the actual mass. Anyway, not shy of having to do a few conversions, I ordered some baking books in English, one of which is Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread. This book is fairly much intended for the rather advanced home baker or, more likely given the content, for the professional baker, so I was a bit overwhelmed by it, considering I have only really been baking for a month or two, but I persevered and kept reading through the book, trying to make sense of everything. Fortunately Hamelman lists everything not only in imperial and metric measures, but in percentage measures as well. Very nice way to list ingredients! So today as I was a few breads short of having a lunch, I thought it was time to try one of his ‘straight doughs’, the classic French bread.
The French bread is ubiquitous in Denmark, almost to the point that it is synonymous with a white bread. Fortunately, it is also possible to find Spanish country breads, Filone breads, or Ciabatta breads (although not usually in slipper shape), that haven't had milk added to them (yes, I know, it's an egregious sin to add milk to French bread, but seemingly a lot of bakers here do so).
The French bread recipe is, as far as I can reckon, one of the easiest ones in Hamelman's books, but even then it is a good deal more involved than the recipes I have followed to date.
My shaping skills leave a bit to be desired, and even though I have got something that is sort of oblong shaped, the breads are way too loose, and as can be seen vaguely in the picture, I have unfortunately left a bit too much flour residue on the top. I almost forgot to score the breads, so I had to pull them out of the oven again after having put them there for half a minute, and the knives I had were not entirely sharp enough, which caused the bread to fall a bit more apart, unfortunately, causing the few blisters that can be seen in the photo below. Also, the gray streaks that can be seen is due to the excess flour that I did not manage to remove. I will have to be a bit more careful another time.
Despite the visual shortcomings of the bread, the inside looks moist, and the crumb has that slightly shiny quality that supposedly good crumbs have, and even the crust crunches ever so lovely when you squeeze the bread carefully, despite the fact that I did not use any steam at all.
While all the breads that I have baked to date have been decent, there has always lacked a certain ‘something’ from the breads that I could only get if I bought it from one of the many bakeries that are close to my house. But not with this one. It was like tasting French bread again for the first time. Bon appétit.