One of my "Santa" presents this year (yes, we still do Santa in this family...) was a DVD collection of Julia Child's The Way to Cook series. Now, I'm not an insane Julia fanatic (Mastering the Art of French Cooking was on my shelf, admittedly, gathering dust, way before Julie & Julia), but I do love me some knife-banging, cream-logged, ooooo-filled cooking every once in awhile.
And there's no time like the new year for some indulgence, right?
Hence, The Bread.
Yes, gut-busting, crust shattering, just-the-right-amount-of-chewy French bread—and not just any golden loaf of splendor, but Julia's exhaustively detailed, hours and hours in the making bread.
Some may scoff at her detail, others may run in horror, but hear me out: the details matter, and when you follow them to a T, you wind up with impeccable stuff. Two winters ago, the Daring Bakers took on the recipe, and they've got great advice and photos (not to mention the whole recipe, word for word, out of Mastering the Art... vol. 2). I followed all of the kneading, shaping and baking directions exactly, but I added a slow first rise in the fridge overnight. This slow rise gives the flour and water more time to incorporate; ferments the dough a little bit, giving the finished product that slight tang so desired in artisan breads; and makes the whole process quite a bit more convenient.
Trendy or not, Julia knows her stuff—this bread is just as good (if not better) than anything I've had in restaurants here, and it is certainly the best I've ever made. So please, bust your gut a little this weekend and make. this. bread.