The BBA Challenge 2011 is up to "F", and so French Bread. I'm not a huge French bread fan so I am not one to get infected with the compulsion to perfect the crusty loaf. That's probably a good thing, as I've read blogs by those who got obsesses with that goal, and there are many other breads I'd rather keep repeating in order to reach my ideal loaf.
I kept the dough for my French bread fairly wet, and after the first rise had to add a little more flour to be able to handle it--it sort of crept over my hand until I did. It then doubled in less than 2 hours, so it got a deflation and another rise. I made a half recipe, then split the dough into 2 baguettes when shaping. It was hard to keep from deflating the dough as I folded it, but the texture did come out fairly 'holey'.
I let the baguettes rise on a floured cloth in a "french bread pan", but baked directly on a stone along with all the ritual for trying to get steam in the oven to benefit the crust. Baked the 10 minutes then turned the loaves, and the internal temp was >205 after another ten minutes and the bottoms were getting quite dark brown. However, the tops stayed pale, barely golden. Maybe I need to skip the stone and use a perforated pan to be able to bake these to golden brown all over. Or maybe some surface flour hindered the browning. Or...I see in the Cooks illustrated that arrived yesterday that temperature is not a good indicator of bread doneness alone, as they found bread can reach 210 degrees a good 15 minutes before the loaf is done, and that if removed early the bread had "a pale soft crust and a gummy interior". Well, mine was not gummy and was fairly crusty, but I had the pale part down. CI now tells me "...stick to the recommended baking time and make sure the crust has achieved the appropriate color before removing the loaf from the oven." Will do from now on...
Results, besides the pale crust? The texture was good. The crust was definitely shy of the classic crisp French bread crust, but was nicely crunchy for all that. The bread texture was quite chewy and it had a very nice flavor.