My great thanks to everyone who replied to my post regarding kneading
and the windowpane test, I really appreciate all the responses. I'd
like to reply, if you don't mind, and do it all in one post.
Chris, thanks for the advice. I was mixing the bread flour and AP
flour according to the formula, but I'll try it again with all bread
flour and see how that works out. I'll look for the high protein
flour; we have KA in our supermarket and while its definitely more
expensive it sounds like its worth it if it improves the bread.
Mary, thanks for the tip on the mixer/food processor. I've had good
luck with some of the rustic breads in the KitchenAid. For some
reason I see it almost as a "right of passage" to get the hang of
kneading drier doughs :). I'm going to try looking for the high
protein flour and give it a whirl. Another reference book (or more!)
could be helpful, too.
Andy, I appreciate the related experience. I baked French bread
again last weekend (using the same flour mixture) and had a similar
experience as before. The dough did seem a bit more resilient after
bulk rising and did rise pretty well (as far as I could tell with
"beginner's" judgement) but seemed to deflate some with a little
handling (not sure how much is normal). Still no windowpane
Part of the problem may lie in knowing what good bread is supposed to
look and taste like. I've been pretty pleased with my first attempts
at ciabatta; I'm not sure exactly what to expect from the French
bread, from crumb or flavor, even though its such a 'common' bread.
Is it worth seeking commercial examples; or is that a poor yardstick?
Thanks again to everyone for their responses. I'll definitely try
the higher protein flour first and see where I wind up.