Julia who? Julia Child, of course! Happy 100th birthday! Julia changed cooking in America; some of my earliest cooking memories are of watching The French Chef on public television with my mom, who would be furiously scribbling notes.
As you can tell from my blog, I went missing about a year and a half ago. I was still cooking, but had started a demanding job that kept me traveling a lot – I think I got on a plane last year about 70 times. Something had to give, and since I wanted to spend as much time with my Honorable Husband and pups, that something was blogging.
How better to break a blogging hiatus than to bake bread with the Bread Baking Babes, and this month’s host, Susan, of Wild Yeast Blog? A group of bread baking aficionados, this month the Babes invited everyone to join them in a celebration of Julia’s life by baking her 20-page French bread recipe with them.
Of course, a lot of things went wrong:
- my baking stone cracked in half
- the battery died in my scale, so I could not weigh ingredients
- it was extremely hot and humid, which required the addition of extra flour and really watching the rising times
- my bread dough stuck to the floured surface, thereby causing me to break the surface tension when I removed it
- I burned my arm in the oven
- my boule partially fell off my baking sheet when I flipped it onto the baking sheet prior to getting it into the oven
- I couldn’t find the camera cable to load photos onto my computer.
Oh, well, c’est la vie. Hey! I am speaking French already! Heh. Home baked bread is home baked bread, and I was looking forward to giving this bread another try, having had so-so luck with it before.
I had my trusty team to help me: Gus, Sam (a new addition to the family – a sweet Cavalier rescue who we adopted last September), and Daisy:
The texture and flavor of this attempt was a lot better than my first one a few years ago, which leads me to an important point for all bread bakers, especially beginners: practice makes perfect. Don’t be afraid to try and fail; homemade bread usually tastes so much better than store bought that people will happily eat your disasters. If all else fails, turn them into bread crumbs. This loaf, however, will be eaten plain, and toasted with lots of butter. Yum. You can find Susan’s summary of Julia’s recipe below the jump, but I recommend that you get Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 2, to benefit from all of the detailed instructions. Be sure to check out Susan’s BBB roundup, and her weekly YeastSpotting post, as well.
Julia Child’s French Bread — Recipe Summary
- 3 baguettes or batards or boules
- Or 6 short loaves (ficelles)
- Or 12 rolls (petits pains)
- Or one very large boule (I made this one)
- mix and knead: 15 minutes
- first rise: 3 hours
- second rise: 1.5 - 2 hours
- divide, rest, and shape: 15 minutes
- final rise: 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hours
- prepare to bake: 10 minutes
- bake: 25 minutes
- cool: 2 - 3 hours
- one cake (0.6 ounce or 17 grams) fresh yeast or one package active dry yeast [Susan's note: Here are some equivalents: fresh yeast: 17 grams; active dry yeast: 0.25 ounce or 7 grams). You could also use 5.6 grams of instant yeast]
- 1/3 cup warm water (not over 100 degrees F)
- 3 1/2 cups (about one pound) all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/4 cups tepid water (70 to 74 degrees F)
- Combine the yeast and warm water and let liquefy completely.
- Combine the yeast mixture with the flour, the salt, and the remaining water in a mixing bowl.
- Turn the dough onto a kneading surface and let rest for 2 – 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl.
- Knead the dough for 5 – 10 minutes. See the original recipe for details on Julia’s kneading technique [p. 59].
- Let the dough rest for 3 – 4 minutes, then knead again for a minute. The surface should be smooth and the dough will be soft and somewhat sticky.
- Return the dough to the mixing bowl and let it rise at room temperature (about 70F) until 3 1/2 times its original volume. This will probably take about 3 hours.
- Deflate [fold] the dough and return it to the bowl [p. 60].
- Let the dough rise at room temperature until not quite tripled in volume, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, prepare the rising surface: rub flour into canvas or linen towel placed on a baking sheet.
- Divide the dough into 3, 6, or 12 pieces depending on the size loaves you wish to make.
- Fold each piece of dough in two, cover loosely, and let the pieces relax for 5 minutes [p.62].
- Shape the loaves and place them on the prepared towel. See original recipe for detailed instructions [p. 62 or 68].
- Cover the loaves loosely and let them rise at room temperature until almost triple in volume, about 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours.
- Meanwhile, Preheat oven to 450F. Set up your “simulated baker’s oven” [p. 70] if you will use one.
- Using an “unmolding board,” transfer the risen loaves onto a baking sheet [p.65] or peel [p. 72].
- Slash the loaves.
- Spray the loaves with water and get them into the oven (either on the baking sheet or slide them onto the stone [p. 72]).
- Steam with the “steam contraption” [p. 71 and 72] or by spraying three times at 3-minute intervals.
- Bake for a total of about 25 minutes.
- Cool for 2 – 3 hours.