Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Julia Child's French Bread

Happy 100th birthday Julia Child!

In honour of the grande dame's birthday, Susan of Wild Yeast has challenged us to make her French bread. Who doesn't love French bread? Julia opened up new worlds of cooking in a generation that had embraced convenience food products. She was a revolutionary and all the food crazes we have had since; the Food Network, food blogging... can thank Julia for their popularity.

I made the bread twice, once in the original same day form - needing a touch extra flour, for which I used whole wheat. It was a delicious bread, nice and soft on the inside and gloriously crunchy on the outside, and we gobbled it up within 2 days.
The second time I refrigerated the dough after the first rise and punch down, overnight, and continued in the morning. That time I did not need any extra flour (except the bench flour for kneading) and I got a more tangy, complex loaf with larger holes.
The second was our favourite, but both were delicious! 

Check out Susan's post for all the history behind the bread, to be included in the round-up, or to request the full version of the recipe. 

Julia Child's French Bread -- Recipe Summary
by Susan, for the Bread Baking Babes
  • 3 baguettes or batards or boules
  • Or 6 short loaves (ficelles)
  • Or 12 rolls (petits pains)
Time:  about 7 - 8 hours, not including cooling time
Susan's breakdown: 
  • 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

This bread has been YeastSpotted!

  • 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)
Same day bread = small holes. (Also, some ww flour added)

  1. Combine the yeast and warm water and let liquefy completely. 
  2. Combine the yeast mixture with the flour, the salt, and the remaining water in a mixing bowl.
  3. Turn the dough onto a kneading surface and let rest for 2 - 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl.
  4. Knead the dough for 5 - 10 minutes. See the original recipe for details on Julia's kneading technique [p. 59].
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Deflate [fold] the dough and return it to the bowl [p. 60].
  8. Let the dough rise at room temperature until not quite tripled in volume, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
  9. Meanwhile, prepare the rising surface: rub flour into canvas or linen towel placed on a baking sheet.
  10. Divide the dough into 3, 6, or 12 pieces depending on the size loaves you wish to make. 
  11. Fold each piece of dough in two, cover loosely, and let the pieces relax for 5 minutes [p.62].
  12. Shape the loaves and place them on the prepared towel. See original recipe for detailed instructions [p. 62 or 68].
  13. Cover the loaves loosely and let them rise at room temperature until almost triple in volume, about 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hours.
  14. Meanwhile, Preheat oven to 450F. Set up your "simulated baker's oven" [p. 70] if you will use one.
  15. Using an "unmolding board," transfer the risen loaves onto a baking sheet [p.65] or peel [p. 72].
  16. Slash the loaves.
  17. Spray the loaves with water and get them into the oven (either on the baking sheet or slide them onto the stone [p. 72]).
  18. Steam with the "steam contraption" [p. 71 and 72] or by spraying three times at 3-minute intervals.
  19. Bake for a total of about 25 minutes.
  20. Cool for 2 - 3 hours.
Overnight retarding = more holes
Tanna was able to find a wonderful video of Julia making her fabulous bread - enjoy!

BYOB 125 x 125