Tuesday, August 14, 2012

French Bread for Julia Child’s 100th Anniversary

Today it’s 15th of August and Julia Child’s 100th birthday!

When I grew up in the Netherlands I learned to cook from my mother as she had learned to cook from her mother. As I grew older and got more interested in International food I started to look for recipes in cookbooks and talk with my friends. As a young girl I had Indonesian friends and I loved Indonesian food. Growing older there were more immigrants coming to the Netherlands and this meant a lot of good International food. There was European food, African food, Asian food, American food, Australian food. You name it and it's probably available in the Netherlands. 

Food unites people. Even if you can’t understand what the other is saying or you don’t understand the culture; you can share, taste and enjoy food together.

The first time I heard the name of Julia Child was in the movie; “Julie and Julia”. A lovely  movie with the great Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci and Amy Adams, as you all know. When I saw a recording of Julia Child on You Tube I saw how lifelike Meryl had played the role of Julia.

When I was growing up we heard about some American people who couldn’t or didn’t cook at home. We were so surprised. In the Netherlands everybody ate home cooked meals. Only for very special occasions you went out for dinner. We heard about American people who ate out every day and even for their breakfast. This was unthinkable in the Netherlands. Although people in the Netherlands went out for dinner sometimes, but never for breakfast. As you understand by now, this was many many years ago and things have changed a lot. Many people in America discovered the cookbook of Julia Child. They eat their home cooked meals and there’s delicious American food in all States. And nowadays some people in the Netherlands go out for breakfast.

Susan of Wild Yeast is the talented host for the Bread Baking Babes. She asked us, Buddies, to bake Julia Child’s French Bread as a tribute to her 100th Birthday. Of course I bake for Julia. Reading trough her book I saw what an amazing accomplishment she has made by writing this book. The instructions are detailed and clear. Probably because of the movie, I could hear Julia talking trough the recipes. She made it look very easy and that’s what you need when you want to make something for the first time. This is not my first French Bread, but the first one for Julia.
I checked the recipe and was surprised to see 82% hydration. I decided to hold back 0.25 cup of water (60 grams) and see what happens with the flour. I was happy I did, this worked great. It was wet dough and because I wanted to follow Julia's instructions I wanted to knead the dough by hand. But, Julia's method didn't work for me and I used Richard Bertinet's method for sweet dough. I love the pull and trow-method. It works great and gives me one big arm muscle. 
It was hard to choose between all the options; batard, baguette, boule, ficelle or petit pain. I went for 1 rustic loaf, 1 baguette and 2 petit pains. 

Julia's instructions on shaping baguette are so clear. I try to show you with photos. 

Thank you Julia Child for your legacy of baking this delicious authentic French bread!
Name                     Julia Child’s French Bread
Adapted from          Julia Child Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol. 2
Yields                     3 baguettes or batards or boules or 6 ficelles or 12 petit pains
Dough temp.           21°C
Mixing                    15 minutes
Fermentation          3 – 5 hours
Shape                    15 minutes
Proof at 21°C.        1.5 – 2.5 hours
Prepare steam/bake 1 hour
Bake 230°C             25 minutes

This is what I used:
Bakers formula        %        grams
Flour                      100     453
Water                     82      374   (I used 314 grams: 69%)
Salt                        2          9

Final Dough
All Purpose flour                453
Water 37
°C                        78
21°C                      296   (I used 236 grams)
Salt                                    9       
                                  5   (I used 3 grams)
This is what I did:

Baking day
: add yeast to the water and let liquefy completely.

The final dough: combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Turn the dough on the work counter and leave to rest for 2 – 3 minutes.

Knead the dough for 5 – 10 minutes. I used a kind of “pull and trow” method I've seen used by Richard Bertinet. He used this method for sweet dough, but since the dough was wet I decided to use this method anyway. Lift the dough and flip it onto itself. Because it’s wet it looks like playing with mud. It took me about 10 minutes to 
develop enough elasticity; when it draws back into shape when pushed. At this point the gluten molecules have united and the dough begins to clean the work counter. It can still stick to your fingers at this point. Let it rest for 3 – 4 minutes.
Knead again for one minute. The surface of the dough should look smooth; it’s less sticky and soft.

Bulk Fermentation:
 transfer the dough to a slightly oiled container, cover and leave for 3  hours at 21°C, until 3,5 times its original volume.
Deflate the dough and return it to the bowl.

Let the dough rise for another 1,5 – 2 hours until almost tripled in size.

Divide and shaping
Choose the kind of loaves you want to bake and divide accordingly. I choose to bake:
1 baguette, 1 rustic loaf and 2 petit pains.  

Fold each piece loosely onto itself (like a clam), cover and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
Rub flour on the cover of the couche/towel.
Shape the loaves. Place the piece of dough on the lightly floured work counter and pad it firmly but not roughly into a approx. 25 cm. oval. Deflate any gas bubbles by pinching them.
Fold the dough in half lengthwise towards you. 
Seal the edges. 
Roll the dough until the seal is on top. 
Flatten it again with the palm of your hand. 
Press a trench along the length with the side of your hand.
 Fold again in half lengthwise. 
Seal the edges together with the heel of your hand. 
Rolling the dough back and forth with the palms of two hands will shape it into a sausage.
Keep rolling back and forth and slide your hands towards the ends of the sausage.
Pinch any gas bubbles. Keep rolling until you reach the acquired length of your baking stone. 

Place all the loaves on the floured couche/towel.

Proofing: Cover the loaves loosely and let them rise until they almost triple in size. This takes about 1,5 – 2,5 hours.

Pre heating: I pre heated the oven to 230°C and placed the steam pan with stones on the bottom of the oven. Julia uses bricks to get steam.
Scoring: score the loaves

Preparing and Baking: When the oven is hot enough I boil water and pour it in a glass bottle with a long neck. I pour some boiling water on the hot stones and quickly close the oven door to keep the steam in the oven.
I place the loaves on parchment on a peel. Transfer them to the oven and quickly slide the loaves on the baking stone. After some minutes I add some more water to get more steam.
I baked the loaves 12 minutes with steam and quickly removed the parchment paper and the steam pan. I baked the loaves for another 33 minutes. Bake the loaves until they are nicely brown colored.

Cooling: Let the loaves cool completely, 3 – 4 hours, on a wire rack.

I used the recipe summary of Susan of Wild Yeast and the original recipe of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol. 2
I send this to Susan’s YeastSpotting and to Susan of Wild Yeast as the host for the Bread Baking Babes and to Bake Your Own Bread


  1. Your bread looks wonderful! And what an excellent photo essay showing how to shape the bread.

    I used the stretch and throw method for kneading as well and was most interested to see Julia Child kneading French bread dough in exactly the same way in an archival video of "The French Chef".

    Thank you for baking with us!

    1. Thanks Elizabeth, we looked at the video of 'the French Chef' and it was wonderful. Julia is amazing and funny to watch.
      Baking with you is always fun

  2. Your bread turned out lovely, Connie - and a fantastic tutorial, as well. I love the petit loaves...I need to make those next time.

    1. Hi Heather, thanks. It was fun to make the photos. Petit pains are delicious too. I think you can even use your baguette pan!

  3. Connie I love the way you talk through how times change - in countries and between people. I think cooking blogs bring us closer, well as you say we may have different language but we all eat. Share food, food ideas and cooking, you have to begin to see how much we have in common.
    Karen (BakeMyDay) has always told me she has to cut back on water when we're baking an American recipe because of the differences in flours.
    Wonderful post. Thanks many for baking with us.

    1. Hi Tanna, you're right; if we all just looked at the similarities and all we have in common. We are more the same than we are different. Normally the amount of water in the American recipes are fine for my flour, but this time...
      Love baking with you.

  4. Connie,
    I'm going in circles trying to leave you a comment on your French Bread.
    Loved your stories, I just know Julia would approve.
    Your bread looks excellent.
    Your shaping technique photos are just terrific. I even like that it looks like you might be in your jammies but I guess it could be just a nice blouse too.
    Anyway, thanks for baking with us and I delighted you enjoyed it.

    1. Tanna, I placed your email with the comments on Julia's French Bread. Hope you agree.
      It could be my jammies, I life in this blouse; I wear it when I work in the garden, in the kitchen, in the house, in the .... Found it for 1 euro at a market. Have a green one too :-)

  5. Connie, what beautiful loaves with a perfect open crumb! And wonderful photo tutorial on the shaping. Thanks so much for baking with us to honor Julia!

  6. Thanks Susan. It's always a pleasure to bake with the Babes. Thank you for introducing me to Julia's French Bread.

  7. What am I going to do here in Chiang Mai, where I at this time of the year do not have 21 degC, or only early morning for a short time? I think you are also in Thailand. How much to shorten the rising times? Or not bother, just wait until 3.5 times volume?