So I made Julia Child's French Bread...
It took three tries, but I finally got it down! And let me tell you, it’s one of the most delicious things I’ve ever made. The crust is perfectly crunchy, but the inside is light and fluffy. It makes amazing toast, and it’s great for sandwiches! I’m going to give you a simplified recipe along with some tips :)
What I love about this recipe is the simple ingredients- water, yeast, flour, and salt. That’s it! Andddd about 7-8 hours of your time. But I promise that it is worth it! You’ll feel so accomplished once you take a bite. I recommend starting it around 630-7am if you want it to be ready for dinner. That sounds like a lot, but the actual hands on time is around 30-45 minutes.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 package active dry yeast ( 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup warm water (not over 100 degrees- I recommend around 80)
3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (this has to be exact! No heaping cups)
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups water @ 70-74 degrees
Large glass mixing bowl ( I used this- yes it is a casserole dish, but it’s almost identical to what Julia used!)
metal pastry scraper
Stir the yeast into a 1/3 cup of warm water and let liquify completely. While this is happening, measure flour and salt into your mixing bowl.
When the yeast is liquified, pour it into the flour, along with rest of the water (1 1/4 cups). It should look like this:
Stir the water and flour mixture with a rubber spatula and mix until all the flour and pieces are combined. Once combined- turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and let sit for 2-3 minutes. While the dough is resting, wash your bowl. After washing, measure 10 1/2 cups of water into the bowl. with a piece of tape, mark the water line. This is where you’ll want the dough to reach on it’s initial rise.
Now it’s time to knead! Julia says to only knead with one hand, and keep the other hand free to “dip out extra flour, to answer the telephone, and so forth.” The goal with kneading is to get the dough perfectly smooth. Start kneading by lifting an edge of the dough with your pastry scraper and flipping it over onto itself. Keep doing this until you can push the dough with the heel of your hand and it bounces back into shape. If the dough is too sticky, add a little bit of flour. This should take about 5-7 minutes. You are done when you pinch the dough for a second and it doesn’t stick to your finger. If you pinch it for 2-3 seconds and it sticks, that’s perfect!
It’s time for the first rise! Put your dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. I wanted to make sure mine was secure, so I tied it with twine. You’ll want to keep the bowl in a warm spot where the temperature is around 70 degrees. Cover the bowl with a tea towel. This first rise should take 3 1/2 hours- or until the dough reaches the tape line.
Once the dough has risen, it’s ready to deflate and knead again! The dough should look like this:
With the rubber spatula, dislodge the dough from the bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour your hands and flatten the dough into a circle. To knead, lift a corner of the near side and flip it down over the far side. Then, take the right side, and flip it over onto the left side. Then, lift the near side and lightly tuck it under the edge of the far side. Return the dough to the bowl and let rise again- about double it’s size (about an hour).
Once your dough has doubled in size, turn it out again onto a lightly floured surface. It should look like this:
Now it’s time to shape the dough. I opted to shape mine into a pain boulot, which is just a basic sandwich size loaf. Once you turn your dough on the surface, start to shape it into an oval. It should look like this:
Transfer the dough onto parchment paper and then onto a baking sheet. The dough will need to rise a final time to triple in size (about 1 1/2-2 1/2 hours). Cover with a tea towel.
Once the loaf has tripled in size, you need to score it. Take the sharpest knife you have, and cut two diagonal lines in the dough. Don’t press down at all- you only want to slash the top layer.
It’s FINALLY time to bake it! Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly mist the dough with water. When your oven is ready, place the baking sheet in the upper third part of the oven. You’ll want to set one timer for 25 minutes, and set another for three minutes. Once the three minutes is up, spray the bread again with water. You’ll want to do this one more time after 3 minutes. This gives it a nice golden crust.
YOU’RE DONE! But you can’t eat it yet. I know, it’s horrible. You’ll want let the bread cool for 3 hours on a wire rack. This helps the bread to completely finish baking.
Step 10: ENJOY! Slice your bread and lather with butter, jelly, peanut butter, cheese- whatever your heart desires. Eat the whole loaf, you earned it!
Live shot of Hank waiting for me to drop some crumbs!
Have you made any other Julia Child recipes? If you decide to make her bread, let me know how it goes in the comments. Bon appetite!