Julia Child’s French Bread

julia-child-french-bread-wild-yeast-600

I found this recipe on pinterest (where I find every recipe ever) and as soon as I saw this picture, I knew I had to try to recreate this piece of perfection. My favorite food varies from day to day because I love food – but french bread is really and truly one of my favorite foods. Hard and crusty on the outside and soft on the inside – omg. So mom and I, after having several failed attempts at bread recipes, decided to give this one a try. It is a very long process that involves a lot of waiting, but we did it and I am actually very proud of what we made. Our two loaves of french bread were as close to perfect as we’ve ever gotten. It took about 8 hours to finish this – so give yourself enough time!!!

This awesome recipe can be found on this blog: Wild Yeast Blog

 

What you’ll be working with:

  • 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 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 [Susan’s note: this is about 13.5 grams. I cut my salt down to 10 grams.]
  • 1 1/4 cups tepid water (70 to 74 degrees F)

So here are the steps we followed:

  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.
  15. 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].
  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.
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