Julia Child’s French Bread

Julia Child's French Bread adapted from the home kitchen.

You can make a great crusty loaf of French bread at home. Julia Child took techniques she learned in French bakeries and adapted them for the home kitchen.

Today the Bread Baking Babes are celebrating Julia Child’s 100th birthday by baking and posting Julia’s French Bread. Julia was the queen of simplifying French recipes so anyone could make them at home.

Making Julia Child's French Bread recipe - Barbara Bakes

Julia’s Pain Français (French Bread) recipe was published in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2 in 1970. If you’re a little afraid of making French bread at home, there’s a great video of Julia making French bread. She shows you step by step how the dough should look and how you shape and bake the dough to make a beautiful loaf.

I adapted Julia’s recipe to use instant yeast and a Kitchen Aid mixer. I rarely knead dough by hand because the mixer makes it so easy. I also set the shaped loaves on parchment to rise so they’re easy to move on to the baking stone.

Easy to make French Bread - Julia Child's French Bread

There have been so many great tributes to Julia over the last month. The more I learn about Julia, the more I’ve fallen in love with her. I’m so impressed with her easy going style and fearless nature.

My sweet friend Donna, Apron Strings, in a tribute post to Julia linked to a hilarious video of Julia on David Letterman. Everything went wrong, but she just carries on with humor and bravado. David asks her what she does with recipes that don’t turn out and she says she feeds them to her husband. I guess I’m doing the same with my family.

Thanks Julia for sharing your passion for cooking, your reminders to never apologize if something you bake is less than perfect, and to be fearless in the kitchen and in life.

Julia Child’s French Bread

Julia Child’s French Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) instant yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (120º - 130º)

Directions

  1. In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer using the flat beater, combine the yeast, 2 1/2 cups flour and salt. Mix on low for about 30 seconds.
  2. With the motor running on low, pour in the warm water. Continue mixing until a shaggy dough forms. Clean off beater and switch to the dough hook. Mix in the remaining cup of flour a little at a time, to make a soft dough, adding more or less flour as needed. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. The surface should be smooth and the dough will be soft and somewhat sticky.
  3. Turn the dough onto a kneading surface and let rest for 2 - 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl.
  4. Return the dough to the mixing bowl and let it rise at room temperature (about 75º) until 3 1/2 times its original volume. This will probably take about 3 hours.
  5. Deflate the dough and return it to the bowl. Let the dough rise at room temperature until not quite tripled in volume, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the rising surface: rub flour into canvas or linen towel placed on a baking sheet. (I used parchment paper.)
  7. 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.
  8. Shape the loaves and place them on the prepared towel or parchment. Cover the loaves loosely and let them rise at room temperature until almost triple in volume, about 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hours.
  9. Preheat oven to 450º. Set up a "simulated baker's oven" by placing a baking stone on the center rack, with a metal broiler pan on the rack beneath, at least 4 inches away from the baking stone to prevent the stone from cracking.
  10. Transfer the risen loaves onto a peel.
  11. Slash the loaves.
  12. Spray the loaves with water. Slide the loaves into the oven onto the preheated stone and add a cup of hot water to the broiler tray.
  13. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown. (If you used parchment paper you will want to remove it after about 10-15 minutes to crisp up the bottom crust. Spray the loaves with water three times at 3-minute intervals.
  14. Cool for 2 - 3 hours before cutting.
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The Bread Baking Babes and Buddies bake a different bread each month. Visit Sweet and That’s It for information about how you can become a Bread Baking Buddy. You  can also join the Facebook Group, Bread Baking Babes and Friends.

More of Julia’s recipes you might like:

Boeuf Bourguignon, Barbara Bakes
Croissants, Barbara Bakes
Chocolate Almond Cake, Apron Strings
Oven Roasted Plum & Almond Cakes, Passionate About Baking
Julia Child’s Eggplant Pizzas, Kalyn’s Kitchen
Jarlsberg Cheese Souffle, LaFuji Mama




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Comments

    Leave a Comment:

  1. says

    Not sure if I ever tried Julia’s recipe before…this was easy and good! I did use a curved baguette pan which makes all the difference in the world for me. Many thanks!

  2. Frankie says

    I love Julia Childs and my whole family loves French bread! I’ve been wanting to learn how to bake bread forever now but have been so afraid to. Everyone wonders why since I bake every cake and cookie recipe I can find. Anyways, I’m determined to try this recipe but do have a few questions first:

    1) I don’t have a baking stone. Can I just bake the loaves on a baking sheet with corn meal spread out on the bottom to keep the bread from sticking to the baking sheet?

    2) The last part of your instructions “spray the loaves with water three times at 3-min intervals”. What do you mean by that? So do I spray the first time when I put it into the oven, and 2 more times after that (2nd time after 3 mins in the oven and 3rd time after 6 mins in the oven?)

    3) Can I start the dough at night and let it rise in the fridge over night so I can bake it fresh in the morning? If so at what stage of the instructions can I let it rise in the fridge over night? Can it be the last rise before going straight into the oven?

    4) How can you be sure a bread a baked all the way through? I know if the outside crust is golden brown but is there another way to check? I heard about knocking the bottom of the bread and hearing a hallow sound. Is that true?

    Sorry for so many questions but I would really appreciate your help. Thanks in advance! (my MIL also thank you you too as she’s a bread lover!!)

    Frankie

    • says

      Hi Frankie!
      – If you don’t have a baking stone, I would bake it on parchment on a baking sheet.
      – Exactly
      – It’s probably best to shape it in the morning.
      – You can use an instant read thermometer if you’re unsure http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/2010/05/17/underbaked-not-baked-through-to-the-center-what-am-i-doing-wrong

      I really love the Amazing Bread in 5 if you interested in using refrigerated dough http://www.barbarabakes.com/2009/09/artisan-bread-in-five-minutes-day/.

      Have fun baking! Even if you loaves are perfect the first time, they always bake up beautiful.

      • Frankie says

        Barbara,

        THANK YOU SO MUCH for getting back to me so fast!! You are AMAZING!! Planning to try baking in the next couple of days. Will let you know how it turns out! Thanks again!!

        Kindest regards!
        Frankie

          • Frankie says

            Hi Barbara,

            I just wanted to drop you a note saying THANK YOU!! I tried the Amazing Bread in 5 using the refrigerator method and the bread came out wonderful!! My family LOVES IT!! They can’t wait until I make it again and my husband said “now we don’t have to buy bread and can always have fresh bread!! Oh, honey I need something to dip this bread in so please make chowder.”

            Trying Julia Child’s French Bread recipe is still on my radar. I think I may have time this weekend. Will let you know how it turns out.

            So thank you again and just a reminder to you “YOU ARE AMAZING! So so generous with helping me using your time!!”

            Cheers!
            Frankie

          • says

            Hi Frankie – I’m so glad you tried and loved the ABin5. Definitely try the Julia Child’s recipe when you’ve got time and want a loaf for dinner one day. It’s a great bread, just not as easy as the ABin5. Thanks for the update!

  3. tom says

    i doubled this recipe but could only get 8 cups of flour to come up with what seemed like the right texture of dough. am i doing something wrong? this is the second time i’ve made this bread from your recipe…i also baked it for an extra 10 minutes…despite the lesser amount of flour i used, and the additional baking time, it is best french bread i’ve had since visiting paris in ’99. thank you so much!!

    • says

      Hi Tom – what a great comment. If you’re getting great loaves, sounds like you’re doing everything just right. I live in a very dry climate and my bread doughs need less flour, depending on the humidity the day you’re making your bread it will change how much flour you’ll need.

  4. schmendric says

    The author adapted Julia’s recipe for her convenience, not mine. I’m still old fashioned enough to enjoy working the bread dough by hand. Julia’s original recipe would have been appreciated.

  5. says

    This is exactly what I was looking for to make for company on Friday. I live in South Louisiana, so I’ve always felt a responsibility to learn to make a proper French bread! Love your site, by the way! I’ll definitely be back!

  6. Mindy says

    I’ve never made bread before but wanted to try it for a French themed dinner party that we were hosting. I’m so thankful for your recipe! The bread came out delicious!!!

  7. QT says

    I don’t have a stand mixer, can I successfully make this bread without one? If so, is there anything specific you would suggest I do differently?

  8. M Kent says

    I tried this recipe and even having adjusted for humidity and elevation level found this to be somewhat disappointing although not totally unacceptable. Having looked at Julia’s actual recipe and procedure, this would only be very loosely considered close to hers. I found the water to flour ratio to be off, providing for a consistency far closer to a starter than a bread dough. Reducing the water content slightly and adding additional flour provided for a better result, as well increasing the bake time slightly.

  9. Sarah says

    I found this recipe using a Google search, and it worked beautifully. I’ve made french bread recipes before that didn’t turn out nearly this good. It was soft and chewy on the inside and crusty on the outside. My loaves flattened rather than rose, but they still turned out wonderful. Thanks Julia and Barbara! This will be my go-to recipe.

  10. says

    I’m right with you putting shaped bread on parchment paper. It makes it way easier to get them on the peel and off again onto the stone, doesn’t it? Your bread looks wonderful – especially the crust. The slashes look great.

    (When I made Julia Child’s French bread, I forgot about being fearless and was afraid to slash. Next time I’ll follow her lead and go for broke. After all, what can happen? Fail or success, I can feed it to my husband.)

  11. Lauren says

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I am eating some of this lovely bread right now! I did have a question though. How do you transfer your loaf to the peel? When I did, mine deflated a little so I think that I was a little too rough with it. (It could also be the fact that I don’t have a peel and am making do. Do you have any suggestions for that?) Mine tastes wonderful and turned out with some lovely little holes but I am thinking that perhaps if it hadn’t deflated a little, it would have more holes. Any suggestions? Thanks again!

    P.S. I also loved the clip with Letterman! Hilarious!

  12. says

    Love this post! I still have images of watching Julia with my mother. I don’t remember her show, much, just the smell of Julia’s french bread, warm from the oven, that greeted us as we walked in the door from school.

    Thanks for your updates and for bringing her recipe into today.

  13. Don Howes says

    Question;
    many of the recipes I have tried the bread on the final rising spreads out instead of up. I usually make individual rolls instead of loaves as we love the crust. How does this recipe behave on the final rising?
    Don

    • says

      Hi Don – I didn’t have a problem with the bread spreading out instead of up with this recipe. I have had problems in the past with bread recipes spreading out instead of up if I’ve over risen the shaped loaf. If you live in the Salt Lake area we often need to adjust recipes for high altitude baking. With breads your may need to reduce the amount of yeast used or reduce rising times. Hope that helps.

  14. says

    Your bread is gorgeous Barbara! I actually remember seeing that David Letterman episode when it aired- it just goes to show that nothing is ever perfect but we must go with the flow!! Best, Sandie

  15. says

    Your French bread is scrumptious! Slathered with a pad of butter and I’m charmed! Julia Child is such an inspiration, she taught us all to just start cooking!

  16. says

    I will give it a try when it cools down here. I finally tackled french bread last year when a friend gave me the book “Artisian Bread in 5 min a day”. I was skeptical to say the least, but loved how my boule turned out. Hubby wanted me to bake it each day…Had to slow down the carbs for me.I can eat it all with little help. Thanks for sharing these adaptions!

  17. says

    We love french bread. I have never tried Julia’ recipe. The time is coming…soon with fall…when I can attempt to heat up the oven. I’m going to try this one.

  18. says

    A befitting tribute to one of America’s greatest chefs! Love that our families eat the good, bad & ugly to. Strange how we are so similar even though we are oceans apart. I remember doing JC’s French bread for Daring Bakers many years ago. Then the recipe instructions ran into 18 odd pages … and the thread must have consumed a 100 more! Beautiful bread GF! Hugs!!

  19. Tanna says

    And she was … fearless in the kitchen and life. Wonderful loaves, yes Julia would approve. She’s given so many the courage to go for it. She’s pure delight. Loved that Letterman. ;-) don’t we all feed it to our husbands ;-)

  20. Savannagal says

    When you mention the “paddle”, are you referring to the “flat beater”? I looked at Kitchenaid’s website since I’d never heard of a paddle and I didn’t find anything. Just dough hook, flat beater, and wire whip. Maybe you are using a different machine and your parts have different names. I just want to make sure I’m using the correct part. Thanks.