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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
Turn the dough onto a kneading surface and let rest for 2 - 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, prepare the rising surface: rub flour into canvas or linen towel placed on a baking sheet. (I used parchment paper.)
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.
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.
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.
Transfer the risen loaves onto a peel.
Slash the loaves.
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.
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.
Cool for 2 - 3 hours before cutting.
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