101 Cooking For Two - Everyday Recipes for Two: Julia Child's French Bread- kind of - version 1

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Julia Child's French Bread- kind of - version 1

April 6, 2010 update: go to newer easier version HERE

So I'm out of bread. And I'm home all day so time is no problem. No rush to get it done and raised. So given time and a stand mixer, can you do a better bread. I don't have time for the 18-24 hour traditional no knead and I want to use technology to conquer the world. I have watched a couple of videos with Julia Child's on bread making. The last one included 850 (yes that is right) hand kneads.

So I want to do a Julia inspired bread but without the work. Google time again and I found a wonderful site Sugar and Spice . I don't know who's recipe it is since I have seen the same recipe probably word for word on multiple sites, but she presents a lot of material very nicely. I copied the recipe but it (only the recipe) was still 9 pages long. OH MY.

A lot of the recipe was explanations and variations on loaf shapes. A lot on the oven. I'll strip those out. I'm just doing a large loaf and baking in my dutch oven. Still 6 pages but I want only one page. My mind can only handle one page. And it is just bread... well Julia Child's French Bread but still... bread.

So here is my simplification of the simplification. I highly recommend going back Sugar and Spice and reading her post. Very well done. and someday I will go to the original book and read.

I really (yes really) had every intention of following the recipe as much as possible and I did for 8 hours but then I ran a-muck. Actually while I could spend the 7-9 hours the recipe stated or even 12 but this just wasn't happening.

Maybe it was the house temp of 62 degrees. It felt warm to me (I have been in Michigan a long time) and I put the dough in the warmest room in the morning sun. This had been working fine. But I did up the thermostat to 72 after about 4 hours.

Maybe it was my yeast. It was the end of the bottle but it was only 4 months old and had a long time to out-date. It worked fine last week. So here is my one page version. I started to a-mucking in step 4 and from there on it's just me.

Results: 9 Should have had a little more rise. 9 for crust. 9 for Crumb. 9.5 for taste. Very near the best tasting bread I have ever had and better than the no knead loafs. Definitely worth doing in this form if you want.

Notes: Lots of fuss in the original recipe. Less in mine especially since I cut it "short" and baked it. But excellent results really. I will be repeating this with the third rise and some fancy shaping. But I'm waiting for warmer weather or I will "pre-heat" the house. New yeast is coming but I don't think that was the problem.

Other change ( yes I dare)
1) Bread flour maybe but probably not. Current AP flour is approximately equal to older French flour in protein content.
2) Mixing the yeast with all the water at the start and using 105-110 degree water. Give those little yeasteis a boost. Absolutely doing this.
3) Let the dough rest in the mixing bowl on the stand mixer in step 2. Decrease the fuss. Yep.
4) I like the large first rise if it will happen with the volume going from about 3 cups to 10 1/2 if it works. I got about 9 this time.
5) I will do the third rise and other forms if time permits.
6) I want to try this on a baking stone but the dutch over is so easy

PS it is only one page and will be less next time. YES!
Tools: Stand mixer with dough hook; large mixing bowl with straight sides, dutch oven.

1/3 cup water at 95 degrees
1 pack active dry yeast
3 1/2 cup flour
2 1/4 t salt
1 1/4 cup water 70-74 degrees


1) Combine 1/3 cup water with yeast and mix well. Add flour and salt to stand mixer and turn on 1-2 to mix. Add yeast mixture then remaining water. Continue to mix until ball forms be sure to scrape sides. 1-2 minutes.

2) Remove ball to floured surface to rest for 2-3 minutes while washing the bowl and hook. Spray Pam on hook and place dough back in mixing bowl. knead on 2. At 5 minutes in to kneading, stop mixer and check for "spring" by pressing your finger on the dough. It is done when this springs back. keep checking every 2 minute of kneading. Will usually take 7 minutes total.

3) Place on floured surface and hand knead for 1-2 minutes. Let rest for 4-5 minutes. While resting, measure 10 1/2 cups temped water into the large mixing bowl with straight sides. Mark the top of the water for reference and pour out water, dry bowl and spray lightly with Pam or oil or butter. Place dough in bowl. Cover with plastic and towel. Place in warm spot until raise to your mark. About 3-4 hours. Longer if cold. (I stopped here after 8 hours and about 15% short)

4) With a rubber spatula sprayed with Pam, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. If dough seems very wet then sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour. Press to somewhat flatten and form an about 12 inch square. Fold lower right corner to upper left. Lower left to upper right. Fold on it's self several more folds. Then form in to a rounded ball with the folds underneath and the top rounded like a cushion.

5) Wash the large mixing bowl and line with parchment paper and place dough on the paper. Lightly flour the top and down the sides some. Also flour one side of the plastic wrap. Cover with the plastic wrap flour side down and cover with a towel. Place in warm spot to rise to about triple in size. About 2 1/2 hours.

6) Pre heat oven to 450 with dutch oven on middle rack for at least 30 minutes.

7) Cross cut top of dough about 1/4 inch deep. Brush top liberally with water. Transfer to dutch oven and bake covered for 20 minutes. Remove top and brush again with water. Continue to bake until top is browned and internal temp 205-210.

8) Remove from dutch oven and cool on rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting.

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