Julia Child’s French Bread

February 29th, 2008


First, let me say, this bread is as good as any I’ve eaten in America.  In fact, after making this recipe a few weeks ago, I raved and raved and raved about how delicious and crusty and spectacular the bread was, and how it was worth the seven hour endeavor that the recipe called for.

And then I went to Paris.  And every sliced baguette on every table put this, and every other bread I’ve eaten in America, to shame.  Their breads were crusty and crunchy on the outside, but on the inside, they were light and moist and doughy and as airy as you could imagine.  No french bread I have made is anything like it, and I’ve tried several.

That being said, as far as I can tell, no bakery in America has fared any better than I have!  I will be endlessly grateful if someone will explain to me why American baugettes are so much drier, and so much heavier, than their french counterparts?  I went to Whole Foods to buy a baguette fresh out of the oven, but still it wasn’t as good.  I am on an endless quest to find a perfect french bakery in my neighborhood (or, frankly, anywhere in Manhattan) but nothing, so far, has satisfied me. 


I hope that I do not sound like a snob, but I am honestly very perplexed.  I have suspected for years that American bread does not measure up to my memories of french bread from almost a decade ago, and this past weekend confirmed it.  Frankly, if Julia Child’s seven-hour marathon of breadmaking, the consummate french bread recipe, did not measure up to a baguette from a random patisserie three doors down from our hotel, what are we doing wrong?!?

I do not mean to nitpick.  This bread was absolutely delicious, and I would happily eat it until my stomach bursts.  But do I really have to go to Paris every time I want that quintessential, doughy, moist french baguette?

Finally, don’t forget to download Barilla’s free e-cookbook The Celebrity Italian Table! For every person who downloads it in the month of March, Barilla will donate $1 to America’s Second Harvest, an organization that fights hunger across the country! The recipes are great, and it’s for a great cause! Click here to download it now!


Pain Francais (French Bread)
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume Two by Julia Child and Simone BeckDaring Bakers Challenge #16: February 2008

Recipe Quantity:
3 – baguettes (24” x 2”) or batards (16” x 3”) or
6 – short loaves, ficelles, 12 – 16” x 2” or
3 – round loaves, boules, 7 – 8” in diameter or
12 – round or oval rolls, petits pains or
1 – large round or oval loaf, pain de menage or miche; pain boulot

Recipe Time: 7 – 9 hours

Equipment Needed: Unless you plan to go into the more elaborate simulation of a baker’s oven, you need no unusual equipment for the following recipe. Here are the requirements, some of which may sound odd but will explain themselves when you read the recipe.

4 to 5 quart mixing bowl with fairly vertical rather than outward slanting sides
a kneading surface of some sort, 1 1/2 to 2 square feet
a rubber spatula or either a metal scraper or a stiff wide metal spatula
1 to 2 unwrinkled canvas pastry cloths or stiff linen towels upon which the dough may rise
a stiff piece of cardboard or plywood 18 – 20 inches long and 6 – 8 inches wide, for unmolding dough from canvas to baking sheet
finely ground cornmeal or pasta pulverized in an electric blender to sprinkle on unmolding board so as to prevent dough from sticking
the largest baking sheet that will fit in your oven
a razor blade or extremely sharp knife for slashing the top of the dough
a soft pastry brush or fine spray atomizer for moistening dough before and during baking
a room thermometer to verify rising temperature

Making French Bread:
Step 1: The Dough Mixture – le fraisage (or frasage)

1 cake (0.6 ounce) (20grams) fresh yeast or 1 package dry active yeast
1/3 cup (75ml) warm water, not over 100 degrees F/38C in a glass measure
3 1/2 cup (about 1 lb) (490 gr) all purpose flour, measured by scooping
dry measure cups into flour and sweeping off excess
2 1/4 tsp (12 gr) salt
1 1/4 cups (280 – 300ml) tepid water @ 70 – 74 degrees/21 – 23C

Both Methods: Stir the yeast in the 1/3 cup warm water and let liquefy completely while measuring flour into mixing bowl. When yeast has liquefied, pour it into the flour along with the salt and the rest of the water.

Hand Method: Stir and cut the liquids into the flour with a rubber spatula, pressing firmly to form a dough and making sure that all the bits of flour and unmassed pieces are gathered in. Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky.

Stand Mixer: Using the dough hook attachment on the speed the mixer manufacturer recommends for dough hook use or the lowest setting if there is no recommendation, slowly work all the ingredients together until a dough ball is formed, stopping the mixer and scrapping the bits of flour and chunks of dough off the bottom of the bowl and pressing them into the dough ball. Continue to mix the dough on a low speed until all the bits of flour and loose chunks of dough have formed a solid dough ball.

Both Methods: Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky. Let the dough rest for 2 – 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl (and the dough hook if using a stand mixer).

Step 2: Kneading – petrissage
The flour will have absorbed the liquid during this short rest, and the dough will have a little more cohesion for the kneading that is about to begin. Use one hand only for kneading and keep the other clean to hold a pastry scrapper, to dip out extra flour, to answer the telephone, and so forth. Your object in kneading is to render the dough perfectly smooth and to work it sufficiently so that all the gluten molecules are moistened and joined together into an interlocking web. You cannot see this happen, of course, but you can feel it because the dough will become elastic and will retract into shape when you push it out.

Hand Method: Start kneading by lifting the near edge of the dough, using a pastry scraper or stiff wide spatula to help you if necessary, and flipping the dough over onto itself. Scrape dough off the surface and slap it down; lift edge and flip it over again, repeating the movement rapidly.

In 2 -3 minutes the dough should have enough body so that you can give it a quick forward push with the heel of your hand as you flip it over. Continue to knead rapidly and vigorously in this way. If the dough remains too sticky, knead in a sprinkling of flour. The whole kneading process will take 5 – 10 minutes, depending on how expert you become.

Shortly after this point, the dough should have developed enough elasticity so it draws back into shape when pushed, indicating the gluten molecules have united and are under tension like a thin web of rubber; the dough should also begin to clean itself off the kneading surface, although it will stick to your fingers if you hold a pinch of dough for more than a second or two.

Stand Mixer: Place dough back into the bowl and using the dough hook attachment at the recommended speed (low), knead the dough for about 5 – 7 minutes. At about the 5 minute mark, stop the mixer and push at the dough with your fingertips. If it springs back quickly, you have kneaded the dough enough. If it doesn’t spring back continue to knead, stopping the mixer and retesting every 2 minutes. If the dough sticks to your fingers, toss a sprinkling of flour onto the dough and continue to knead. The dough should be light and springy when it is ready. Mary also recommends always finishing with about 1 – 2 minutes of hand kneading just to get a good feel for how the gluten is formed.

Both Methods: Let dough rest for 3 – 4 minutes. Knead by hand for a minute. The surface should now look smooth; the dough will be less sticky but will still remain soft. It is now ready for its first rise.

Step 3: First Rising – pointage premier temps (3-5 hours at around 70 degrees)
You now have approximately 3 cups of dough that is to rise to 3 1/2 times its original volume, or to about 10 1/2 cups. Wash and fill the mixing bowl with 10 1/2 cups of tepid water (70 – 80 degrees) and make a mark to indicate that level on the outside of the bowl. Note, that the bowl should have fairly upright sides; if they are too outward slanting, the dough will have difficulty in rising. Pour out the water, dry the bowl, and place the dough in it (Mary and Sara Note: Very lightly grease the bowl with butter or kitchen spray as well to prevent the risen dough from sticking to the bowl).

Slip the bowl into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic, and top with a folded bath towel. Set on a wooden surface, marble or stone are too cold. Or on a folded towel or pillow, and let rise free from drafts anyplace where the temperature is around 70 degrees. If the room is too hot, set bowl in water and keep renewing water to maintain around 70 degrees. Dough should take at least 3 – 4 hours to rise to 10 1/2 cups. If temperature is lower than 70 degrees, it will simply take longer.

When fully risen, the dough will be humped into a slight dome, showing that the yeast is still active; it will be light and spongy when pressed. There will usually be some big bubbly blisters on the surface, and if you are using a glass bowl you will see bubbles through the glass.

Step 4: Deflating and Second Rising – rupture; pointage deuxieme temps (1 1/2 to 2 hours at around 70 degrees)
The dough is now ready to be deflated, which will release the yeast engendered gases and redistribute the yeast cells so that the dough will rise again and continue the fermentation process.

With a rubber spatula, dislodge dough from inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface, scraping bowl clean. If dough seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour.

Lightly flour the palms of your hands and flatten the dough firmly but not too roughly into a circle, deflating any gas bubbles by pinching them.

Lift a corner of the near side and flip it down on the far side. Do the same with the left side, then the right side. Finally, lift the near side and tuck it just under the edge of the far side. The mass of dough will look like a rounded cushion.

Slip the sides of your hands under the dough and return it to the bowl. Cover and let rise again, this time to not quite triple, but again until it is dome shaped and light and spongy when touched.

Step 5: Cutting and resting dough before forming loaves
Loosen dough all around inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Because of its two long rises, the dough will have much more body. If it seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle lightly with flour.

Making clean, sure cuts with a large knife or a bench scraper, divide the dough into:
3 equal pieces for long loaves (baguettes or batards) or small round loaves (boules only)
5 – 6 equal pieces for long thin loaves (ficelles)
10 – 12 equal pieces for small oval rolls (petits pains, tire-bouchons) or small round rolls (petits pains, champignons)
2 equal pieces for medium round loaves (pain de menage or miche only)
If you making one large round loaf (pain de menage, miche, or pain boulot), you will not cut the dough at all and just need to follow the directions below.
After you have cut each piece, lift one end and flip it over onto the opposite end to fold the dough into two; place dough at far side of kneading surface. Cover loosely with a sheet of plastic and let rest for 5 minutes before forming. This relaxes the gluten enough for shaping but not long enough for dough to begin rising again.

While the dough is resting, prepare the rising surface; smooth the canvas or linen towelling on a large tray or baking sheet, and rub flour thoroughly into the entire surface of the cloth to prevent the dough from sticking

Step 6: Forming the loaves – la tourne; la mise en forme des patons

Because French bread stands free in the oven and is not baked in a pan, it has to be formed in such a way that the tension of the coagulated gluten cloak on the surface will hold the dough in shape.

For Long Loaves – The Batard: (Baguettes are typically much too long for home ovens but the shaping method is the same)

After the 3 pieces of dough have rested 5 minutes, form one piece at a time, keeping the remaining ones covered.

Working rapidly, turn the dough upside down on a lightly floured kneading surface and pat it firmly but not too roughly into an 8 to 10 inch oval with the lightly floured palms of your hands. Deflate any gas bubbles in the dough by pinching them.

Fold the dough in half lengthwise by bringing the far edge down over the near edge.

Being sure that the working surface is always lightly floured so the dough will not stick and tear, which would break the lightly coagulated gluten cloak that is being formed, seal the edges of the dough together, your hands extended, thumbs out at right angles and touching.

Roll the dough a quarter turn forward so the seal is on top.

Flatten the dough again into an oval with the palms of your hands.

Press a trench along the central length of the oval with the side of one hand.

Fold in half again lengthwise.

This time seal the edges together with the heel of one hand, and roll the dough a quarter of a turn toward you so the seal is on the bottom.

Now, by rolling the dough back and forth with the palms of your hands, you will lengthen it into a sausage shape. Start in the middle, placing your right palm on the dough, and your left palm on top of your right hand.

Roll the dough forward and backward rapidly, gradually sliding your hands towards the two ends as the dough lengthens.

Deflate any gas blisters on the surface by pinching them. Repeat the rolling movement rapidly several times until the dough is 16 inches long, or whatever length will fit on your baking sheet. During the extension rolls, keep circumference of dough as even as possible and try to start each roll with the sealed side of the dough down, twisting the rope of dough to straighten the line of seal as necessary. If seal disappears, as it sometimes does with all purpose flour, do not worry.

Place the shaped piece of dough, sealed side up, at one end of the flour rubbed canvas, leaving a free end of canvas 3 to 4 inches wide. The top will crust slightly as the dough rises; it is turned over for baking so the soft, smooth underside will be uppermost.

Pinch a ridge 2 1/2 to 3 inches high in the canvas to make a trough, and a place for the next piece. Cover dough with plastic while you are forming the rest of the loaves.

After all the pieces of dough are in place, brace the two sides of the canvas with long rolling pins, baking sheets or books, if the dough seems very soft and wants to spread out. Cover the dough loosely with flour rubbed dish towel or canvas, and a sheet of plastic. Proceed immediately to the final rising, next step.

For Long Thin Loaves – Ficelles: Follow the steps above but making thinner sausage shapes about 1/2 inch in diameter. When they have risen, slash as with the Batard.

For Oval Rolls – Petits Pains, Tire-Bouchons: Form like batards, but you will probably not have to lengthen them at all after the two foldings and sealings. Place rolls on a floured canvas about 2 – 4” apart and cover with plastic to rise. When they have risen, make either 2 parallel slashes or a single slash going from one end to the other.

For Small, Medium, or Large Round Loaves – Pain de Menage, Miches, Boules: The object here is to force the cloak of coagulated gluten to hold the ball of dough in shape: the first movement will make cushion; the second will seal and round the ball, establishing surface tension.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.

Lift the left side of the dough with the side of your left hand and bring it down almost to the right side.

Scoop up the right side and push it back almost to the left side. Turn the dough a quarter turn clockwise and repeat the movement 8 – 10 times. The movement gradually smooths the bottom of the dough and establishes the necessary surface tension; think of the surface of the dough as if it were a fine sheet of rubber you were stretching in every direction.

Turn the dough smooth side up and begin rotating it between the palms of your hands, tucking a bit of the dough under the ball as you rotate it. In a dozen turns you should have a neatly shaped ball with a little pucker of dough, le cle, underneath where all the edges have joined together.

Place the dough pucker side up in a flour-rubbed canvas; seal the pucker by pinching with your fingers. Flour lightly, cover loosely and let rise to almost triple its size. After unmolding upside down on the baking sheet, slash with either a long central slash, two long central slashes that cross at right angles, or a semi-circular slash around half the circumference.

For Small Round Rolls – Petits Pains, Champignons: The principles are the same here as for the preceding round loaves, but make the cushion shape with your fingers rather than the palms of your hands.

For the second stage, during which the ball of dough is rotated smooth side up, roll it under the palm of one hand, using your thumb and little finger to push the edges of the dough underneath and to form the pucker, where the edges join together.

Place the formed ball of dough pucker side up on the flour rubbed canvas and cover loosely while forming the rest. Space the balls 2 inches apart. When risen to almost triple its size, lift gently with lightly floured fingers and place pucker side down on baking sheet. Rolls are usually too small for a cross so make either one central slash or the semi-circular cut.

For Large Oval Loaf – Pain Boulot: Follow the directions for the round loaves except instead of rotating between the balms of your hands and tucking to form a round loaf, continue to turn the dough from the right to the left, tucking a bit of each end under the oblong loaf. In a dozen turns you should have a neatly shaped oval with tow little puckers of dough, le cles, underneath where all the edges of have joined together.

Place the dough pucker sides up in a flour-rubbed canvas; seal the puckers by pinching with your fingers. Flour lightly, cover loosely and let rise to almost triple its size. After unmolding upside down on the baking sheet, slash with parallel slashes going diagonally across the top starting from the upper left and going to the lower right.

Step 7: Final Rise – l’appret – 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours at around 70 degrees

The covered dough is now to rise until almost triple in volume; look carefully at its pre-risen size so that you will be able to judge correctly. It will be light and swollen when risen, but will still feel a little springy when pressed.

It is important that the final rise take place where it is dry; if your kitchen is damp, hot, and steamy, let the bread rise in another room or dough will stick to the canvas and you will have difficulty getting it off and onto another baking sheet. It will turn into bread in the oven whatever happens, but you will have an easier time and a better loaf if you aim for ideal conditions.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees about 30 minutes before estimated baking time.

Step 8: Unmolding risen dough onto baking sheet – le demoulage.
The 3 pieces of risen dough are now to be unmolded from the canvas and arranged upside down on the baking sheet. The reason for this reversal is that the present top of the dough has crusted over during its rise; the smooth, soft underside should be uppermost in the oven so that the dough can expand and allow the loaf its final puff of volume. For the unmolding you will need a non-sticking intermediate surface such as a stiff piece of cardboard or plywood sprinkled with cornmeal or pulverized pasta.

Remove rolling pins or braces. Place the long side of the board at one side of the dough; pull the edge of the canvas to flatten it; then raise and flip the dough softly upside down onto the board.

Dough is now lying along one edge of the unmolding board: rest this edge on the right side of a lightly buttered baking sheet. Gently dislodge dough onto baking sheet, keeping same side of the dough uppermost: this is the soft smooth side, which was underneath while dough rose on canvas. If necessary run sides of hands lightly down the length of the dough to straighten it. Unmold the next piece of dough the same way, placing it to the left of the first, leaving a 3 inch space. Unmold the final piece near the left side of the sheet.

Step 9: Slashing top of the dough – la coupe.
The top of each piece of dough is now to be slashed in several places. This opens the covering cloak of gluten and allows a bulge of dough underneath to swell up through the cuts during the first 10 minutes of baking, making decorative patterns in the crust. These are done with a blade that cuts almost horizontally into the dough to a depth of less than half an inch. Start the cut at the middle of the blade, drawing toward you in a swift clean sweep. This is not quite as easy as it sounds, and you will probably make ragged cuts at first; never mind, you will improve with practice. Use an ordinary razor blade and slide one side of it into a cork for safety; or buy a barbers straight razor at a cutlery store.

For a 16 to 18 inch loaf make 3 slashes. Note that those at the two ends go straight down the loaf but are slightly off centre, while the middle slash is at a slight angle between the two. Make the first cut at the far end, then the middle cut, and finally the third. Remember that the blade should lie almost parallel to the surface of the dough.

Step 10: Baking – about 25 minutes; oven preheated to 450 degrees (230 degrees C).

As soon as the dough has been slashed, moisten the surface either by painting with a soft brush dipped in cold water, or with a fine spray atomizer, and slide the baking sheet onto rack in upper third of preheated oven. Rapidly paint or spray dough with cold water after 3 minutes, again in 3 minutes, and a final time 3 minutes later. Moistening the dough at this point helps the crust to brown and allows the yeast action to continue in the dough a little longer. The bread should be done in about 25 minutes; the crust will be crisp, and the bread will make a hollow sound when thumped.

If you want the crust to shine, paint lightly with a brush dipped in cold water as soon as you slide the baking sheet out of oven.

Step 11: Cooling – 2 to 3 hours.
Cool the bread on a rack or set it upright in a basket or large bowl so that air can circulate freely around each piece. Although bread is always exciting to eat fresh from the oven, it will have a much better taste when the inside is thoroughly cool and has composed itself.

Step 12: Storing French bread
Because it contains no fats or preservatives of any kind, French bread is at its best when eaten the day it is baked. It will keep for a day or two longer, wrapped airtight and refrigerated, but it will keep best if you freeze it – let the loaves cool first, then wrap airtight. To thaw, unwrap and place on a baking sheet in a cold oven; heat the oven to 400 degrees. In about 20 minutes the crust will be hot and crisp, and the bread thawed. The French, of course, never heat French bread except possibly on Monday, the baker’s holiday, when the bread is a day old.

Step 13: Canvas housekeeping
After each bread session, if you have used canvas, brush it thoroughly to remove all traces of flour and hang it out to dry before putting away. Otherwise the canvas could become mouldy and ruin your next batch of dough.

Tags: breads · food

41 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sarah // Feb 29, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Your bread looks great!  Sorry it didn’t live up to the bread you just had.  Good luck finding that bakery!

  • 2 Lewis // Feb 29, 2008 at 9:30 am

    What an amazing job!  I’m sorry that your version didn’t measure up to the bakers in France but let’s be honest with ourselves.  If we as amateur/home hobby bakers could wake up one morning and say “Oh yes, I will bake some bread fro the first time today” and equal the quality of a French baker who has dedicated his/her life to that same process, well, suffice to say I don’t want to be that Frenchman in the morning.

    Great job on completing the challenge!

  • 3 Elle // Feb 29, 2008 at 10:06 am

    katy, your bread is gorgeous!  And if you ever find that perfect loaf, make sure you let us know!

  • 4 Sheltie Girl // Feb 29, 2008 at 10:42 am

    You did a wonderful job on your bread.  To get the loaf you are aching to have, you could try buying unbleached AP flour from someone like King Arthur.  That might help you to achieve your ambition.

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  • 5 Dawn // Feb 29, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Great, now I’m craving fresh-from-France French bread!  Haha!  Your baguette looks absolutely beautiful!

  • 6 Tracy // Feb 29, 2008 at 11:07 am

    I have a theory about food memories. Is it possible that any French bread baked in the U.S. won’t be as good as French bread you’ve had in France — simply because you’re not enjoying it in France? Just a thought. In any case, you did a nice job on the bread.

  • 7 katy // Feb 29, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Sarah — Thanks!

    Lewis — Very true — and they have special ovens too!  Although bakeries in the US really have no excuse, do they?  (It actually is not my first try baking french bread — but definitely my first with this recipe!)

    Elle — I will!

    Sheltie Girl — That’s a good idea, I’ve been meaning to try King Arthur flour for a while!

    Dawn — Me too, and thanks!

    Tracy — I agree with you in general about food memories, but literally the texture of the interior of the bread is different too!  It looks totally different than sliced baguettes I’ve seen in the US!

  • 8 Susan // Feb 29, 2008 at 11:30 am

    I don’t think home bakers in France could get it as good as the French boulangeries, either. But why would they need to try, with a boulangerie on every corner? Although I must say that, unlike you, I had some only so-so, and even a couple of frankly bad, baguettes in Paris.

    At any rate,I’m glad you made something to rival at least the pro Americans. Looks very good!

  • 9 Big Boys Oven // Feb 29, 2008 at 11:47 am

    your bread creation looks so lovely, I know you ad ready put a lot of hard hard work and time into baking this bread, well done to you!

  • 10 Katherine // Feb 29, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    I think freshness is a huge factor. Did you ever go to a good american bakery moments after the bread has been made? That could be the trick. I know what you mean, though. I feel this way about croissants at least. When you have one in France it’s almost always excellent, but in America it’s almost always crappy.

  • 11 katy // Feb 29, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Susan — We probably had a non-astounding baguette at some point, but I’ve probably blocked it out.  I do remember sitting down at lunch the first day, jetlagged as anything, and biting into a slice of bread without even thinking about it… and then realizing how good it was and sighing, “ahhhh, french bread” to my amused and equally exhausted fiance. 🙂

    Big Boys Oven — Thanks!

    Katherine — Whole foods bakes bread throughout the day, and the baguettes were literally still warm on the shelf!  Although I’m not sure I’d call them a “good American bakery,” so I guess not.  Differences for croissants could have something to do with the quality of the butter, as well — I don’t really eat them in the US ever!

  • 12 Lucy V // Feb 29, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Although I can’t taste your bread and say if it was comparable to the bakeries in France, I can say that it looks delicious.  There are so many factors that can go into the qualities of a certain style of bread.  I bet there are certain breads in Manhattan, for example, the bagel, that just don’t measure up here in France.  In fact, they ship them in from New York.  We don’t even try them over here.

  • 13 Melanie // Feb 29, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    How dare Paris ruin your taste of bread? I bet that would be the same for me, too! Now at least you have a quest to keep you trying to find the perfect bread…and in the meantime, the bread you made looks divine and can tide you over!

  • 14 katy // Feb 29, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Lucy — Aww, thank you!  True, it’s pretty much impossible to get New York bagels anywhere else!

    Melanie — I know!  Stupid Paris. 😉

  • 15 MyKitchenInHalfCups // Feb 29, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Katy your bread does look marvelous, great color beautiful crust and if it rivals anything you’ve had here I’d say your really getting close.
    I won’t encourage you too much because I find myself really getting crazy into this bread thing but I’ll suggest two things: I’m finding flour, even the flours we can get here can make a huge difference especially in the crumb of the bread.  I think you might like a more open crumb on your bread and flour will influence it a lot.  You might also try Richard Bertinet’s ‘Dough’ and ‘Crust’.  Both come with DVDs.  He has a slightly different technique for kneading that seems to work a lot of extra air into the dough.  I’ve found it very helpful with the wetter doughs.

  • 16 Jitterbean Girl // Feb 29, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Three suggestions:

    1) Use a pre-fermet/poolish/biga.  This will render AMAZING flavor to your breads (or so I’ve heard – this is my Next Bread Project).

    2) Use a different kneading method.  Apparently standard kneading is too tough on very hydrated breads like French bread.  I’d recommend getting the DVD I link to at the bottom of the comment for good instruction on the kneading method.

    3) Use a baking stone to super-heat the bottom to cause the oven spring and a cast-iron skillet filled with lava rocks and a kettle of boiling water to get enough steam in the oven (unfortunately, plant misters are not enough steam to rival a professional oven).

    See, your post is timely because I just last night watched an Artisan Bread DVD that recommended all of these things.  So, unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to actually try these things, but as soon as I get back from the business trip I’m about to leave for I will (and, of course, will post the results!).  What I will say though is that the recommendations were much different than all the other methods out there that I’ve tried and have failed, so they’re worth a shot, and when you consider the source is King Arthur Flour, they have even more credibility.

    Good luck!

  • 17 Jaime // Feb 29, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    i also think it has a lot to do w/the type of flour used…that and simulating the baker’s oven.

    great job though, they look beautiful!

  • 18 Joy // Feb 29, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    I think your bread looks fab and, like some of the other posters, I would suggest trying a different, continental flour for a more ‘French’ taste. I think you should be proud that as a junior lawyer you even found time to make this. I do the same thing in London and having 8 hours for breadmaking is a real luxury!

  • 19 Carrie // Feb 29, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Sorry to hear you were disappointed with the bread.
    I’ve yet to try real french bread but it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to!

  • 20 Nemmie // Feb 29, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    We have a nice corner bakery a few blocks from my home, with a lovely European stone oven and their loaves aren’t so bad.  Will have to ship you one, since you know MANHATTAN can’t possibly have decent bread 😉

    Sorry your bread didn’t turn out as you would have liked – it sure looks gorgeous, however.  And I downloaded my Barilla book, thanks bunches for that!

  • 21 Beth G // Feb 29, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Your bread looks beautiful! Great job!! I haven’t been to Paris in YEARS and really don’t remember, but do remember it being pretty fabulous :O)

  • 22 Mer // Feb 29, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Your bread looks great, first of all.  Secondly – I am way jealous that you have been to France lately eating delicious bread.  ;0) I’ve never been, but hope to eat much bread when I do.

    I don’t have any tips outside of those that others have already shared in their comments.  Hope you find a way to make that bread you are dreaming of.  :0)

  • 23 katie // Mar 1, 2008 at 5:29 am

    We get our bread delivered…I have to keep telling people that so everyone can be jealous.
    And so it balances out the fact that I can’t get a decent steak – hehehe

  • 24 NuJoi // Mar 1, 2008 at 9:05 am

    I applaud your efforts.  This seems very complicated.  I’ve made bread before, but never French bread.  Good luck on your quest.

  • 25 i shot the chef // Mar 1, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Wonderful job!  I agree with you on the bread in the US!  There is just nothing like bread in France (and Germany too!) Its just not the same.  We spent our honeymoon in Paris a few years ago, and every morning, we picked up a crusty baguette from the bakery on the corner.  Ahhhhh…. memories!  🙂 – Candace

  • 26 Ann // Mar 1, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Your bread is beautiful. I haven’t been to paris in about two years so I can’t really compare, as you can. I think, for now, I will pretend I didn’t see your post and live in happy ignorance. 🙂

  • 27 Chou // Mar 1, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Katy, I think you’re not eating bread in the right places. Maybe it’s impossible to find a baguette that’s as good as the really good baguettes you can find in France, but there certainly are places to buy bread in the US that are as good, if not better because they are closer, than that found on the continent.  As stated earlier, use of a poolish or some other form of a pre-ferment will seriously improve the flavor, and flour can make a significant difference. Julia’s recipe certainly isn’t the best recipe out there, I suggest checking out Jeffrey Hammelman’s Bread from your local library. 🙂 BTW, thanks for participating in RBSC!

  • 28 Emiline // Mar 1, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    I’ve been hearing similar remarks from other Daring Bakers.
    I don’t know how the French do it!  It must be in their blood.
    Or maybe their flour…

  • 29 Adele // Mar 1, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Mmm. That baguette looks fantastic!

    French bread doesn’t contain anything other than flour, leavening, salt, and water. I suspect even the bread at Whole Foods contains other ingredients, just because Americans expect their bread to have a longer shelf life.

  • 30 katy // Mar 1, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Tanna — Oh, I will look for those books for sure!  I’m not sure I have a kneading “technique” so that could be part of the problem!

    Stacey — A sponge is my new project as well, particularly after this recipe!  I actually just mixed it today, so hopefully within a week or so, I’ll have a nice starter!

    Jaime — Thanks!

    Joy — Embarrassingly enough, I made this bread on a Saturday night rather than going out with friends!  Although, with better time management skills, I probably could have made it sometime more convenient. 🙂

    Carrie — Definitely!

    Nemmie — Ha!  I should probably look a little harder.

    Beth — It is!

    Mer — Thanks!

    Katie — I am insanely jealous.  Thanks for that. 🙂

    NuJoi — Thanks!

    Candace — That’s what I did every morning too, while my silly fiance slept until the last possible second. 🙂

    Chou — I am definitely trying a pre-ferment next time, for sure!

    Emiline — I’m hoping it’s flour!

    Adele — You’re probably right — I never even thought to look at the ingredients, I definitely should have.  I know the ingredients list for their rolls is always at least 8-10 ingredient, which bugs me!

  • 31 Jessica // Mar 1, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    Wow that looks amazing!

  • 32 MyKitchenInHalfCups // Mar 2, 2008 at 8:12 am

    And Katy one very simple thing (and cheap) is the terra cotta tiles from Home Depot or Lowe’s.  Only 30 cents for a 6×6 tile.  Nine of them pretty much covered my oven shelf.

  • 33 breadchick // Mar 2, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Tanna is right. Those tiles are fantastic help to our breads

    Thanks for baking with Sara and I

  • 34 Deborah // Mar 2, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Someone might have already said this, but I think it has something to do with the flour available here vs the flour in France.  I don’t know though.  Regardless, your bread looks fantastic!

  • 35 bee // Mar 3, 2008 at 1:03 am

    thats gorgeous bread. did you get our e-mail?

  • 36 Tartelette // Mar 9, 2008 at 12:40 am

    You did a fabulous job! The baguette looks wonderful!

  • 37 John // Jun 1, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Try the French style flour from King Arthur, it makes a big difference.

  • 38 Sonia // Jun 2, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    I work at a bakery and I figured out the way to get that type of french bread is to have a steam oven that injects the bread with steam as it bakes… Unfortunately typical ovens don’t do that! Also I saw that you are an attorney, I’m in law school now and I love to cook so I really enjoyed reading your blog!

  • 39 Mark H // Aug 24, 2011 at 10:42 am

    My wife is French and the last time I was in France with her we interviewed the owner of a patisserie. He said something about the yeast being different in France than in America.  I also suspect that it may have something to do with preservatives in the flour in America too.  It is not common knowledge but in US we have many GMO ingredients in our foods that the French have resisted putting in their foods. Also, the French buy bread daily and in America we expect bread to last more than a few days-hence preservatives.

  • 40 Allen // Jun 3, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    I think like Mark mentions that French bread is using French wheat.  Not GMO American Wheat. 

    I think your difference might come down to the primary ingredient simply being similar but different.  Try to import some french wheat and see how your bread turns out?

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