Do I really need to tell you I was ecstatic when Mary (The Sour Dough) and Sara (I Like to Cook) chose Julia Child’s Pain Français (French bread) as this month’s Daring Bakers challenge?
Probably not. But you may be surprised (or not) to know that, as iconic as both French bread and Julia Child are, and as much as I love to bake bread, I have never attempted this particular rendition of French bread before.
And I have to say that reading through the recipe gave me some pause. It wasn’t the 17+ pages of instructions, which include some very helpful notes from Mary and Sara. No, it was that this recipe has a few differences from French baguettes I’ve done before.
First of all, it’s a straight dough. That is, it calls for no preferment (poolish, sponge, sourdough, etc.), relying instead on a very long fermentation time of the final (and only) dough to develop flavor. I’m a fan of preferments and use them often. Straight doughs, not too much.
Second, the hydration (i.e., amount of water) is a bit higher than what I’ve used for baguettes before. I’m accustomed to a hydration of around 68%, that is, 68 grams of water per 100 grams of flour in the dough. With 490 grams of flour and 355 of water, this recipe is up around 72% hydration. Now to be honest, the way I usually bake bread is to use water (not flour) to adjust the dough consistency to what “feels right” to me. But on one day a month I am bound by Daring Baker rules, which mandate exact following of the recipe. So 490 g of flour and 355 g of water it would have to be.
Also, I questioned the amount of salt in the recipe. (Will I have a mob coming for me after dark for questioning Julia?) 2% of the flour weight is typical for most breads, including baguettes as I was taught to make them. This recipe calls for 12 g of salt, or 2.4%. Would the bread taste too salty? But again, Daring Bakers rules ruled the day.
There was a tempting loophole that might have addressed both the water and salt issues: additional flour could be added during mixing if the dough felt sticky. But I couldn’t truthfully say it did feel exactly sticky, so I didn’t add any, even though I wanted to. Yes, I am that painfully honest. I don’t want there to be any skeletons in my closet if I ever decide to run for public office.
I made three ficelles (short baguettes) with half the dough, and six mini-epis with the other half. I didn’t do a spectacular job on shaping either, and had some trouble with the slashing of the ficelles. I don’t believe the dough was overproofed, which can cause slashing woes, and even though I admit I don’t have mad slashing skills, I do think the relatively high hydration of the dough rendered these cuts particularly challenging.
Even so, the texture of the bread was extremely outstanding. The crust was thin, crisp, “singing” (audibly crackling as it cooled and made cracks in the crust), and the crumb was light and open. Oh. My. Goodness.
The flavor was excellent also; that long fermentation did its job well. I do think it was just a tiny bit salty for my taste, and if I make it again I will cut the salt back to, say, 10 grams and see what happens. But overall, I really loved this bread.
oh my god!! this is absolutely gorgeous!! i love the way your french bread is done!! beautiful!! great job on this month’s db challenge!!
Ulrike aka ostwestwind says
You ficelles look perfect!
I was a little disappointed about the flavour, I thought it was more flavourful and I agree a little bit too salty.
For me it was the right amount of salt. Tastes are different. 😉 As always your breads look awesome!
They look lovely, great job!
another amazing looking bread from your kitchen!
Andreia Sousa says
Uau! The result was very good. And I love the photo.
The epis are especially lovely. Beautiful bread.
Gretchen Noelle says
I love that you have the scientific answers! I was wondering what all those percentages were used for, now I understand a little better. I am just starting in on baking and i know you just have a wealth of knowledge, so thank you! Your bread does just look gorgeous!
Your bread looks absolutely wonderful! I’m also very jealous of your proofing pail.
Also, I agree, the bread is a bit salty as the recipe is written and reduce the salt to 9 grams when I bake it under normal circumstances BUT even the hostess has to bake the recipe as written 😉
Thanks for participating with Sara and I this month!
Beautiful! I don’t recall ever attempting Julia’s recipe, but I have had similar results with Bernard Clayton’s Pain Ordinaire from his Breads of France bread book. It also “sings” and has the most amazing taste. My recent experiments with recipes from Leader, Reinhart, Bertinet, et al, have resulted in some spectacular breads, but not one singer in the bunch!
These ficelles look really wonderful. I’m not a DB, but I’ll try this one soon!!
Susan I love your mini epi’!! I must try those soon. I really love the epi anyway, it’s just so nice to break off the pieces. I also thought the slashing was difficult with this one, go figure.
Between you and Karen with all this % thing, I know I’m really math challenged!
I think your ficelles look incredibly good!
Happy Cook says
Beautiful french bread
Thanks for the explanation on the slashing problems. I figured it was just me, but the dough was so soft that I couldn’t get a good slash on them. Most of the breads I’ve made from Reinhart aren’t salty enough, so at least this one had flavor. Your loaves look great.
Your bread looks amazing! Great job!
marion-il en faut peu pour ... says
well, what can I say except “whaow” 🙂
But with a blogtitle as yours, it was sure I would find marvellous breads here ! Congratulations for this challenge !
Isn’t it nice when you find a new really good recipe for something you already thought you had the best of? I like when my world is slightly tilted like this, shows me that there are no absolutes only a lot of new possibilities!
they look just amazing. crusty and delicious and the color is wonderful!
you might have had reservations, but these look great! i love the golden dark crust. yum, i’m so hungry.
i shot the chef says
Those are utterly perfect… Definitely rivals what I’ve seen in Paris!
You are truly meant to be baking bread…yours looks great! I am loving all the pan d’epis I’ve seen – yours are lovely.
Your bread turned out perfect! I love the little epis.
Wow. Your bread looks great, and I love the obvious knowledge you have which must come from lots of bread baking experience. Someday… :0)
I was also worried that the bread would be too salty but didn’t think it was at all.
haha… I love “made slashing skills”.
Your bread is beautiful as of course I knew it would be!
I love the information on the proportions of moisture and salt. I don’t think mine was overly salty but I also ended up adding additional flour as I kneaded by hand because my dough was fairly sticky. I wish I had tried and epi now.
x x x
Your bread is beautiful as of course I knew it would be!
I love the information on the proportions of moisture and salt. I don’t think mine was overly salty but I also ended up adding additional flour as I kneaded by hand because my dough was fairly sticky. I wish I had tried an epi now.
x x x
Gosh! Looks and sounds like your breads turned out perfect! I mean, singing? I don’t know that anyone in the history of food has used that word to describe the crust of a bread (or ANY food for that matter)! Awesome!
baking soda says
Ha..ditto here, I know I am going to bake this again and again, yes with less salt maybe ;-), I reallly liked the hydration in this one and the resulting dough wasn’t too wet to shape which surprised me.
Love your pointy baguette shapes, I misjudged the size of my oven so mine were more rounded.
and i thought it could have had a lil more salt! funny! and singing, i never knew of such a thing! i think your loaves look great!
I knew yours would turn out beautiful! Well done!
Just lovely! I really like your mini epis. I, too, thought it could use less salt, but perhaps switching to sea salt would be enough of a difference?
Melissa L. says
Susan, those look amazing! I really love the mini epis – I can’t wait to get back from San Fran to try them! I think you did a great job! I thought you would be excited when this DB challenge was posted! Well done!
I had exactly the same thoughts about the water and salt content. My dough turned out to be rather sticky during kneading so I kept adding flour which in turn adjusted the salty flavour just right. I was quite happy with my results even if they didn’t look like regular French baguettes. But yours truly do!
great bread. lpve the look of the crust. Well done
I am very impressed – your breads are amazing!
Your bread is looking just wonderful! I hope they were as delicious as they look.
Well, my little bread queen I would be the first in line to buy one of yours! I love the rustic look they have! Your epis are absolutely gorgeous!
Your bread looks absolutely perfect! Thanks for baking with us.
ive done alot of experimenting making french bread and have to say ive only got it to taste instantly recognisable as french bread using the proper T65 flour, using all purpose flour just gives it the taste of a normal bread roll with a crispy crust.
your crumb looks much better and more authentic than the denser type i normally get though (and much whiter….american ap might be better than british ap flour) so im going to try your higher 72% hydration.
My quest as an amateur baker is to find the least complicated recipes that produce a good result. For me, taste and texture is everything. Using Caputo 00 Chef’s Flour and Julia Child’s hydration level of 72% I have been baking baguettes with a great slightly sourdough taste, and a thin crisp crust.
I find the compulsive search for a crumb loaded with holes to be quite amusing. The photos of baguette interiors which are essentially made of air, must be a joke. The enjoyment of any bread comes from the interesting combination of the crunchy crust and the soft almost fluffy crumb. Air is tasteless, so for me, filling the baguette with
all that empty space makes no sense. Why not just calm down and enjoy your tasty bread with fewer holes? Or just tear out all of the crumb before eating the crust alone for the biggest hole of all.
I use SAF instant yeast, 1 1/2 hours first and 2nd rises, 45 minutes final proof in a 3 gutter baguette pan, bake til nice and brown at 450°F.
I’m ready to duck the tomatoes now.