Julia Child’s Pain Francais

Aug. 15, 2012: Julia Child would have turned 100 today. To celebrate this occasion, the Bread Baking Babes and Buddies decided to make her Pain Français (French Bread) lovingly described in her memoir My Life in France, with the full recipe published in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two.

You may have noticed that I, um, haven’t posted in a while. I’m still baking nearly every week but just not blogging about it — perhaps this post will inspire more regular updates?

Oh, how this Pain Français was inspiring! I enjoy baking levain-based loaves but this recipe called for commercial yeast only, and with more salt and much longer fermentation times than expected. I tweaked the salt and “watched the dough, not the clock” accordingly — as Julia would say, with the “courage of my convictions!” — and the result was a beautiful, crusty boule that had an almost buttery taste to it. When my labmates found out what loaf I had brought in, they said, “Well, that explains it. It’s a Julia Child recipe.”

It’s as simple as that. Julia laboured over her recipes, testing them rigorously as one would perform scientific experiments at the bench, and wrote them in such a way that they were accessible to the home cook. She taught us how to not only bake and cook, but how to recognize when something went wrong and what to do as a result. You could trust her, and knew that if she could do it, then we could too! She gave us the courage to try, and sometimes that little push is all we really need.

Julia Child’s Pain Francais

Recipe summary can be found here (thanks, Susan!)

My modifications:

- use 7g of active dry yeast
- reduce amount of kosher salt to 1.5tsp (just noticed in her post that Susan reduced the amount of salt as well, to 10g)
- I judged fermentation times based on the dough, and since it was very hot this weekend when I baked, the times were as follows: roughly 2 hours total for bulk (with stretch and folds at the 1 hour mark), and 45min for the final rise.
- shaped the full recipe as a single boule (round loaf)
- baked at 450F for 25min (8 with steam and 17 without)

Bon anniversaire, Julia; merci beaucoup et bon appetit!

I’m sending this loaf to Yeast Spotting. Many thanks also to Susan at Wild Yeast for organizing this Bread Baking Babes and Buddies event.

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One Response to “Julia Child’s Pain Francais”

  1. Susan/Wild Yeast Says:

    How beautiful! Thank you for helping us celebrate Julia. Please send me your info if you’d like to be added to the Buddy roundup (note this is different from YeastSpotting).

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