Julia Child’s Pain Francais

August 15, 2012

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.

Fall Baking Day

October 18, 2010

I spent Saturday in West Bolton, VT (WeBo?) baking with a few of my friends – that, to me, is the best way to spend a chilly Saturday laced with rain. I’ll just let the spread speak for itself (“If we’re going to eat, let’s really eat!”):

[SP’s pumpkin scones with cinnamon chips and crystallized ginger: not pictured, unfortunately]


Corn chowder (SP)




Rolls made from Peter Reinhart's sandwich bread recipe (from Artisan Breads Every Day) (SP) shaped as knots and fans




Closeup of the fan-shaped roll



Buttery, soft crumb - love it when the rolls pull apart like that!



KAF poolish baguette (NH) steamed using the magic bowl, v.2 (i.e., giant disposable roasting pan)! No crumb shot, sorry.




Hamelman's miche, Pointe-à-Callière using local flours, scaled to 2.5lb (JL)



Another shot of the miche



Miche crumb shot - much tighter than what I expected (hydration hovers around 82%) but I think this is because my starter wasn't vigorous enough when I assembled the final dough, and I didn't let the second rise go for long enough. I should have refreshed my starter instead of using it straight from the fridge... next time. Slightly sour, very wheaty aroma and taste. I'm curious to see how this tastes the next day when the flavours have had a chance to "mellow."



Six-stranded honey vanilla challah (JL)



and of course, apple pie! (NH) Crust made with local flours and filling made with local Northern Spy apples.



* * *

I did not get a chance to write this post until today, and so was too late to submit it for World Bread Day, hosted by Zorra. (!!!) I’m looking forward to seeing the roundup though! In the meantime, I will send these baked goods to Susan at Wild Yeast for YeastSpotting.

BBD33 – Guinness Rye with Fennel

September 1, 2010

Almost all of the liquid for this loaf comes from a bottle of Guinness Extra Stout, which gives the bread lots of character and is nicely complemented by the distinct flavour of rye, fennel and citrus. I had it as part of an avocado, tomato and sharp cheddar sandwich, but I hear it would be just as perfect for a Dijon mustard/sauerkraut/corned beef combination.

I made some slight tweaks to the metric version of this recipe, such as incorporating sourdough into the sponge, reducing the amount of yeast accordingly, and also added some citrus zest for a extra little twist. No sugar is added to the loaf but there is a mellow sweetness to it, which I suspect comes from the Guinness. All in all, a great loaf and certainly one that I will make again.

Guinness Rye Fennel Bread (Jackie’s version)

*Don’t have a sourdough starter? Try Susan of Wild Yeast’s version instead, which uses instant dry yeast.

*Can you please tell me what these metric measurements are in cups/spoons? See Mary of One Perfect Bite’s version.

Makes one very large loaf.



– 40g 100% hydration sourdough rye starter
– 38g water
– 190g unbleached all-purpose flour
– 140g coarsely ground whole rye flour
– 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
– 1 bottle (12 fl. oz/341g) Guinness Extra Stout

Final Dough

– 195g unbleached all-purpose flour
– 11g (1 3/4 tsp) salt
– 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
– zest of one orange
All of the sponge


  1. Mix all of the sponge ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 4 hours; the sponge is ready when it has expanded and bubbles appear on the surface. It will also feel a bit poofy like a marshmallow.
  2. Add all of the ingredients for the final dough to the sponge and mix roughly in the bowl, just until there are no bits of unincorporated flour left.
  3. Autolyse (let it sit) for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  4. Do a set of stretch-and-folds in the bowl, and repeat after another 30 minutes.
  5. Turn the dough out onto an unfloured counter, fold, return it to the bowl and let it ferment for another 30 minutes. This means your dough will have fermented for a total of 2 hours, with two stretch-and-fold in the bowl (at 30 min and 60 min) and one stretch and fold on the counter (at 90 min). This dough is going to feel very soft and sticky at first, but will gradually increase in strength with every stretch-and-fold. I guess this is the cheap (mix by hand, no stand mixer involved) and lazy (let time do all the work, no rigorous kneading required) way of working with fairly wet doughs?
  6. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter, and preshape into a loose ball. Let it rest, covered, for 15 minutes.
  7. Shape the dough into a tight boule (ball) and place them, seam-side up, into a banneton or brotform or some sort of basket lined with a lint-free towel. Let it ferment at room temperature for around 45 minutes, until the loaf is nearly doubled in size. (Make sure your container is large enough for this to happen!)
  8. Bake at 400°F with steam for 12 minutes, and 18 minutes without for a total of 30 minutes or until the crust has turned a caramel brown.

See how dull the crust of this loaf is? I forgot to bake with steam. 😦

* * *

This is my submission for Bread Baking Day #33 – Breads with booze.

I’m sending this loaf to Adriana for hosting BBD33, the BBD founder Zorra of 1x umrühren bitte, Mary of One Perfect Bite for posting the recipe, and Susan at Wild Yeast for writing about her variation of the same loaf, and for YeastSpotting.

Crustless vs. crusty bread

July 4, 2010

Alright, so the “back in the saddle” declaration in my previous post was a bit premature.

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Ginger Pumpkin Braid

December 10, 2009

Ginger Pumpkin Braid

Back in the saddle!

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BBD#23 – Zopf

September 1, 2009


I’ve never made the bread equivalent of a braid of hair before.

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BBD#22 – Baked red bean buns

July 30, 2009

Baked red bean buns

Baked red bean buns

and this is how I like my red beans 🙂

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Tilley’s Ultimate Man Bread

July 4, 2009


How do you get people to polish off nearly 4 lb of bread in an evening? In this case, it’s all about the spice and bacon.

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BBD#21 – Pizza!

June 30, 2009

Time for a pizza party!

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Norwich Sourdough

June 21, 2009

Norwich Sourdough

Norwich Sourdough

I’m so giddy I can barely type.

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