Tuesday, September 16, 2014

TWD: Baking with Julia - French Bread

Do you see that beautiful basket of bread??  I baked it!!  I really did!  I can hardly believe it.  I really, really wanted to succeed with this week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe, making French Bread, and I did!  Yahoo!

We are all friends here so I will be completely honest.  This recipe scared me.  I just had this idea that there was no way that I was going to be able to accomplish baking a batard or baguette.  Especially not in Houston.  Humid climates are not helpful in bread baking, so that was a major strike against me.  But I beat the odds, I guess.  You never know what you can do until you try, do you?  Can you tell I did the happy dance all over the kitchen when they came out of the oven?  And AGAIN when I tasted one?  Ahhh.  Delicious freshly baked bread.  Is there ANYTHING more wonderful???

I am not going to go step by step through this recipe, because let me tell you, there were lots of steps.  However, at the same time, it wasn't totally overwhelming.  I mean, I was able to complete the last part while making dinner AND helping the clever girl with her homework (homework, in first grade!!) AND attempting to keep the clever boy from opening up my flour container and shaking it all over the floor handful by handful (his new totally favorite thing to do, ugh).  And it turned out well!  So, if my totally multi-tasking self could accomplish this bread, YOU CAN TOO!

A couple of things about this recipe:
  • It calls for 0.6 ounces of fresh yeast.  I have never found that in the grocery store and substituted 2.5 teaspoons of instant yeast instead.  This amount was determined after checking many conversions online that mostly agreed.
  • You can make this bread by hand, in which case you have to knead the dough for 10-15 minutes with your big muscley-muscles, or make it in your heavy-duty stand mixer.  I opted to use the mixer.  That was what I initially thought and then when I watched the video and saw that Danielle Forestier kneaded and turned the bread over 800 times, my inclination for the stand mixer was confirmed.  There is no way my current multi-tasking brain would be able to manage 800 turns.
  • There are specific times given for different steps for this recipe.  I underlined each of them in my book so I wouldn't miss them.
  • I found the video quite helpful for shaping the batards.  Unfortunately, I started shaping the first one and then started watching the video, so the outside of that loaf got a bit dry.  You can tell if you look closely at the sort of bumpier looking loaf that I tried to hide a bit in the basket above.  However blemished this loaf was on the outside, it was still delicious.  You can't judge a book by it's cover!
One other thing...  This recipe has you create a shaped cloth for resting your shaped batards/baguettes (a batard is a shorter, wider baguette).  Then you have to get the shaped dough off of the cloth and onto the preheated baking stone very quickly without losing the shape of the dough.  Instead of doing that, I rolled up 4 tea-towels into tubes and placed them in a row with spaces inbetween for the batards.  Then I laid a piece of parchment over those towel rolls, and placed the dough between each roll, on the parchment.  When I was ready to bake, I turned them all over and slit them with a sharp knife.  Then, I slid the towels out from under the parchment and moved the batards a little closer together, so they would fit on my baking stone.  I slid my bakers peel under the parchment, carried it to the oven, and slid the parchment onto the stone.  The bread baked on the parchment on the stone.  I could have opened the oven and slid out the parchment after about 10 minutes of baking, but I forgot.  This would theoretically given me a better crust on the bottom, but honestly the bottom crust turned out great so I don't think I missed anything.  I hope this explanation makes sense.  I was not confident that I would be able to get the batards onto the stone quickly while maintaining their shape (the biggest problem - I find that the bread shape often gets a bit wonky at this point).  This method worked well!

Oh, and the taste?  Yum.  The bread had a great crust on the outside and was soft and airy on the inside.  The flavor was great, like most baguettes I have eaten out.  Are you  up for a challenge?  Give this recipe a try.  The recipe and video give great explanations, and I believe you will find success!  The IDEA of this bread is scarier than the reality.  You can find the recipe on pages 123-127 of Baking with Julia, or here

Truly, the feeling of accomplishment and success is worth the work of this recipe!  Yeah, me!  Now it's your turn!


  1. Your loaves look perfect! Good to know the instant yeast worked well!!!

  2. Wow! Success indeed!! Those are some gorgeous looking loaves! Stunning photo too. I could not get fresh yeast either, thanks for the conversion.

  3. I love your idea with the parchment!! I baked mine on parchment but never thought of letting them rise on it. Looks amazing. It also looks like you and I are the only ones! Your slashes are perfect!!

  4. Gorgeous looking loaves. Thanks for the parchment idea.

  5. Great job on the bread! They look great! I can't believe you were able to multitask with two kids and the bread! That's amazing!

  6. Beautifully done!
    I had to use instant yeast as well, but I don't feel like anything suffered for it.


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