Many weeks ago, our Bread Babe Susan of Wild Yeast and Kitchen of the Month came to us with the suggestion that we all post a day early, hence the 15th this month, AND that we invite the Buddies to Bake and Post with us … well I think Julia would have loved that idea for Celebrating her Centennial … and so did all the other Babes and so here we are with Babes & Buddies posting together. Our Bread Babe Pat of Feeding My Enthusiasms put together a wonderful invite for the event.
Wouldn’t you know it, our fabulous Babe of the Badge Making Talent Lien of Lien’s Notes put together a wonderful Babes & Buddy Badge.
Do you/ would you quake in your kitchen boots, faced with a 20 page recipe? I can tell you there are plenty of infinitely shorter recipes that have brought me to my knees. With a bread recipe, most often the most upsetting thing I find myself yelling: What does it feel like at this point? If the recipe in question is for French Bread in vol 2 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and written by Julia Child, then I would suggest you relax with confidence, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the intoxicating experience of silky soft dough in your hands. All from just the reading of her recipe. I’ve often said and heard others say: the best way to learn to bake bread is at the side of an experienced bread baker. I found an amazing video of Julia baking this recipe on her The French Chef – Julia Child – Bakes French Bread
Most of the time you’ll find a video does a much better job of communicating a recipe than the written word does. Well, if you read Julia’s recipe first, I think you’ll find that all the video adds is the wonderfully odd sound of her voice and her fabulous enthusiasm/love for life and cooking. I say ‘all’ it adds is the voice and the enthusiasm/love because what it doesn’t really add much to is the recipe because it’s all written there. Let me try that another way, if you actually read the recipe you will find yourself able to picture clearly the entire process including the feel of the dough and how it changes in your hands – all just in the reading. So 20 pages of reading this recipe is really like Julia standing next to you while you make this in your own kitchen.
One other thing you may get from the video is how unrehearsed Julia and the show appear, especially if you compare it to todays cooking shows. I do not feel there is anything really dated about Julia or the shows. There’s a line in Bob Spritz’s bio of Julia titled Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, that describes her as always with “a soupçon of hysterical nonchalance.” She flips bench scrapers and nasal sprayers all over as well as throwing flour on the floor.
When I read that line about “always a soupçon of hysterical nonchalance”, I feel connection with this Julia Child. I think it was and is exactly this ‘soupçon of hysterical nonchalance’ that appeals and attracts so many of us to Julia. She never polished her enthusiasm to be sophisticated and toned down; she continues to make us feel real and possible in the kitchen. For Julia, there were no mistakes, only lessons and good times.
I first baked this bread as a Daring Baker Challenge from none other than our own BBB Mary (aka BreadChick from theSourDough) and Sara (from ILikeToCook) way back in February 2008. Yes, once upon a time I was a daring baker. (If you don’t know who the DBs are, I’d love to meet you because you must be from Mars!)
Twenty pages of recipe reading is daunting but you can only do one step at a time. One step at a time with a lot of time in between each step delivers France and the streets of Paris. Hey, I’m there.
It’s bread: you mix up water, yeast, flour and salt. That’s it. One thing this recipe has you doing is giving the dough short (2 to 5 minutes) resting times between several of the steps. One of the most fascinating things to me about this dough was how much it changed from the first kneading – gluey, sticky, stringy – give it a 3 minute rest, then knead it for a minute before putting it in for the first rise. In that 3 minute rest, it went from that gluey, sticky, stringy state to almost smooth and barely sticky!
The recipe describes the dough after the first rise as “humped into a slight dome…light and spongy when pressed…some big bubbly blister on the surface…” This is a recipe that uses words to tell you where you’re headed. Words that tell me what I’m looking for are the sign of a good recipe to me.
You’d think that in all the times baking I’d have gotten fancy but this bread does the fancy on your taste buds.
I’m sure you can find the recipe on Susan’s site but I’d really encourage you to own a book. Heck, this is two (volume 1 & 2) that I have both a hard copy AND an iBook copy of. Trust me, really you want to bake this bread and honor Julia Child and all the possibility her legacy continues to open for all who step into the kitchen.
Thanks to all the Babes and Buddies who joined with us this month to wish a very very Happy 100th Birthday Julia, it’s been a blast.
Don’t forget to visit my fellow Bread Baking Babes to see how they baked and also… visit our Katie! She is the BBBBB (Bitchin’ Bread Baking Babe Bibliothécaire) who writes up such lovely round ups of all the BBB Breads every month!
This Bread and all it’s iterations is going to Susan for YeastSpotting!