Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Centennial Julia!

A hundred years ago today Julia Child was born. Even though it took her half a lifetime to get her iconic cookbook published, she is an American institution and expert on French cooking. Although she died a few years ago in 2004, she spent many years encouraging Americans to take food seriously, as the French do, and she did a lot to bring professionalism to American restaurants and chefs and particularly encouraged women to be food professionals.

Her enthusiasm was legend and so was her energy! In researching recipes, first for Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but later for other cookbooks and TV programs, she repeated and repeated them until she not only had great recipes, but she understood why and how they were great.

I most admire her work ethic. For example, Mastering the Art of French Cooking took years of hard work, researching the classic way of making iconic French foods, cooking them over and over with slight variations, typing them up, sharing them with Simca, more revisions, and then finding her way through the whole cookbook publishing process...hundreds and hundred of hours!

One recipe that sometimes scares off potential bakers is her recipe for Pain Français, French Bread. The ingredients are really simple...flour, water, yeast and salt. Technique is the name of the game and she spells out every bit of it, so it takes something like 15 pages. I think that our hostess, Susan of Wild Yeast, the Bread Baking Babes Kitchen of the Month, has included a summary of the recipe in her post, so I won't. The full 15 or so pages can be found in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The really wonderful thing is that if you follow the recipe, you, too, will have some batards (short baguettes) of excellent, delicious French bread! It might take a lifetime to learn how to slash the tops for the perfect looking loaf, but even less elegant renditions are soooo good. Just give it a try.

This month, to celebrate Julia Child's 100th birthday, the Bread Baking Babes are posting a day early so that the posts can be ON her birthday. We are also baking, just this once, WITH our Buddies...they will be posting their breads today, too! As Julia would say, "Hooray!" Visit the Babes blogs and Susan might have links for the Buddies.

Since I like sourdough style French Bread, I used my sourdough starter to make the bread, but the dough was still soft, the dough rose triple high where it was supposed to, I shaped it carefully as directed by Julia and let it rest in floured linen troughs as required.

The only thing that didn't work out too well was that my slashes didn't seem to be deep enough, so the expansion happened at the sides, toward the bottom of the loaves. Otherwise these were excellent examples of French Bread and were consumed with delight. I did manage to hide the last third of the second loaf so that I could make bruchetta with the last slices.

Sending this over to Susan, our dear Babe of the month, at Wild Yeast for her awesome Yeastspotting weekly event of all things yeasted. Check it out!

Bon Appetit!

P.S. Jama R is doing a whole week of posts of Queen Julia. She is also giving away some books related to Julia Child. Go to her blog Jama's Alphabet Soup to check it out!


  1. Yes years to perfect that slashing. Julia's video showed she has less than perfect slashing. I guess we'll just have to bake many more loaves to practice -). Such punishment
    Love this bread.

  2. I love, love the looks of the little canapes..... I can taste them!

  3. wonderful baguettes!! I had problems with the slashing as well (as did Julia in the video), we just have to bake many more to get it as perfect as that boulanger in the video!

  4. O M G! You made bejewelled slices! That looks so yummy Elle! Very well written tribute for Julia. Hooray!

  5. How clever are you to have used your sourdough starter to make the bread. It looks wonderful, of course. Especially that last little bit for bruschetta. (I'm suitably envious of the tomato!)

  6. You know, my slashes turned out that way, as well...oh well, still tasted fabulous! I love your slice all piled up with tasty made my mouth water a bit. I also devoted a little over a week to Julia in honor of her 100th - it was a great 11 days! =)

  7. Great bread! And I want to reach in and steal the little crostini - delicious!