Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pain Francais: A Bread for Julia

To celebrate what would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday, the Bread Baking Babes and Buddies have joined together this month to bake the late culinary icon's Pain Francais (French Bread) -- one of the many recipes popularized by Julia in her book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2."  This bread, though simple in its make-up, is rather complicated in nature and does require some mastery of French bread baking techniques as well as a higher level of skill in bread shaping; certainly essential if you want yours to look remotely like the breads you'd find in the boulangeries of France (which mine definitely does not :-P).  Julia's recipe is quite informative yet rather lengthy in its 20 pages(!) but Susan of Wild Yeast Blog posted a much simplified version of this recipe here.  Hanaa was also kind enough to send me a very helpful video of Julia making this bread--which I've posted below--during one of her shows that aired back in the 60s (I'm guessing the date but based on her hairstyle, it must've been during that time LOL).  

In the first part of Julia's recipe, she suggested a number of interesting shapes that you can make with the dough and I opted to turn it into ficelles which are much shorter and narrower than baguettes.  I didn't quite achieve the oven bloom and open crumb that I wanted -- mainly because of poor steaming inside the oven -- but they're still very tasty and perfect for cold meat sandwiches which we had yesterday.  The crumb also remained moist and soft the following day, even the sliced ones.

I can only just imagine how hard it must have been to bake during Julia's time with only a few technologically-advanced equipment available for the home kitchen and with only a few resources to guide the home chef towards a better understanding of French/international cuisine.  What would be equally hard back then I assume, would be teaching this highly complex cuisine to the American public while taking these limitations into consideration.  Julia Child was certainly that kind of teacher, talented and highly dedicated in her craft, who not only persevered and made French cuisine accessible to the home cook, but created a body of work that still remains relevant up to this day.  

Cheers to Julia and her amazing legacy!


  1. Lovely post on Julia!

    Will definitely bake bread from her recipes soon!

  2. Very nice loaves! Thank you for baking with Babes in celebration of this amazing woman.

  3. Looks good! I will have to give this recipe a try.

  4. What beautiful loaves and the crumb looks pretty darn good to me. Look at the lovely variegation!