Submitted by Louis in Boston
This recipe for “french bread” is a quintessential Julia recipe. I made it years ago from a xerox copy from “Mastering the Art” (given to me by a good friend) following in detail the seven (!) pages of instructions. And it worked so beautifully. In the past year I have been making the no-knead recipe (not Julia’s) that took American home kitchens by storm recently (and now make it with a sourdough starter), but this blog inspired me to try Julia’s recipe again. I was VERY interested to find out that Julia actually changed the recipe in her various cookbooks (and at one point she recommended using asbestos tiles (!) in the oven). In one recipe she recommends all-purpose flour; in another bread flour. In one, she uses sugar in the yeast mixture; in another none. Compare the recipes in “Mastering the Art” and “The Way to Cook.” I decided to stick to my old standard in “Mastering the Art” with the one change of using bead flour instead of all purpose.
I also kneaded by hand, even though the Smithsonian folks used a stand mixer (not an option in the first edition of “Master the Art”). In any event, I found making the bread so much easier than I had years ago when I first tried it. I think this is because I am now a regular bread maker, so I have a better feel for the art. And you know what - the hours spent (mostly because of waiting for the long rises) are so worth it. This bread is fantastic, and even though I am now a fan of sourdough, I love the light delicate crunchy and oh so flavorful taste of this true french baguette. Thank you Smithsonian and thank you Julia!!