Julia Childs French Baguette

Way, WAY back in the day when TV was still in black and white, Julia Child had one of the very first cooking shows.  

It was on our PBS channels Saturday afternoon programming.  One of my favorite shows, I seldom missed it.

In the last couple years The Cooking Channel has re-played some of those old episodes.  One on the perfect french bread intrigued me. Go figure, right?

Alas I couldn't watch the whole thing.  I stayed with it long enough to get the actual measurements for the 4 ingredients.  I figured I could wing the rest of it.

Simple enough.  Combine:

1 1/4 cups room temp water
3 1/2 cups of unbleached AP flour (I like King Arthur)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp yeast (one packet of yeast contains 2 1/4    tsp of yeast)

Throw it together, knead, rise, shape and bake right? Nope.

I got loaves that rose well enough.  They even browned, sort of.  But the crust had none of the crispness you want in a french baguette.

So, when I stumbled upon the episode again, I watched it all the way through and took notes. Turns out the technique is as important as the recipe.  You will need a spray bottle of water.

Ten minutes into the kneading cover the dough and allow it to rest for twenty minutes.  Not sure why this helps but it does. Something about allowing the flour to hydrate. 

Continue kneading until you have a smooth dough. cover and rise until doubled in size. 1 to 2 hours.

Shape your loaves and rise til doubled again.  Preheat your oven to 500 degrees for the hour of the last rise.
At the end of this rise turn the temp down to 350 degrees.  (don't forget or it burns).

Just before putting the loaves in the oven mist them lightly with water.  (This where spray bottle comes in).   Also spray the inside of the oven with water to create steam.  Continue to spray the oven, not the bread, every 2 minutes for 6 minutes.  (This is the procedure for an electric oven.  Not sure about gas ovens)

Now set you timer for 20 minutes more.  When the timer goes off turn the oven off.  DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR.  Leave the loves for another 5 minutes.  At the end of that time take your beautiful baguettes out and cool completely.

This recipe makes 2 long loaves or 4 smaller loaves.  I make the smaller ones.  They are just right for 2 to share with a dinner salad.

Charles has proclaimed my french baguettes 'Perfect!'


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