Sunday, December 14, 2008

Julia Child's White Bread

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A few weeks ago, one of my fellow attorney-bakers at work looked at the Norwegian bread I blogged about. She, a Norwegian herself, told me that it looked very authentic. (She didn't mention that it looked odd, which was very tactful of her.) I admitted to her, even though I know that she is an all-natural, organic kind of person, that whole wheat bread is not my favorite. She said, to my surprise, "I know--there's nothing better than Julia Child's white bread." That started me thinking about, not surprisingly, finding Julia Child's white bread recipe, which I didn't seem to have in any of my Julia Child cookbooks, of which I have a pretty good collection.
From my internet search, I decided the recipe must be from Baking with Julia, so I googled "Baking with Julia" and "white bread" and got this recipe.
I didn't bother translating into grams or ounces because the directions called for a vague "6-7 cups flour," causing me once again to appreciate Rose's specificity. In th is recipe, you're just supposed to keep adding flour until the "dough pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl."

This is the point where I stopped adding flour, but I wasn't very confident that it was the exact moment.
I took it out of the bowl and did a little hand kneading so I could tell whether it felt right.

I must say it was a lovely dough--very soft and silky. The fact that it had a fair amount of butter in it must have helped.
While the dough was happily rising away, I took a side trip to Target to buy a loaf pan. I have a collection of loaf pans, none of which matches another; this recipe makes two loaves in 8" x 4" pans. I strolled the aisles of SuperTarget, which had 9 x 5, 10 x 6 and mini-pans. Apparently people only like big loaves or teeny ones. I finally found a ceramic pan of a nonstandard size. It looked like the closest to an 8 x 4, so I got it. Now I have a larger collection of mismatched pans.
I the way this bread was shaped--rolled out and folded over twice.

Then you plop it in the pan (behold my new red Target loaf pan!).

This is the bread from the new loaf pan. It's lopsided, as my loaves generally are. I remember that I learned a trick from Rose's web site that makes the bread even, but I couldn't remember what it was, and I was too lazy to go look it up.

Oh, all right. I went back and looked it up. It's in the recipe for honey oat bread, which I made last January, and the trick is that you must shape it into a log and let it rest for 20 minutes before putting it in the pan. It's apparently all about resting. I don't know why I'd forget that because I'm very much in favor of the concept of resting.

This is really good bread. This looks like the bread that wins the blue ribbon at the State Fair, if I do say so myself. I should have known that Julia would make a good loaf of white bread. I remember that when I heard she had died, I started crying. Like so many people, I learned about a new kind of cooking from her, and I made things I never would have imagined that I--who grew up on meat loaf and pot roast--could make. Here's to you Julia, and thank you for this excellent loaf of plain white bread.

P.S. I never got around to posting about our Thanksgiving dinner--both Jim and I were so busy at the last minute that neither of us remembered to take pictures of the food. He did take pictures of the rolls I made--a Gourmet magazine recipe. I had high hopes for this recipe, and the rolls were good, but not as good as the butter-dipped dinner rolls in The Bread Bible.


Katie said...

I loved your post! I can so relate. I just pulled "Baking with Julia" off my cookbook shelf after eight long years. It was a gorgeous wedding present but I was always too intimidated. I was one of those home cooks who was always saying, "But I'm no baker..." Well after firing up the old Kitchen Aid stand mixer (another wedding present) I'm now fully obsessed. I've made white loaves, boules, batards, baguettes and me and the kids are going to attempt a Finnish pulla for Christmas this year. Keep up the good work the bread looks A.W.E.S.O.M.E!

Anonymous said...

Yay! You're back! Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.

Marie, did you bake anything special for the holiday? Rose's dinner rolls, perhaps? Just wondering. :-)

This loaf looks terrific! Photogenic, I would say. Looks like it would be excellent for any sandwich or toast.

I saw a biography show on Julia Child...Food Network, maybe? WOW! What an interesting life she had! Our loss is heaven's gain. Bet they are eating well there.

Laura from NYC

breadbasketcase said...

Good for you! I love to hear about someone else getting obsessed with bread. Really, of all the things you could be obsessed with, bread seems downright virtuous. Good luck with the Finnish pulla--it's one I've never tried myself.

Laura Lee,
You reminded me to post a photo of my Thanksgiving rolls. I also made a caramelized leek and sausage stuffing from Tom Colicchio (from Bravo's Top Chef series, which I'm addicted to).
Have you ever read My Life in France, Julia Child's autobiography? It's a quick read, and very interesting if you're already inclined to think of her as your hero.

Natashya said...

The bread looks great!
I would have bought 2 of the groovy new pans - just for symmetry. (I have been using pyrex ones, I hope that's ok.)
I love baking bread too, and am awed by your diligence going through all of the Bread Bible. I have picked it up recently and look forward to baking from it.
The rolls look really good too!

Melinda said...

The bread looks quite wonderful! I always love white bread the best too.
Although, if I am trying to be healthy I will get some of the pretty good malted wheat loaves from a local store bakery.
I've only ever made Julia Child's French baguettes. They turned out excellent.
I think my favourite white loaf, (if it counts as that) is Rose's Banana Feather loaf. Man! That is so delicious! It only uses one banana and doesn't taste strongly of banana to me, but it is just perfect! Ian and Louisa love it as much as I do, too.
As much as I loved Julia Child, I do love Rose's recipes more because they are so good at making me look like a good baker! I love her precision.
Your Thanksgiving rolls look great;
crusty but billowy soft in the middle. I'd sneak two.

Doughadear said...

Marie, the dough really does look silky and beautiful to work with and the bread looks amazing as usual. I don't think you can ever go wrong with a Julia Child recipe. It was her recipe for French Bread from her book "From Julia Child's Kitchen" that got me hooked on making my own bread.

evil cake lady said...

BBC, I think that is it so great that you can do a little kneading to determine if the bread feels right. To me, that kind of knowing comes only to those with expertise.
Happy Holidays!

Anonymous said...

Your bread looks really good, only commercial loaves are square and symmetrical, if they look perfect ,they don't usually taste so! I don't have Julia Child's baking book but I do have the two editions of Mastering and From Julia Child's Kitchen. It is her recipe I use for Gratin Dauphiniose, it is the only recipe for this dish I know which doesn't use double cream, but it tastes so good you would never know it only uses milk. Have a Good Christmas, Marie, Jeannette.

breadbasketcase said...

Hmmm. It would have been clever of me to buy two of those pans, wouldn't it? Then I could have quit complaining about not having two matching pans. Believe it or not, that never occurred to me. I've never worked my way through an entire cookbook before, but it was so great doing it because I ended up making all kinds of things I would never have done otherwise. It takes a certain level of insanity to make that commitment, but I recommend it.

(See above comment.) See--that's just what I mean! I would never have made that banana feather loaf if I hadn't decided to make all the breads. It just sounded weird. I couldn't imagine a yeasted banana bread, but it's a delicious bread with a unique subtle flavor.
Too bad you weren't here for Thanksgiving--I would have urged you to have 3 rolls!

Well, now you've given me another idea. I've made the baguette from The Bread Bible, but I've never made Julia Child's. I think that will have to wait for next year, but it's definitely on my to-do list.

I remember making the gratin Dauphinois once--decades ago--and I still remember how delicious it was. I've forgotten all about it, but now you've given me another recipe to try in 2009--thanks! And happy Christmas to you too, Jeannette.

breadbasketcase said...

You know, I think I will accept that compliment. It hadn't occurred to me that I have finally reached the place where I just know some things by touch. Thank you for pointing that out--it makes me feel quite good!

evil cake lady said...

You are welcome! :)

Shannalee said...

I just received my first Julia Child cookbook (Mastering the Art of French Cooking) for a Christmas gift, and I made her lovely potato & leek soup last night. Already, I feel such an attachment to her, it gave me goosebumps when you said you cried at her death.

This bread looks SO perfect, and I love the overall idea of your site.

breadbasketcase said...

Lucky you, if you just got a Julia Child book and you're going to have the fun of going through some of her recipes for the first time! If you're younger than I am (and who isn't), it's hard to know what an amazing influence she had on home cooking.

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anjali said...


I stumbled up on your blog as I googled bread making methods that led me to a link that led me to yours. ANYWAYS, your blog is brilliant and I'm inspired. I decided this new year, that instead of buying bread, I have to learn to make it. So I'm very much a beginner. I was hoping for some advice/help/tips for yeast. I don't have a bread maker and I'm hellbent on trying to learn the "traditional method." Some recipes say to use just active dry yeast while others say that instant dry yeast could easily be used. I'm a little nervous on getting the temperature right cause I know that could easily mess things up. So would you recommend just using instant dry yeast to begin with? Would I be able to use instant yeast for this recipe? I'd appreciate all the help I could get. Cheers!

breadbasketcase said...

I would definitely recommend instant yeast rather than active dry yeast. It's much easier to work with, and you never have to "proof" it. You can use it in any recipe that calls for active dry yeast, but you don't have to go through the first step of proofing. You can just mix it in with the the flour (just make sure that you add the amount of water that you'd use to proof the yeast to the rest of the liquid in the recipe--i.e., in the Julia Child white bread recipe, just mix the yeast (you can still use 2 1/4 tsp. or a little less) directly to the flour, and then mix in the entire 2 1/2 cups of water). Adding instant yeast directly to the flour also means you don't have to worry about the temperature of the water in which you proof the yeast--because you don't have to proof it.

I buy yeast in in bulk from King Arthur Flour, and keep it in the freezer. It lasts forever, and the freezing doesn't hurt it.
I don't have a bread machine, and my own opinion is that they're too limiting. If you were going to invest in any appliance, I would strongly recommend a heavy-duty KitchenAid stand mixer. You can knead almost anything by hand that you can knead by machine, but the machine is easier and does a better job. But you can certainly get started baking bread without a mixer.
Good luck, and I hope that you love baking bread as much as I do!

anjali said...

Thank you so much for the guidance! That was really helpful and I really appreciate it.Cheers!

ANU said...

wow...awesome bread recipe and beautiful space with lots of yummy recipes...

happy to follow you.....

well am going to try this bread recipe right now....will update my blog with this post if turns out good ;-)

Chk out my space too, when time permits...

ANU said...

sorry for the breaking my comments...I actually am a big fan of
Julia Child....saw her movie and started to blog...she is one of my greatest inspirations...

Thanks again for sharing this wonderful Julia Child's bread recipe.... :))