Julia Child was the rocket scientist equivalent in the cuisine world. Every ingredient, every step of every recipe was researched, tested, re-tested for, “those who like to cook and/or want to learn, as well as those who are experienced cooks, including professionals,” Julia said as she slaved for years on her cookbooks. “So we have to keep the dumb debutantes in mind, as all as those who know a lot…” (I land somewhere in the middle).
Her biggest challenge was the French bread recipe that takes up 21 entire pages in Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume Two. My throw down to you is to give it a whirl. Here’s why:
1.You need Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume Two if you don’t already have it in your cookbook collection. You can’t claim to be into cooking without it.
2. You need a peel. It’s handy for pizza too.
3. Bricks are cheap.
4. Julia and her husband Paul spent more than a year to perfect a French bread recipe that could be duplicated at home with American ingredients. The couple used 284 pounds of flour to develop the master bread recipe in countless experimental batches.
5. French bread has these four ingredients: Flour, salt, yeast and water. Julia and Paul experimented with fresh and dried yeasts, various flour mixtures, rising times and trickiest of all, how to get moisture into the oven to simulate a French baker’s oven and to give it the right golden colour and crispness of French bread.
6. With the help of Professor Raymond Calvel, the head of the state run École Professionnelle de Meunerie in Paris, the world’s leading authority on French bread, they cracked the code. A brick in a pan filled with steaming water coupled with a pre-heated clay (or pizza) stone to cook the bread on were the winning techniques. Lucky me, with my new wood-fired oven, I just steam it up with a spray bottle and pop my loaves onto the hearth and no longer need the brick trick.
7. The directions in Mastering Vol. II are unbelievably detailed and include little sketches of exactly how to shape the loaves.
8. Julia and Paul did all the hard work and loaf burning for us. See my post…Things I lost in the fire…so we don’t have to. If you follow the supremely clear and detailed directions your loaves will turn out…perfectly.
9. You will get so cocky you might even make brioche.
10. What better way to honour Julia’s legacy than bringing out three, golden, fragrant, perfectly crusty loaves that are even better than boulangerie bread. You can do this even if you are a dumb debutant. Pretty good bragging rights re the 21-page recipe as well.