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Julia Child

A Julia Child Throw Down or 10 reasons to tackle a 21-page recipe with four ingredients

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Don’t be intimidated, make Julia proud

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).

 

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As you can see, I’m a bit of a Julia Child freak

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:

IMG_85071.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.

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2. You need a peel. It’s handy for pizza too.

IMG_86673. 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.

IMG_86815. 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.

IMG_86926. 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.

IMG_86827. The directions in Mastering Vol. II are unbelievably detailed and include little sketches of exactly how to shape the loaves.

IMG_86868. 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.

IMG_8693IMG_86409. 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.

Crêpes Diem

FullSizeRenderThe secrets to a good crêpe are a good batter (with some nice flavouring) and a great pan. Julia Child is my batter whisperer and a wonderful houseguest provided the pan: The Rock made by Starfrit. (This pan is the bomb. Its shallow rim makes crepe flipping easy and it is truly non-stick.)

A crêpe is basically a very thin, tender pancake. Crêpe sounds so much better than pancake too don’t you think? Translating English into French doesn’t always work to class things up though. An Irishman offering English Channel swimming advice referred to sea sickness as mal de mer….cool name, still a bad thing. I digress…

Here is Julia’s recipe for a light batter for sweet breakfast crêpes that are great with a drizzle of lemon and a sprinkle of sugar or rolled up with a filling of fresh berries. It couldn’t be easier as you make them in the blender the night before.

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange liqueur, rum or brandy (I use brandy. If you like, substitute a teaspoon of vanilla or orange blossom flavouring and make the rest of the missing liquid up with water.)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 5 tablespoons melted butter (Don’t even think about using margarine. Julia wouldn’t like it.)

Place the ingredients in the blender jar in the order in which they are listed. Cover and blend at top speed for one minute. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. OK why let it rest for two hours? This is what I love about Julia…she tells you why. The rest allows the flour particles to expand in the liquid and insures a tender, light and thin crepe.

Now for the fun. If you have the time, check out the master at work in person.

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Brush your pan lightly with butter. (If you don’t have thoughtful houseguest to bring you the perfect pan, a regular skillet will work although the flipping will be tricky and you may want to go with a spatula.)

Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the heated pan. Lift the pan and quickly tilt in all directions to run the batter all over the pan in a thin film. Return the pan to the heat for 60 to 80 seconds. Jerk and toss pan sharply back and forth to loosen the crêpe. Turn the crêpe using a spatula if timid or try the flip method. It’s all in the wrist.

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Cook for about half minute on the other side and serve. If you make a batch a bit ahead they can be kept warm in the oven.

 

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