Long story short, I became quasi-obsessed with Julia Child for a few weeks. I read My Life in France, went through 4 of her cookbooks, watched Julie & Julia (again), and then I made lots and lots (and lots) of French Bread. Pretty sure I ate my weight in carbs. And I’m pretty sure I loved every bite. After weeks of tweaking and testing and tasting, I finally got it! This is the glorious result.
Note: I make this as an overnight french bread because it’s easy to throw it together and put it in the fridge. I have tried leaving it on the counter overnight and the flavor is closer to a sourdough. The texture is also more dense. Do it either way, depending on how you want the bread to turn out. We prefer the french bread flavor and texture.
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add flour, salt and remaining water, stir to combine. Continue to stir/knead with a spoon for about a minute. Leave dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap, then cover with a dishtowel. Put in the fridge overnight.
Several hours before you want your bread to come out of the oven, take your bread dough out of the fridge. Generously flour the counter and turn the dough out onto the flour. With floured hands, work dough into a tight ball (sometimes I knead it for 15-30 seconds first, if it feels especially soft). Pinch the dough together towards one end to make the dough ball taut. Turn it over so the pinched end will be the bottom of the loaf. Place onto parchment paper. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (reuse the plastic that you used to cover your bowl), and let rise until doubled.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place dutch oven inside of oven to preheat for 30 minutes. Just before the dough is ready to bake, quickly score the top of the dough with a sharp knife like this -|- and place in the preheated dutch oven (using the parchment paper to transfer…put everything in, paper and all). Cover with the lid and place back in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove dutch oven lid and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
* I have begun putting the dutch oven inside the oven with the lid cracked about an inch so it will heat more quickly. I also put the dutch oven inside the oven when I begin preheating it, instead of waiting until it is preheated.
* The weather will affect your results. If it is humid, the result will be different than on a dry day. It will be fine, but my end result tends to be softer and slightly less pretty. The flavor of the bread is the same though.
* I always start my dough at night. If you forget, you should be fine to start it in the morning. Just make sure you give it plenty of time (like a big chunk of the day) so the flavor can develop. Don’t rush it and make bland french bread. That would be sad.
Turn it over so the pinched end will be the bottom of the loaf. Place onto parchment paper.