The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Making French Bread With T-55 Flour Using Julia Child's Method

Gymnopodie's picture
Gymnopodie

Making French Bread With T-55 Flour Using Julia Child's Method

Hello,

This is my first post so I'll keep it short since I don't know if this will work or not. I'm trying to make French bread using Julia Child's lengthy recipe. At first I used King Arthur AP flour and the results were good, but I wanted something better so I bought some French T-55 organic flour. For some reason I cannot get much of any oven spring. The bread is mostly dense and chewy.

I tried several variations of Julia's recipe but there's nothing that I've done so far that has improved the texture. The taste is to die for, the crust is crisp, but the crumb is awful.

Yesterday I made up a batch and put it in the fridge. Today I'll bake that and see what happens. I'm a novice baker but I have read about baking baguetes and I have been to France a couple of times so I know what I'm after in texture and taste.

Dean

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

What you've described is exactly my experience.  I came at baguette making without specific experience in making bread's with a typical lots-of-holes kind of crumb.  My results, like yours, were great tasting, the crust was good enough, but the crumb's texture was far too dense.  I subsequently learned that my techniques were all wrong.  I learned that by taking a class in baguettes.  Maybe you could do the same?  Or maybe you could find someone nearby who could mentor you?  Use this website to ask who there might be in your area who'd like to do that.  There's nothing like hands-on experience with high-hydration doughs like those for baguettes. 

My bet is that you're not letting your dough rise enough, by the way.  But without being with you, it could be other things as well.

 

Gymnopodie's picture
Gymnopodie

I'm sure my techniques are wrong when using the T-55 flour.  I can get a nice loaf using Julia Child's method with KA AP flour, but it does not taste like French bread made in France.  I have read where folks have added additional flours to the AP flour to improve the taste.  That would be one route to go, but I assumed that using French flour would be best, and I'm sure that it will be if I can figure out how to bake a baguete with it.  The flour that I have is labeled, Roupsard Freres, Artisans Meuniers.   

So, my goal is to bake French loaves using this flour.   I really would like to use the Julia Child method but something has to be done differently to make it work.    I live in Sebring Florida so if there's anyone around this area who is expert with French flours and wants to share their techniques, please let me know. 

Dean

lumos's picture
lumos

Not trying to plug or anything, but maybe you may be interested in reading my journey of experimenting with T55 flour.

This was my regular baguette formula pre-T55 days, with a mix of strong and plain flour in UK, which is probably similar to AP flour in US.

My very first experience with T55

The second experiment with a tweak

Another experiment

The best one so far

.....but the journey is still ongoing, I must say...

 

There're so many varieties/brands of T55 around and every one of them behaves differently, so it's difficult to say what you should/shouldn't do with the particular T55 you have, but in general it can be said T55 flour is very soft flour, so you need to make sure the gluten is developed sufficiently when kneading.....but not too much or you'll end up with soft, fine crumb with not much random large holes. 

I agree, the flavour is great, as I mentioned in the first blog above, but it's not the easiest flour to handle, unfortunately.   After those experiments (and lots of failures :p)  I'm really convinced now that conventional French kneading technique of slap & fold was born for the reason.

Gymnopodie's picture
Gymnopodie

I read your experiences with the T-55  when trying to come up with other ideas a couple of days ago.  Well done and very informative!  If I could get a crumb as good as yours, I could just die and go to heaven.  I've been using the dough hook on my KitchenAid for most of the kneading.  Maybe, as you suggest, the slap and fold is necessary with that flour. 

An hour from now I'll be throwing another two loaves in the oven.  I started yesterday makng two batches of dough.  The first one I added more yeast than before and went through the steps in three hours instead of the six or seven.  I baked the first batch yesterday; they were a disaster.   I used a much smaller amount of yeast in the second batch and let it sit in the fridge for 21 hours, so we'll see where this takes me.   I should know something in a couple of hours.   

lumos's picture
lumos

Don't die yet! :p And I can assure you my journey will take a very long time until I reach my goal....then we can all go to heaven together.

Never used Kitchen Aid so I don't have anything it can be any help to you, but lots of pro bakers do use machine for kneading, rather than manual method of slap & fold, so I don't see anything wrong in that.  The only thing you need to make sure, whether you're using machine or own hands, is the gluten developed to the right level. If it's fully developed it's too much for baguette, and if it's not enought you'll end up with dense crumb. 

One thing I can suggest is lower the hydration a lot, until you get used to the softness/weakness of your T55, and try to get to learn how your flour behave. Then you can gradually increase the hydration to more standard baguette hydration of 70% or higher, rather than playing with fermentation time.   When I attended French Baking course at Lighthouse Bakery School, their baguette dough was something like 60% hydration, because some of the students were novice bakers.  It was really eye-opening for me to experience how easy to handle and shape such a low hydration dought to make it into baguettes, because I'd never made baguette with lower than 68% hydration.   And by doing that, I (or my hands, rather) did learn a lot about shaping baguettes in a right way.

Gymnopodie's picture
Gymnopodie

OK, I just took the bread out of the oven and cut into it.  Absolutely no improvement.  The crumb is fine with no large holes, so adding the 21 hour cold ferment to what I was already doing did nothing to improve the crumb.  Being a complete novice I don't know when gluten is developed to the right level.  Your comment about the gluten not being developed enough may be the key.  What I'll do is write down how I made this bread and then you and others can see if I'm doing something wrong.  I'll post it when I finish writing it.   

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

What improvement are you expecting?

The point of retarding dough (what's you're calling "cold fermentation") is to improve flavor. Cold temperature slows the fermentation process so enzymatic activity has more time to catabolize (break down) the wheat, which results in a more flavorful bread.

Retardation has little–if anything–to do with crumb structure.

lumos's picture
lumos

A few photos will help us a lot to help you, too. 

ETA: Sorry I missed an important part..... If you're a complete novice in bread making, you might well keep in mind baguette is one of the most difficult bread to make, even for experienced bakers.  If you knew about it and still want to challenge, that's absolutely fine, but if not, it may save you from misery if you start with something more basic and easy bread before jumping into the deep end.

 

Gymnopodie's picture
Gymnopodie

These are the two small loaves that I did today.

Gymnopodie's picture
Gymnopodie

The  way I made my bread is loosely based on Julia Child’s method.  I reduced the amount of ingredients to conserve on flour for the experiments.

Ingredients:

335 grams T-55 organic flour

226 grams water

4 grams active dry yeast

9 grams salt

I mix all the dry ingredients together with a machine paddle and then add the water while mixing with a dough hook on a KitchenAid machine.  When the dough forms into a ball, I place it on a counter top for a couple of minutes.  I put the dough back into the machine and knead on slow speed for 4½ to 5 minutes.   At that point it begins to stiffen some.

I remove the dough and place it on the counter top again and let it rest about 4 minutes.  Then I knead by hand for one minute.

I place the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic cling film and cloth towels and leave it there until it reaches 3 times its original volume.  That takes about 3 to 4 hours.

I take it out and push the dough into a circle and the fold it a few times. 

Next, I let it rise again but not quite triple in size.  This takes a couple more hours.

I remove the dough again and cut it in two.  From there I form a rough rectangle and fold the dough and form into round loaves. 

I then put them on tea towels separated by a fold and propped so they don’t flatten. 

I let them rise until they are twice the volume and then slash them and put them in the oven.  The dough remains in an environment of 70 to 75 degrees F throughout until it hits the oven.

I have an electric oven with a baking stone on the middle shelf.  I put a pan on the bottom shelf.  I preheat the oven to 500 degrees and toss ½ cup water in the bottom pan just before loading the loaves.  I immediately turn the heat down to 450 degrees.  

I get good results using this method with KA AP flour but it does not work with the French flour that I have.  Well, actually, it does work but the crumb is too fine and dense.  If that’s the proper way of describing it. 

So, the question I’m asking:  What would you change, using this method, that would improve the crumb? 

Dean

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

You take a 67% hydration dough made with T-55 flour (a low protein-flour compared to American flours at about 9-9.5% protein).

You bulk ferment for 3-4 hours. (That's a long time).

You degas the dough and bulk ferment again for 2 more hours. (Why a second time? And why so long?)

You shape into round loaves and proof for (Another hour!)?

Then you bake.

You're using a low-protein flour to being with, so it won't have the strength to withstand the long fermentation times your using, and yours are exceedingly long, even for a strong flour.

I'd reduce the first bulk ferment from 3-4 hours to 90 minutes (or until it just doubles in size).

I'd eliminate the second bulk ferment entirely, going straight to shaping the baguette after the dough doubles.

I'd let the baguette proof for 45 to 60 minutes and then I'd bake.

I suspect that because you are fermenting for so long, the air pockets that result (from yeast making CO2) grow too large and eventually pop, resulting in what's essentially a collapsed or overproofed crumb structure. If you can imagine yourself inside the dough as it expands and expands, it feels open and airy; but, if you push the process, those airy bubbles grow too large and weak and start to pop, and your light airy crumb-structure collapses in on itself, resulting in dense crumb. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to preserve the airy structure by not overproofing the dough, by drastically reducing your fermentation times.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

The shaping of your baguettes needs some work, but that'll come from experience.

From what I see in your pictures, that crumb really isn't so terrible. It's not very open, but it's also not as dense as it could be.

I think that, if you reduce your fermentation times and work on your shaping, you'll be at a B+ in no time.

A+ baguettes? I doubt any of us here would admit to ever achieving such a mythical manifestation.

Gymnopodie's picture
Gymnopodie

You bulk ferment for 3-4 hours. (That's a long time).

You degas the dough and bulk ferment again for 2 more hours. (Why a second time? And why so long?)

You shape into round loaves and proof for (Another hour!)?

As I mentioned I was following Julia Child's method.  You can see it here

Thanks for your input.  I did try a shorter ferment but not exactly as you suggested.  What you describe seems to be what I observed: 

You're using a low-protein flour to being with, so it won't have the strength to withstand the long fermentation times your using

It does seem that with the long fermentation that there's not much push left at the end.   As soon as I get the opportunity I'll give your suggestions a try.  

Dean

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

With recipes from MAFC, you're taking all sorts of risks. Who knows if the French flour and yeast of today is anything like the composition it was when the recipe was written? Jacques Pépin (I think it was Pepin) said that there was no such thing a T55 flour when he was an apprentice (or if it did, it wasn't called that). [Incidentally, he just released Essential Pépin, a heavily revised tomb of his previous work to take ingredient change into account.]

I much prefer her later work, like Baking with Julia, which has a long-fermentation baguette recipe from Jim Sullivan's Acme Bread Company that comes out very well, easily the best (traditional) baguettes I ever made.

sam's picture
sam

Hello,

I could be wrong, but I don't see why a lower-protein flour would have anything to do with yeast vitality in long-fermentations.  Yeast doesn't feed on protein.  Yeast feeds on sugars, created by the breakdown of the starches by enzymes.

In addition, yeast cells have a maximum division.   Each time a yeast cell divides, it gets a "scar" on its outer cell wall, a pock-mark.  Both the parent and child have this scar.   Over time, the more a yeast cell divides itself, its cell wall will become too scarred, and it is unable to divide further and dies, even if new food is available  (but its children will still go on to divide more as long as there is plenty of fresh food (sugars)).

"Over-proofing", to me, means both a lack of remaining fermentable sugars, and/or all of the yeast cells have reproduced so much they are unable to reproduce anymore.    I'm not sure what protein (gliadin/glutenin) has much to do with it.

Could also be a lack of nitrogen, which is required for yeast replication as well, maybe that is too depleted for proper yeast replication if given enough time.

What I would do, if you find your yeast is not functioning after a long time and you wish to extend fermentation duration, regardless of the protein-level of the flour, would be to add a bit of diatastic malt powder.   That is packed full of enzymes which will keep creating more fermentable sugars for the generations of yeast.

 

 

 

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Oops! It does sound like a make a connection between low protein flour and fermentation. I didn't mean that at all.

I rather meant that the bread is already not strong from lack of protein so, as the yeast catabolize the sugars and generally "run out of steam", the loaf is further weakened, with the result being weak dough made weaker, thus dense.

Not sure if that makes any more sense, but it makes sense to me. 

Sorry for the confusion. 

Gymnopodie's picture
Gymnopodie

I baked two more small loaves today.  Lumos wrote:

The only thing you need to make sure, whether you're using machine or own hands, is the gluten developed to the right level. If it's fully developed it's too much for baguette, and if it's not enought you'll end up with dense crumb.

I increased the machine kneading time from 5 minutes to 10 minutes. 

Tomaschacon wrote:

I'd reduce the first bulk ferment from 3-4 hours to 90 minutes (or until it just doubles in size).

I'd eliminate the second bulk ferment entirely, going straight to shaping the baguette after the dough doubles.

I'd let the baguette proof for 45 to 60 minutes and then I'd bake.

I did this exactly.  The problem is:  I don't know which change made the difference or whether both of them made a difference. 

But, there is a difference, so now I can explore a little futher.  Also, when I wrote that the 21 hour cold fermentation made no difference, I made that assumption when I cut the bread, but that evening it became more than apparent that the crumb was much more pleasant.  Even though it didn't look much different, the texture was much better. 

This is the loaf that I baked today.

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

I would like to offer a comment on flavor as that is a major focus of this thread.  One of the things that will generally (almost assuredly) give you greatly improved flavor is organic flour.  This has been stated by many bakers, like Gerard Rubaud who insists on organic grain and others who have commented similarly.

As for Julia Child, her bread instruction in Mastering The Art of French Cooking Vol. II, is second to none.  She took her training with Raymond Calvel and most successfully transmits that information in the written word.  Like nearly all of her recipes and instruction, if you do exactly as she says, you will produce a fine product.

Jeff

Frazestart's picture
Frazestart

In the mid-1980s(?), Julia published a revised method for making baguettes in Parade Magazine. At the "dabbler" skill level, I found it worked better for me than her original one. I'm not sure if this was later incorporated into newer editions of Mastering. Now if I could only find it again...

A note to the original poster: Where did you find the T-55? Was that the flour from L'Epicerie?

sixthavexp's picture
sixthavexp

I tried the Julia Child French Bread recipe for the first time using Tipo 00 flour.  It came out really good to me.  From what I've researched it has about the same protein 9% as she describes in the book with French Type 55 at 11% not what she describes in the book.  I am no expert this is just what I deduced from the wiki article on flour and what she says in the book.  Next I will try with AP flour and see what difference I can deduce whilte the Italian flour taste is still in my head.  Anna

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Glad to hear that you met with success.  It is not possible to say enough about the great quality of Julia Child's recipes whether it be cooking or baking.

Jeff

Gymnopodie's picture
Gymnopodie

 Frazestart:  Yes, I bought the French flour at L'Epicerie.  It was the only place I could find it in the US at the time.  I bought a large bag of the the T-55 organic flour ground in historic mills in Normandy.   It's not cheap but it's wonderful stuff.

 sixthavexp:  That's great that the Tipo 00 flour worked for you.  I have some that I use for pizza dough.  If you can make French bread with that flour, then you should do well with the French flour if you wish to try.  What I was after was the flavor which was supreme with the French flour. 

Julia Child's old recipe was an attempt to make French bread with American flour that was available at the time.   Many more flours are available now, but, in my experience, none of the American flours can reproduce the flavor of the French flour.  I've eaten French bread sold by artisan bakers and even in nice French restaurants in America, but nothing that I've tried tastes like French bread baked in France. 

Once you have the correct flour and know how to bake with it, French bread is easy to bake.  It's only when you attempt to use other flour that it becomes difficult.  And by that, I mean the taste, not the looks. 

Frazestart's picture
Frazestart

Thanks! I'll have to give L' Epicerie's flours a try.  I am trying to get back to bread baking after a long absence and have been disappointed with the flavor in my finished products, even with fermentations  at fairly low temperatures (60-62 F).

sixthavexp's picture
sixthavexp

Oh wow thanks for the link to French flour!  I couldnt find it anywhere.  Now I will buy some and try the recipe with that.

sixthavexp's picture
sixthavexp

I'm just curious what is the protein content of T-55 flour. In the wiki page on flour it states it is around 11%. However in Julia Child's book she states the flour that the French bakers used at that time was about 8-9%. Is the wiki info wrong or was flour different back then when she wrote the book.

I did try her bread with Trader Joe's unbleached AP flour. It came out pretty well but there was definately more spring to the dough when rolling it as she describes with AP flour as opposed to French flour in her video on it.

Gymnopodie's picture
Gymnopodie

I think the flours of both countries have changed over time and probably for the good.  The French flour that I used had to have been low in protein content because it could not hold up to the several risings as outlined in Julia Child's ten page recipe.  You'll find that many of the recipes using American flour are mostly designed to make the bread taste more like the French bread made in France with French flour.

The French use different wheat which grows in different soils with different processing.   There's no need for complicated recipes if you use the French flour.  It is simple to make a very good loaf of French bread with French flour.  However the French flour is expensive but for my personal use I consider it to be worth the extra money.