Whole wheat country bread

cross on towel

Sunday was a pretty normal weekend day after an extremely early (3:45!!) morning on Saturday for Race for the Cure. I slept in a little, I read, I cooked, I watched some TV, I even thought about going to the pool, but I didn’t feel like lathering up in sunscreen so decided against it.

starteradd starter

I’ve been thinking about making bread for a few weeks, never getting around to it. I mainly didn’t get around to it because the recipe I was planning to try required lots of planning in advance– the sponge required two weeks to develop along with feeding it a little every day. That’s a lot of effort for bread, and I just haven’t been up to the experiment.

My bread maker broke recently, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to buy store bought bread, but I’ve really been itching for a sandwich. I thought about it all last week, and I finally decided that Sunday was the perfect day to test out bread making without a machine. Still not ready to devote two weeks to a loaf of bread, though, I consulted with Julia Child and decided to try out her country bread.

four in prep

It’s pretty easy, but you always have to remember that you can’t do much for about a 6 hour chunk of time for any bread that has two or three rises. When you’re planning on a calm day, though, making bread isn’t a problem at all. The instructions might seem a little intimidating; I promise that it isn’t difficult. It’s advantageous to read the whole recipe prior to starting it, though. I’ve screwed up many recipes by not doing this.


oven ready

cross hatch lighter

The time is definitely worth the effort, too. My dough deflated a bit after the last rise (I dumped it out a little too abruptly onto a cutting board to transfer it to the oven), and although it feels dense when I pick up a whole loaf, it tastes great and slices of bread aren’t dense at all. I’ll be making this again soon, and I’ll update you with any tricks to get a picture perfect loaf like Julia. Perhaps you’ll make it perfectly the first time; I didn’t, and I’m still happy with the results. I give it a rating of four since it does take about half a day to make.

both with slices


Whole wheat country bread
from Julia Child’s The Way to Cook
makes 2, 8 to 10 inch round loaves

Notes: I made the starter at night, let it rest overnight and then made the bread in the morning. I think that’s the best, least time consuming way to do it.

For each rise and for the starter’s rise, I turn the oven on to preheat for a minute, put the dough in, and then turn the oven off. With the door closed, it stays a little warmer than room temperature, perfect for the rises.

This can be made by hand, food processor or stand mixer with a dough hook. The original recipe gives instructions for the food processor, but I used a stand mixer.

If you have a baking stone, cook the bread on it. If not, an upside down baking sheet works fine. I used a baking sheet..

Also, I’m not sure that the interior temperature of my bread got to 200F. I think it did, but I didn’t measure it. In total, I cooked my loaves 30 minutes at 450F and about 7 at 375.

Yeast starter:
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (not over 110F)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon sugar
1 cup cold milk, plus more as needed

1. Whisk together yeast, water, flour and sugar until smooth in a medium-sized glass or ceramic bowl. Scrape down sides with spatula.

2. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a turned-off oven for an hour or so. It will rise and form large bubbles. After an hour, take out of the oven and let rest overnight (or for two to three hours).

3. Right before beginning the dough, blend milk into the yeast mixture.

Main ingredients:
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
4 teaspoons table salt
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

1. Measure flours, salt and butter into a large bowl; turn mixer to level 1 for 30 seconds and then to 2 for 30 more seconds to disperse the butter.

2. Steadily pour the yeast starter into the dough mixer, with the mixer at level 2. After 30 seconds, if the dough hasn’t come together, add a few dribbles of milk (about 1 tablespoon). Once a ball has formed, let the dough hook revolve around 10 more times.

3. Turn off the machine and let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Turn on the machine and let the dough hook revolve 30 times.

4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured countertop, and let it rest for 2 minutes.

5. Finish kneading by hand for 50 strokes.

6. Move dough to a clean dry bowl (I used the mixing bowl), cover with plastic wrap, and set in a turned off oven for about 60 minutes, until 1 ½ times original volume.

7. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Pat dough into a 14 inch rectangle; fold one side into the center and then the other on top of it, like an envelope. Repeat this process.

8. Return dough to the bowl, smooth side up. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warmed oven for about 60 to 90 minutes, until the dough is 2 ½ to 3 times its original size.

Forming the loaf:

1. Turn risen dough onto a lightly floured surface; cut in half, covering one half with a lightly floured towel while you form the loaf.

2. With the palm of your hand, lift bottom of dough up onto the top, rotating the dough and repeating about 10 times to form a smooth-bottomed cushion.

3. Turn dough smooth side up in your palms and tuck a bit of dough under with your little fingers, going around the dough. This makes a gluten cloak that holds the dough together (and a nice crust).

4. Turn the ball back onto the work surface, smooth side down. Pinch together the edges from making a smooth bottom, and place dough, smooth side down, on a lightly floured towel. Cover with another lightly floured towel and repeat process with the other ball of dough.

5. Let rise 60 to 90 minutes in a warmed oven until triple in size. (I took the dough out of the oven with about 10 minutes left to rise in order to preheat the oven.)

6. Flip the risen loaf, smooth underside up, onto a sliding board. With a razor held parallel to the dough’s surface, (I just used a knife but perhaps that why bread doesn’t look at billowy as Julia Childs’?) slash open the gluten cloak to make a pattern (crosshatch or cross).


1. Preheat oven and baking stone/upside down baking sheet to 450F. Immediately once dough has risen and slashes have been made, slide loaves onto the baking sheet and throw ½ cup water into the bottom of the oven (if it is electric; if it is gas, put a skillet on the bottom rack and throw water into it). Close oven door.

2. Check bread in 20 minutes– it should be puffed and browned. If bottom is darkening, put a cooling rack under the loaves. Continue to bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 450. Reduce heat to 400F, and cook until bread feels light (mine never did) and the interior temperature is 200F. (see last note). Let bread cool slightly before cutting.

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