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Sep 22, 2014

Seventeenth Century French Bread

Robert May's 17th Century French Bread

This French bread recipe is from a 1660 recipe by Robert May, from his book, The Accomplisht Cook, The Art and Mastery of Cooking. 

Ilva, of the blog, Lucullian Delights, chose this bread for this month's Bread Baking Babes (and Buddies). Visit her blog for more information about the origin of this bread, as well information about Elizabeth David, the writer who discovered this recipe.

This bread is really easy to make, so Ilva decided to challenge anyone who baked along to get creative and decorate the bread. Decorating baked goods is not my strong suit. In case you haven't noticed, there are only three cakes on this blog, and none of them are decorated.

I decided to try snipping a "crown" on the top of the bread with scissors, but this bread does not behave like typical crunchy French bread, so I ended up with little "smiles" around the top of my loaf. I topped the middle with a seed mixture. If you want to see an excellent example of masterful bread decoration, visit Ilva's blog. I am not worthy.

So how is the bread? It's really good! It's perfect for sandwiches... and it's easy! Even though the dough is sticky, it is really easy to shape, and it doesn't need a basket to help it hold its shape during the second rise.

I used half all purpose flour and half white whole wheat flour. White whole wheat flour is a whole grain, but with a milder flavor. It's not really white, as you can see, and it has all of the benefits of whole wheat.

Robert May's 17th Century French Bread

Robert May's French Bread Recipe

250 g unbleached all purpose flour
250 g white whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
6 g instant yeast
10 g salt
2 egg whites, whisked until just frothy
255 g water
85 g milk
Egg yolk and a tsp. of water, whisked
Mixture of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried onion, dried garlic, and sea salt, to taste


  1. Whisk the flours, yeast, and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer. 
  2. Add the egg whites, water, and milk, and stir with a large spoon until the flour is moistened. 
  3. Mix with the dough hook for about 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Form the dough into a ball, and place it in a greased bowl or dough rising bucket, cover, and let rise until doubled, about an hour.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a boule, place it on a piece of parchment paper on a peel or baking sheet, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let it rest until puffy and nearly doubled. 
  6. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. I baked mine on a baking stone, but you can bake it on a baking sheet if you don't have a baking stone or quarry tiles. 
  7. With a pair of scissors, snip a crown onto the top of the loaf (or not), brush lightly with the egg yolk mixture, and top with the seed mixture. 
  8. Place the loaf on the baking stone (parchment and all) and shut the oven door. Alternatively, place the baking sheet with the loaf on the lower middle rack. 
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, tenting with foil about halfway through to prevent over browning and burning the seeds. The interior of the bread should be about 200 degrees. 
  10. Cool on a wire rack.

Would you like to comment?

  1. That looks like a gorgeous loaf - there really is nothing like homemade bread!

  2. Oh my it is beautiful and I am sad we don't get a top view! The crust looks perfect, thin yet crispy and oh I love your combo of seeds and flavorings for the top! I'll have to try that. Perfect bread!

    1. Don't be sad! The top is just seeds that are kind of overly burnt! Lol.

  3. Ha, not worthy. That is most definitely a very worthy loaf. Beauty it is: inside and out.
    I am a huge fan of the while whole wheat. Have you tried sprouted wheat? It's the sprouted wheat that always seems to double the wheat aroma. Seems heady to me when I bake with it.
    Like Jamie, I'd love to see the top but the one little pucker is totally cute.


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