Robert May’s French Bread with the Bread Baking Babes

rick holding loafThis month I am once again baking along with the Bread Baking Babes and Friends, that lovely group of intrepid bakers who choose a bread to bake together each month.  I joined their page on Facebook many months ago but so much time goes along and often I miss out on baking the recipe before the due date.

bee and irises bread

This month I wanted to join in as Ilva of Lucullian Delights has chosen a recipe adapted from Elizabeth David’s “English Bread and Yeast Cookery”, 1977. Ms. David one of my favorite food writers of all time and I have been a fan of Ilva too for many years. Within Elizabeth David’s book is a recipe for Robert May’s French Bread from his book The Accomplisht Cook; Or, The Art and Mystery of Cooking from 1660.
Ilva also challenged the group to decorate the loaves as the recipe is quite simple and easy. The ones I have seen are gorgeous! Check out the BBB members here:

Bake My Day – Karen
Bread Baking Babe Bibliothécaire – Katie
blog from OUR kitchen – Elizabeth
Feeding my enthusiasms – Elle
girlichef – Heather
Life’s A Feast – Jamie
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies – Natashya
My Kitchen In Half Cups – Tanna
Notitie Van Lien – Lien
My Diverse Kitchen – Aparna
Bread Experience – Cathy


bee and flower

Here is the recipe as given by Ilva my notes are in pink:

from Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery, 1977. (I have adapted her recipe a little, not the ingredient list but the directions.)

500 g/ 1 lb 2 oz preferably a half-and-half mixture of unbleached white and wheat-meal (King Arthur organic whole wheat)
15 g/ 0.5 oz of yeast (fresh) (active dry yeast for me- 15g equals about 2 packets)
2 egg whites
280-340 g/ 0.5 pint to 12 oz water and milk, preferably 3/4 water and 1/4 milk (warm to lukewarm in a saucepan)
15 g/ 0.5 oz salt (I always use less salt than suggested in bread recipes and did so this time as well, I know that Elizabeth used 10 g and I suggest you do that too) (I used 10g too)

Warm flour and salt in a very tepid oven. (You can skip this but I did it)

Pour in the yeast creamed in a little of the warmed milk and water mixture. Add the egg whites, beaten in a small bowl until they are just beginning to froth. Pour in the remaining milk (but not all at once like I did, I had to add more flour to get the right consistency). Mix as for ordinary bread dough.

Leave to rise until spongy and light. This will take 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the temperature of the ingredients when the dough as mixed.

Break down the dough, divide it into two round loaves-or long rolls if you prefer. (I made one round loaf). I covered it with a round bowl but Elizabeth David recommends covering the bread with plastic or a light cloth and leave it to recover volume. About 30 minutes should be enough. If you plan to decorate the bread like I did, don’t forget to put aside a part of the dough.

Decorate crust with cuts or with dough decorations. Bake in a pre-heated oven (230°C/450°F) for the first 15 minutes. Then to prevent the crust to get too hard, cover the loaves with bowls or an oval casserole. In another 15 minutes the loaves should be ready.


I followed all of Ilva’s suggestions and my loaf turned out deliciously. I baked it on my baking stone and covered it as suggested with a stainless steel bowl.  I chose to decorate with fleur de lys and a wee bee. It made me think of a French garden.

crumb robert mays french bread



Thanks for reading, and thanks to Ilva for a lovely challenge and to the Babes and Buddies for letting me jump in here and there with a bake-along.  🙂

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