One of Julia’s culinary triumphs consumes 22 pages in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II, where she shares her technique for making "real French bread— the long, crunchy, yeasty, golden loaf that is like no other bread in texture and flavor—with American all-purpose flour, in an American home oven."
To perfect the technique, Julia and Paul invested two years and used 284 pounds of flour experimenting with home-style and professional recipes they had collected in France. They finally turned to Professor Calvel, of L’École Francaise de Meunerie in Paris, who shared his secrets. For Julia, this was "like the sun in all his glory suddenly breaking through the shades of gloom."
They discovered that to make real French bread, they needed to simulate a baker’s oven, with a hot surface for the bread to bake on, and steam to form the crust. Paul eventually lined the Garland with quarry tiles, which held the heat beautifully. He then created a burst of steam by dropping a brick into a pan of water in the oven’s bottom. Thereafter, a small stack of quarry tiles remained on a shelf above the range.