Don’t follow this tip from Julia Child’s 1970s Bread Recipe!


How did asbestos tiles sneak into Julia Child’s baguette recipe?

Julia Child originally suggested baking bread on asbestos as a simple way for home bakers to achieve professional results. The recommendation was in line with his work of sharing fine dining with home cooks. But the asbestos tile didn’t land in Child’s baguette recipe on a lark.

Julia Child co-wrote Master the art of French cuisine with her friends and husband Paul Child. The team spent nearly a year and nearly 300 pounds of flour developing their baguette recipe. The recipe emphasized the importance of creating a baker’s oven at home. The home baker’s oven had a few important features:

  • A hot cooking surface
  • Steam

The team determined that fire-resistant asbestos tiles provided an ideal cooking surface. Dropping a hot brick into a pot of water created the steam needed in a good baker’s oven.

Although the bread turned out perfect, the recipe was eventually changed. Depending on which report you read, Julia’s editor or her niece heard that asbestos can cause cancer. After learning this fact, the team knew they could no longer recommend cooking on asbestos tiles.

Paul Child was reportedly working in a frenzy trying to find a suitable replacement. The second impression of Master the art of French cuisine cooking suggested on a plain red tile.

Asbestos can hide in unexpected places

Julia Child and her asbestos hob bring to light a difficult truth. Asbestos and its dangers can appear in surprising places. Most products containing asbestos are no longer sold in this country, but some are. For example, automotive parts like brakes and clutches may contain asbestos. Some older homes may also hide asbestos building materials.

People can help protect themselves by learning where asbestos-containing products may still be hiding. When it comes to baking bread, experts say a regular pizza stone will do.


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