There is much to adore about Paris: architecture, parks, museums, food and especially the divine French Bread and Pastries. Several years ago, I discovered one could order delicious Poilâne bread direct from the brick ovens in Paris to your front step, a decadent treat! I interviewed Appolonia Poilâne, granddaughter of the bakery founder in the charming rue du Cherche-Midi, Saint-Germain des Près storefront. Vibrant and passionate about the family business, she grew up at her grandfather’s side in the original bakery. She feels baking was imprinted on her soul, spending hours in the office at a very worn work table assisting her grandfather. We sat at this very table, the walls decorated with oil paintings from artists who bartered bread from her grandfather. Salvador Dali was an early customer and convinced the family to design bread in whimsical shapes; in homage to this memory the room is adorned by a bread chandelier.
The boulanger is well known for the round decorated two kilogram sourdough country bread loaves, authentic French bread, the recipe has been handed down over generations. The only change from the original formula is machine kneading; the bread is still baked in wood fired brick ovens. This is not white bread, basic ingredients are stone ground flour flavored with sea salt from the marshes of Guerande, nutritious whole grain bread enjoyed daily by Appolonia. I visited the ancient stone cellar where several men were watching over bread rising in linen lined baskets, pulling warm loaves from the cavernous brick oven, a step back in time, respected methods have been honored and elevated to produce daily bread.
Deep in the brick basement Poilane baker
When her parents unexpectedly passed away, she was thrust into the business at a very young age. Harvard educated, boulanger bake house trained, she is a natural to inherit and run the family business. Appolonia has continued and expanded the business, retaining the authentic nature of the bakery. She is inspired by her clients, as was her mother who was an artist. The shops sell Belgian glazed bowls designed by her mother; she clearly has inherited the bakery gene and the artistic sense of her mother. Motivated and dedicated, she also finds balance in her busy life with ballet and horseback riding. Naturally curious, she is always looking for new ideas, new experiences revamping the corporate web site, introduced new products -the bakery will always be the main focus of her life, flour is in her blood. Poilâne is unique in its approach: developing a modern marketing plan, however retaining the old -fashioned country loaves. Artisan cachet will surely override larger bakeries who are more interested in quantity
Art for Bread
Aside from the oversized boules, Poilâne makes raisin or walnut loaves, butter cookies called punitions or “punishments,” delicate flaky croissants, apple tarts, pain au chocolat, and also brioche bread – all heavenly!
Decorated loaves weigh over 4 pounds and will serve a dinner party!
Do Order Poilâne and wait at the gate for Fedex!