Cooking secrets from Apollonia Poilâne in a to do book

P, P, P, P, P, …

So many Poilâne [say it ‘pwah-lahn’] breads have been coming out of the ovens since 1932. Still, they are new batches, hot and round, you’ll cherish them and they will comfort you.

A signature carved on the top of a round sourdough loaf – Poilâne miche – is made of two parts : the downward base like an “s” seems to look for the roots of the family when the upper part, like an horizontal “c”, looks like a proud crown. Both parts are interwoven.  This is the large P-shaped cut on the top of the loaves. The family craft tradition began with Apolllonia’s grandfather and she is continuing it, wearing a blue apron that looks like a severe aged school uniform. Her father, Lionel has been the link between Pierre and Apollonia who presents herself as a baker and an entrepreneur on her Linkedin profile.

Apollonia, a former student at Harvard (Boston-USA) 2003 – 2007 who was born in New-York in 1983, is bilingual. She wrote Poilâne. The Secrets of the World Famous Bread Bakery. Adèle Tobin is her translator in French and when Apollonia’s book tour makes a stop at Bièvres on Dec. 12, the French translation is the only available in the bookshop Mille Feuilles. She welcomed our questions though the bakery is overwhelmed by a series of events before the Christmas period. A full agenda confirmed by Geneviève Brière-Godfrain, the PR director for more than one Poilâne generation.

As a bread, this book has been nurtured too. It’s all about the spirit of this traditional bakery. It reveals all : the never stopped oven, the sourdough that’s goes from mother (starter culture) to dough with an endless movement. The aesthetic and the sound of the bread. Manual work and mixers that have been implemented through generations, the bond between the sisters, the love for the job… as well as for the croissants (a “baker’s pastry”). Apollonia proceeds with her fingers breaking one tip off, “then I gently pull up the top of the exposed edge, unravelling the layers like yarn off a skein and eating it in bits as I go”[1]* www.thegentlewoman.co.uk issue n° 4 Autumn & Winter 2011. Should you be in Paris, in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, inhaling the smell of the hot butter spilling out of a basement, signalling the opening of the bakery to come in a few minutes, you may encounter Apollonia. Or not if she climbed upstairs to work at her office. Poilâne SAS ships its products in 40 countries making an over 10 millions euros turnover. Shippings to the points-of-sale are delivered from the Bièvres Manufactory after the final check by Apollonia on the breads straight out of the oven.

This is a to do book if you want to cook. Make sure of your butter. Brush a gold color on your chocolate roll with an egg wash. Roll up the croissants !

Christophe Baillat

NB : Apollonia is holding the accountability (1958) of my grandfather’s bakery in Montargis

« It was always my dream to run the company.” Apollonia Poilâne in an interview to The Crimson (the daily Harvard newspaper, 2003 Oct. 16 itw by Clarel Antoine)

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