Once upon a time in a tiny bakery in the heart of France, a young french boy alone in a dim, bakery basement buried himself amongst sacks of flour and cried as he dreaded his future life as a baker.
It’s hard to imagine this is how it all started for Lionel Poilâne, one of the most renowned bread makers in all of France. He couldn’t imagine his life as a baker, spent underground slaving over a hot oven. However, the story goes, that one day Lionel opened the oven door, looked into the red-hot hearth, and thought,
“This will either be the door to my prison or the door to the world.”
Today, every where you look restaurants and stores proudly display signs, “Ici, pain Poilâne” (“Here, we serve Poilane bread”). His bread is a cornerstone in French cuisine and known throughout Europe.
During our trip to France, we had the pleasure of visiting the original Poilâne Bakery. After quite a long walk, we finally found the sweet little bakery quietly tucked amongst townhouses and small businesses on an otherwise unnoticeable street.
I had the biggest smile just gazing into their beautiful, glistening windows. I thought of the history of this place and of all the people that must have visited here and enjoyed this man’s hard work and labor.
It’s true when they say things are just dreamier in Paris.
Poilâne is famous for their sourdough loaves, made from four simple ingredients – sourdough, flour, water and sea salt from Guerande.
In addition to bread, Poilane is also known for their deliciously simple butter cookies, called Punitions. Where does their name come from? ‘Punition’ is French for ‘punishment’ and the name comes from a little game Pierre Poilâne’s grandmother used to play. She would call over her grandchildren seemingly to punish them and, instead, would open her palm to reveal a handful of butter cookies!
Of course we couldn’t just visit the bakery and not leave with a treat or two. We decided to sample the apple tartlets. Apple desserts are Mr. Blue Eyed Yonder’s favorite!
I think it’s safe to say this little tartlet didn’t disappoint. The layers were perfectly flaky and the center was full of rich, lightly sweetened apples. The perfect accompaniment to our morning stroll through the streets of Paris.
Photos by: KHJ
The wonderful story of Poilâne can be found on their website. If you love sweets and you love Paris, you’d definitely love the book Paris Sweets, by Dorie Greenspan which features this story of Boulangerie Poilâne as well as many other stories and recipes from Paris’ best pastry shops.
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