Book Club Tuesday: Poilâne

“Poilâne has always had a profound respect for tradition, and it is filled with remarkable talent and knowledge — and it is, above all, a deeply humane place.” (14) — Alice Waters

Cookbooks make our world smaller. How can I know the distance between my quiet home kitchen in Halifax and, the world-famous Poilâne bakery in Paris, France? As I open the cover of the cookbook of the same name, I can tell you that the distance is almost imperceptible. Looking at the gorgeous photography of bakery and its wares and, reading through the story of this (almost) hundred-year-old bakery written by the founder’s granddaughter, Apollonia Poilâne, I can almost smell the freshly baked sourdough. One day I’ll travel to Paris so I can enjoy one of their beautiful loaves baked fresh from their wood-fired oven. But, until then, I will content myself with enjoying the recipes from the Poilâne cookbook.

What I expected from this book was that it would be an exhaustive primer on how to make and bake Poilâne-style sourdough in the comfort of your own kitchen and, while the book provides advice and guidance, as well as recipes, for baking their famous sourdough, this cookbook is so much more! The recipes are divided into three main sections: Morning (Breads & Breakfast), Afternoon (The Main Meal, The Art of Keeping Bread, & Sweets), and Nighttime (Dreams & Explorations). I really love that this book contains so many recipes which utilize sourdough bread in such unique and inventive ways. My family and I make weekly trips to our favourite, local, sourdough baker so that we can enjoy fresh bread and, with Poilâne (the book), I’ve been presented with so many different recipes on how to enjoy my loaves (besides enjoying it as part of our ubiquitous weekend sandwiches).

Granola Care Package (Bread Granola, upper right bag)

The first recipe I bookmarked to try was the recipe for Bread Granola — where 3-day-old sourdough takes the place of the oats. My friends who live in Ontario always ask me to send granola, so when I baked up several batches to send them over the Christmas holidays, I made sure to include a bag of the Bread Granola. The response I received back was, “Man that’s good eats.” While I used our go-to Country Sourdough from Birdies for that batch, I’ve tried using different loaves for subsequent batches. I think the Chocolate-Cherry Sourdough has been one of my favourites yet! I have never heard of Bread Granola before — new and unique recipes are what really excite me when I receive a new cookbook to try.

Bread Granola, p. 99

Even with something as overdone as avocado toast, Apollonia Poilâne manages to impress with her recipe for Avocado Tartine w/ Banana and Lime. I think that banana and avocado make the perfect pair — with their soft and creamy textures, and their pleasant flavours. The lime tastes wonderful with both but, it was a surprise to me how much I loved the heat of the crushed red pepper flakes with the mild sweetness of the banana. Even the little drizzle of honey balances the earthier flavour of the avocado. This recipe is so good that the test kitchens at Food 52 named it a “Genius Recipe.”

Bread Chips, p. 182

Before opening this book, my first assumptions were that I would use this book to bake sourdough. This hasn’t been the case because I find myself quite devoted to my local sourdough bakery, however, the Poilâne recipes I’ve found most useful are the ones that demonstrate what to do with your sourdough once you have a loaf. As I’ve mentioned, the Bread Granola is an inspired suggestion, and, the recipe for Bread Chips (think: Melba toast) has been great when I’ve got a bit of a loaf leftover. Too little to make sandwiches for all of us, I’ve taken to thinly slicing the bread and slowly toasting it in the oven as per the recipe instructions. The Bread Chips are great with a smear of dip or slice of cheese but also equally as delicious with a warm bowl of soup. 

While the Bread Chips are a great savory snack, I really appreciate how Apollonia Poilâne takes this snack and turns it into a sweet one. Inspired by chocolate-covered pretzels, the recipe for Chocolate-Covered Bread Chips offers such a quick way to whip up a treat. After melting chocolate in the microwave, some ground spice is added (I used cinnamon) and then pieces of broken-up bread chips are swirled in chocolate, then left on a plate to set. This was just the afternoon treat my daughter was happy to help me make and, of course, eat.

Chocolate-Covered Bread Chips, p.236

Aside from the unique and inspired recipes, what Apollonia Poilâne offers is a beautiful memoir of this bakery — how generations of her family shaped this place along with the dedicated people who have worked or work there. Even the way the recipes are organized show the daily rhythm of bakery life. Along with the beautiful photography, the Poilâne cookbook is such a treasure. I will continue to try the other recipes I’ve bookmarked and, if you’re curious to see what I’ve been making then, checkout my custom Instagram hashtag #shipshapepoilane or my dedicate Facebook post.

Avocado Tartine w/ Banana and Lime, p. 140

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Raincoast Books for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.





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