The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pain Poilane?

smiddlet's picture

Pain Poilane?

Has anybody attempted the Pain Poilane recipe in BBA? It might be my next project, but I'm a wee bit concerned about the size of the final loaf. I don't think I'll be cooking a 6 pound mich -- at least, I think that's the final mass. Anyway, any tips from any old salts? Thanks.

Breadwhiner's picture

I was successful with an earlier version of this load in Crust and Crumb. It lived up to its reputation-- amazing flavor with hints of nuts and cheese, great open-holed texture.

Repeat attempts have been less sucessful. Same deal with Pain Poilane.

This is a work-in-progress for me, but I can share what I have learned. You need to have yeast growing to move on to the third step, which means you need to see the starter rise. If it rises and falls, that's O.K. because the gluten is not well developed in the starter.

Eventually, you will get yeast growth, that is not difficult. In fact, if you use orange juice instead of water for the first step, you will get yeast growth very easly on. The hard part is preventing the starter from going sour. Otherwise, you'll get sourdough bread and not Pain Poilane. This is the part I am struggling with now and perhaps someone else out there has some wisdom to shine on the topic. I've heard that colder temperatures, drier starters and younger starters are less likely to turn sour, but I've never been able to nail the process.

As far as the 6 pounder goes, you can scale everthing back. I would scale it such that the mich contains only about 3 cups flour until you nail the process. I've ended up with a few really sour loaves that were nearly inedible.

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

I bought BBA partly because that loaf on the cover is so gorgeous! I'll try it soon...


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The loaf on the cover look very much like my standard only mine is smaller. I wish I had some rye and decent flour. When I first learned to bake this kind of bread, I had no help other than a trip to meet the Inlaws. My background as a baker was at the time limited to American style Betty Crocker. When my husband asked me to experiment, I must have taken him seriously and started and endeavor that has lasted until now. I was then in the Caribbean and all products were from there, sort of. My first problem was the texture, how was I to get that heavy moist crumb without heavy wet. All my kneading and rising resulted in fluffy american toast style. I had to eliminate steps. I continued to knead but not as long, the bread dough got wetter, and the mixing times got longer.

One of the Austrian wives there, had experience in hotel food and we had a good exchange going. I learned how to read German, mainly from recipes and she learned the English names of ingredients. I remember one incident where she was mixing her bread dough. Now she always did this with her hand in a large plastic bowl. Her yeast she would start in a smaller cereal size bowl with water, yeast, and then just plop flour on top of it and without stirring, let it sit in the sunshine. She would then pour this into her big plastic bowl sometimes adding a little more water, judging it in a tipped fashion. Then came the rest, and it was not far from my own way of mixing, a little sugar, salt, all using her coffeee spoon, she then had a jar of crushed seeds and spices, she would take some of this, and hand full by handfull, the first one was a big one, the flour would be worked into the dough. She kept one hand on the side of the bowl the other beated the dough with closed fingers in a scooping motion, going under the dough and pulling it up and out, large bubbles of air would get trapped and would make a smacking sound as she went. I'd say these were 1 1/2 to 2 kilo sized loaves.

One time it got a little dry and she was talking to someone on the phone at the time. I grabbed a cup and came back from the kitchen with some water and as soon as she notice me with it, started to dribble a little bit onto the dough in responce to her nodding. She had a cigarette also in her mouth, I think she always did. When the dough looked wet enough, I quit and we were in agreement. I sat down, she continued to beat the dough, smoke and talk on the phone, now that's multi tasking!

Now without writing a novel, I should add, that to thoroughly enjoy this whole sceen, you must invision a rather rustic white washed old spanish style hotel coverted to small apartments, a few palm trees, all the women in bathing suits or bikinis, yes there was a small pool and each of six women with a glass of water and a coffee cup. The front of each apartment folds back to open the wall and on the terrace is a table with women, watching. I learned a lot of good recipes in this way.

So to continue, after say ten minutes she added a little oil to the bowl, coating while the dough was still in it and covered with a wet dish towel and parked in a warm place on the terrace. After it had doubled she would knock it down and shape with the same scooping motion, but now with two hands remove the dough and place on floured baking sheet, often a tail of dough would stick to her forearm and she had a clever way of flicking her wrist and the dough would lie across the loaf adding texture to the baked surface. Wait 10 minutes and into the oven it went. She turned on the gas. Took better than an hour. When it came out of the oven, she tapped the bottom, and loosely wraped it in a dish towel and balanced between two chair backs (no cooling rack).

My method is not too far from this one. I mix with a wide sturdy spoon and knead on a table. I do find that even a little kneading improves the shelf life. My loaves have shrunk to under one kilo and now I must let the dough rise before baking. The flour is a problem but I'm getting around it. I buy the cheapest, poorest, fresh quality that I can and it works better for bread (here the value is placed on low gluten, it stands to reason that the poorest has more gluten, maybe.) Yesterday I wanted to see what would happen if I kneaded my dough to death. I came out with bagels. The texture of the bread rolls was like that of bagels, tight compact, very small holes, yet soft. Made a nice change.

Was that enough "salt?" :) Mini Oven

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Oops, too much salt. Anyway, the food processor sounds good. If I were to make that big a loaf, I'd use a FP in little batches and knead them together. I would have to use a comercial oven. Then wack it into quarters and freeze most of it. Careful the crust can get sharp as a knife. Good Luck and take lots of pictures! :) Mini Oven