The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Poilane loaf vs. Zingerman's Pain de Campagne

gianfornaio's picture
gianfornaio

Poilane loaf vs. Zingerman's Pain de Campagne

I've been wanting to try Poilane's bread since reading about it in Reinhart's BBA and have found that you can order it directly from Poilane (http://www.poilane.fr/index.php?index_module=listings&index_theme=english&index_template=en_produit_bdd.php&product_id=1).

I've been considering ordering a loaf for my family in Iowa for the upcoming holiday, but am a man of relatively modest means and balk at the $36 price for a 1.9 kG loaf. I've discovered that Zingerman's bakehouse in NYC offers a similar loaf, their 2kg pain de montagne (http://www.zingermans.com/Product.pasp?Category=&ProductID=B%2DMON) which they say "is the closest thing We've ever tasted to the much-loved loaves of Paris' premier baker, Lionel Poilane," for $20 (although I'm not sure how much shipping is, so there's that). 

I'm leaning toward the latter option because it will cost me just over half as much.

Above all, I'm curious about whether anyone who has tried both breads can tell me how they compare.   

Cheers and Crusty Regards,

John

 

bruc33ef's picture
bruc33ef

I bit the bullet and got the Poilane. And if enough of us do this they can't call us all crazy.

Seriously though, if you go with the Zingerman you know you will still spend the rest of your days wondering about the Poilane. So why not save yourself that grief?

I can also tell you that eating the Poilane over the course of a week was a nice mini-adventure. It doesn't seem to get stale as much as "evolve" in taste over the several days of its existence. And like a good wine, it doesn't overpower food as much as complement it. The joy seems to be in the subtleties of this bread.

Bruce

 

VermontSue's picture
VermontSue

When I was in Paris in 2003, I accidentally went into Poilane's shop... didn't know what it was all about.  I asked for a baguette, and you would not believe the looks I got, and the comments from the sales staff.  "All they had" were those huge disks of brown bread, so I bought one... and we spent the rest of the week cutting chunks of it off and enjoying with various pates purchased at the Galerie Lafayette.What a revelation.  I have researched this extensively since, and have devoted myself to re-creating a reasonable facsimile.  I am having some excellent results, too.  Up here in VT we have Red Hen bakery, which makes something called a Mountain Miche, very similar.  But it adds rye flour.I believe the real deal has no rye.  All sifted whole wheat with levain.  And, some spelt (found this info online somewhere).

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

VTSue - I attempted to make the Pain Poilane recipe included in the Bread Baker's Apprentice but I didn't have the right kind of flour to sift so had to make due with a mix of white and wheat. I doubt the result I got resembles a real Poilane at all, or even a good miche - it tasted very good, but it was nothing to die for. I also read about the spelt ingredient on the Poilane website, so I may try it again using sifted graham flour (aka coarse whole wheat) and some spelt. I'd love to know what your recipe is for a Poilane if you'd like to share, and what type of starter you use (firm, wet, rye, wheat, mix?) You can see my BBA version of a Poilane here.

VermontSue's picture
VermontSue

That is lovely, mountaindog!!  It looks very similar to mine.  I think my loaf is a bit more hydrated, but only a little.  I started by using the BBA recipe, but cross-referenced with the mixed-flour miche in Hamelman, and Thom Leonard's Country French Bread in Glezer's Artisan Baking.  I bought the largest size coiled-reed banetton that they make (around 12" I think), which works well for the final rise.  As I understand it, they bake Poilane in a wood-fired oven, which I don't have (Yet), but I am getting an excellent shiny dark crust by putting the stone at the top of the oven, baking at 475 and throwing in quite a bit of water when the bread goes in.  Other than that, it is work in progress.  I use King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour, which I can get because I live in VT, near the King Arthur store....  My goals for this bread are to increase its complexity of flavor.

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

VTSue - I tried making another Poilane-type loaf yesterday. I used a wet white starter, and I managed to find some "Graham" flour - which just means very coarse whole wheat flour - so I was able to sift out a lot of the bran. I made the final dough out of about 30% spelt, the rest sifted graham flour. I also used coarse grey celtic sea salt from the health food store (Poilane uses Normandy grey sea salt).

 

I got mixed results: I must say the flavor is lovely and I attribute that to the grey sea salt and the spelt. The only problem was with the proofing: the dough just would not rise a second time very well, even after 4-6 hours, so the crumb came out too dense. The first fermentaion I did overnight in my cool kitchen (about 64F), and it rose nicely in the bowl. Next morning I gently tightened it into a boule and put that in a banneton to rise for the final proof, and moved to a warmer spot, about 72F. The dough seems to have torn a bit as it rose only slightly, and then it started to dry out too much and never rose properly again (covered loosely with plastic). I wonder if the spelt and whole wheat flours had something to do with that (I know spelt has very little gluten), and whether it is better to go ahead and bake a whole wheat loaf like that right after the first very long fermentation when it is nice and risen? Perhaps the small amount of gluten in the dough could not stretch the dough a second time, and maybe I handled it too much when forming the boule?

 

I am also not sure if the sifted whole wheat flour reduced enough of the bran, or if I'm better off following the BBA recipe and mixing white with whole wheat flour, and maybe just adding a little spelt for flavor. I make the Thom Leonard bread frequently but I consider that more of a white loaf since I use mostly white AP flour with only about 25% being whole wheat for a little color and flavor. When you tasted the Poilane loaf in Paris, was it a dark bread like a whole wheat, or was it more like the Leonard loaf as it looks in Glezer's book?

 

Also, isn't the Poilane loaf supposed to have big holes, or is it dense??? Seems like I read in some places it is dense, and in others it has the big holes...

tony's picture
tony

My guess is that the starter wasn't quite up to the task. I have made a similar bread with whole rye flour in addition to the 30% spelt and have had satisfactory proofing at various room temperatures, including some refrigerator retarding on occasion. Perhaps just trying again with a starter that has proved its capability will be successful. Of course, you wouldn't have used the starter you did if you didn't think it was lively, so I don't know if my idea is very good.

 

I've never had Poilane bread, but I generally get a broad spectrum of hole sizes in the crumb up to an eighth and quarter of an inch (guessing, haven't measured).

VermontSue's picture
VermontSue

Hi Mountaindog,First let me say that I am by no means an expert!  However, maybe in the process of this conversation we will all resolve some issues with this bread.  Your last question was what kind of holes is Poilane "supposed" to have... I have eaten it, and remember it as somewhat dense and chewy, moist not crumbly.  There was a slighly irregular crumb, a few larger holes.  You could cut it with a penknife.  It was mid-brown inside.  The crust was somewhat leathery, but not rock-solid.  It had a complex flavor.  It made you want to learn how to bake it........I think that is probably more spelt than they put in.  And, your whole wheat flour may still be too coarse, and there might be too much bran.  Also, my opinion is that you always need to put in a bit of white flour.  For me, that takes the form of my starter, which I make with King Arthur artisan flour.  I wish I had the Normandy sea salt; I keep on looking for it, and have seen several imitations.  One of these days I'll figure out how to get it, as I think it's important to the flavor development.  I think with a kitchen as cold as 64 degrees, it's simply going to take longer than you think.  I get the starter reviving overnight with some additional flour and water, at about 68 degrees (if I'm lucky).  I end up with around 2-3 cups of starter, which is rather wet, just this side of poolish.  Next morning, I add around 5 cups of the white whole wheat flour I mentioned, and around a cup of spelt.  About a tablespoon of salt at that stage, not before.  Enough water to get to the very soft wet dough stage, similar to what you want for baguettes or rustic bread.  This is a pretty wet dough, because I want some larger holes, because I like them.  I also like the smooth resilient crumb you get this way.  I knead it for 10 min, let it rise in the bowl for around 2 hours, then I go for 2 folds, which I think greatly improves any wet dough's result, with around an hour between.  Then I form it and put in the (heavily floured) banetton.  The final rise can take 6 hours.  I wait until it almost fills the banetton before baking.   Whew!  So I think I spend more time in the rises.  The overall process is almost 24 hours sometimes.  I forgot to say that I put in around a cup of the white whole wheat flour with the starter to develop flavor overnight

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Sue, I've been following your discussion and thought I'd toss in my experience. For the starter, I use 7oz Barm (as in BBA) 4.5oz KA Bread Flour, 4.5oz KA organic WW, 4oz water, let rise to double, put in refrig overnight. Then, in the morning, I add the cut up starter to 18oz KA Bread Flour, 14oz KA organic WW, 3oz KA rye blend, 7/8 oz salt, and 24 oz water. The result is not as wet as you describe. It tends to double in 3-4 hrs. Then, I put it in a couche lined 8 qt. stainless bowl. It usually rises to double in about another 3 hrs. I bake at 500 for 5 minutes, then drop to 450 for about 25 minutes, then at 400 for another 20 minutes, or until internal bread temperature is over 200. I put water in a pan in the oven at the beginning. The bread I get looks a lot like the pictures I've seen. I have never eaten the actual Poilane bread, so I don't really know if it is a good rendition, but it is very popular with my family, and I love it.

 Recently, a friend of mine found "sifted whole wheat flour" at Littleton Gristmill in NH. I am trying it and will let you know how it goes. I am doing a recipe that is exactly the same as above, but using 32 oz sifted whole wheat flour in place of all the KAB and KAWW. I noticed the dough seemed heavier and drier, so maybe I needed to add water to it because of the change in flour. I think the gluten content may be lower, as it seems less elastic and resilient. So, maybe the result won't be so great. I think it may be that I will still want to add some high gluten bread flour or regular bread flour. I'm not sure what the gluten content of the "sifted whole wheat" flour is. They claim that the "extraction rate" is in fact around 90%, similar to what Peter Reinhart says about the sifted flour that Poilane uses. The flour looks to have a fair amount of bran still in it. It creates a color that is much like the 50/50 blend of KAB and KAWW. Anyway, I've been looking around for other versions of retail flour that claims to be "sifted whole wheat" and found some other examples, such as "Golden Buffalo" flour from Heartland Mill and "Sifted Red Wheat Flour" from Homestead Mill. I'm wondering if you or anyone reading this has more information on what these products are and whether they would work in this type of recipe.

 Regards, Bill Wraith

bwraith's picture
bwraith

It seems that using 100% "Littleton Grist Mill Sifted Whole Wheat" is not the right formula. The dough rose well, although I may have made it slightly too dry. However, it didn't spring much in the oven. The holes were very small, so it ended up being a too dense, too dark bread, not too different than using 100% whole wheat in the recipe. So, I guess it needs to have some regular bread flour added, as I had done before in the above recipe that does work well, at least I think so. I am going to try using 50% sifted whole wheat, 50% KA Bread flour and some rye, similar to the original recipe, but using the sifted whole wheat and see how that works.

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Thanks Tony and VTSue for your suggestions. I think my starter is fine as I used it the same day to make another recipe (Columbia French bread) and that came out fine. I'm thinking I used the wrong combo of flour with too much spelt and too much bran and that made the dough too heavy as you suggest. I looked at the Thom Leonard recipe again and I'll try it again using the exact combinations of whole wheat and white they suggest to see if that makes a better miche type bread (my previous version of that used too much white flour).

 

Yesterday's Poilane attempt was very dark inside with no holes, and I see on the poilane website the crumb looks much lighter and more hole-y than mine (see below). I also may have over-fermented it on the first rise and let it sit out too long at room temp.(about 8 hrs.) which I have read may cause a breakdown in gluten. If I was going to make a completely whole wheat dough like you do, Tony, perhaps I need to use a much higher proportion of starter in the recipe than that called for in the BBA Poilane recipe.

 

Here's the pic from the Poilane website:

Poilane loaf

 

VTSue, I was able to get my local health food market to order me a case each of the King Arthur Organic Artisan white AP flour and the Organic Whole Wheat 5 lb bags at a 10% case discount, so I'm all set with organic flour now. Previously I had used the regular King Arthur flours which are sold everywhere here in NY. I'm sure you have some great health food markets near you in VT, so perhaps they can order you some Celtic grey sea salt. I got a good sized bag and it wasn't as expensive as I thought it might be, I imagine it is the real deal as the bag says it is from Brittany, France (which is the Celtic part of France) - just watch out for some little pieces of stray seashells!

Kalaigor's picture
Kalaigor

My Gosh!  I am so excited that I found this site/thread!  Having lived in Paris for about 10 years some time ago, and being quite the gourmand, I very much missed Poilane, and good bread in general after having move to the DC area.  So much so that about 2 years ago I embarked on trying to bake a Poilane replica only to discover what a tightly kept secret the recioe is.  Over the course of the 2 years, I tried many variants and even built myself a wood fired bread/pizza oven in my back yard!  For the past year I strayed into baking multigrain rustic breads which I have quite perfected (outside oven certainly helps!) but over the past week or so suddenly had a hankering for a Poilane again.  I will try to resurect the bulk of my experience in the next few days and report to y'all. 

Thanks for all your info too! 

Kalaigor

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

kalaigor - I would love to try your ideas for the Piolane, esp. on the types and ratios of flours to use. My husband is in Paris right now visiting family - I told him to try the Poilane while there - I wish he could bring me a piece back but he'll be in the Alps the last week of his trip and I doubt it will keep that long. We plan to build some type of wood-fired oven in our yard too this spring, show us your oven pics sometime...Breadnerd has some great photos of his mud oven here.

Kalaigor's picture
Kalaigor

Hi Mountaindog!  I have had pretty good results mixing in a little rye flour and definitely almost as much white flour with the wheat.  I have all the proportions/calculations in a spreadsheet but it is not handy right now.  I used King Arthur.  Will give more details by the end of the week when I do a bake - just started to rebuild starter that has been in fridge for a few months....

Here is a pic of my oven I posted about 1 year ago.  Work on the appearance, alas, has not progressed.  but I have baked many a bread... and pizza. 

BTW, stale/dry Poilane is still good!  And you can always make bread crumbs.  The beauty of this bread is that it is almost never bad, regardless of age!

tony's picture
tony

I didn't know about the no-rye feature of the original pan Poilane, but I did read on the web site that they use 30% spelt flour.  For a while I made good bread with approximately a 93% extraction of freshly milled wheat, spelt, and rye flour in the ratio of 6:3:1.  I'd whirl up the berries in a Nutrimill and shake them through a sieve.  However, the hand-bolting was just too much trouble so I have taken to adding some quantity of artisan and germ-added wheat flour to freshly-milled whole grain spelt, wheat, and rye.  If 30% of the total flour is white I calculate I have the equivalent of a 92.5% extraction, on the assumption of 75% extraction for the white flour.  My arithmetic or my logic, or both, may be faulty.  Anyway, this too makes good bread, however divergent from the M. Poilane's.

 

Before long I'll try a no-rye version, excepting the rye in my sourdough culture, which would be less than 2% of the total flour by my usual method. 

SourdoughGirl's picture
SourdoughGirl

I had the opportunity to sample pain Poilane about two weeks before Poilane met his untimely death, but we didn't bite (we were walking past his shop while in Paris one evening, and it was still open; we discussed it, but had just had dinner, and so hunger didn't lead us on).  Egad, I do regret it. 

I wonder how the present loaves are different from those baked while he was alive, if at all, given the system he had for producing them? 

hibelingent's picture
hibelingent

Yes, I have tried both...The Poilane bread or 'miche' is their signature loaf featured on the cover of BBA book by Reinhart...I have had the Poilane bread bioth in Paris and by shipping to the USa and about to place another order to accompany some poularde au vin ( not coq) which I am making..the bread from paris arrives in about 1-1/2 to 2 days...can you believe it....not as long as it takes the Zingerman one to arrive..I have known about the Paul Saginaw and Arie food business  since its inception and also know Frank their cheif baker who was between BS and Ms in  engineering at U of  M when he was convinced to bake some bread for the Zingerman sandwiches...he stayed on and develped an immense line of artisan breads which are marketed everywhere...Comparing the two breads ( Poilane and Zingerman) is like comparing San Fancisco Sourdough to sourdoughs made elsewhere...They are both good but different in many ways....The sea salt used in Poilane is unique as are the ovens in which the prooofed bread is baked...the grains for the flour also differ...have you ever compared a French-made baguette with any other.....so, while you may come close, I doubt if you will ever achieve the full flavor and texture and appearance of the French Loaf,,,and, I really doubt is Brother Juniper, Peter Reinhart, or whatever he calls himself these days ( and he IS a superb and excellent baker-teacher-business man) can dupl;icate the uniqueness of the French Loaf...so, save your dollars and order in a real one.....you wonw't be dissapointed....Otherwise, stick with Peter Reinhart..his books and his formulas are truly amazing in and of themselves and for most people will not require a trip to paris for enjoyment of bread...and, if truth were knowmn, many of the French bread products first appeared in Vienna before Maria Antonia married King Louis XVI and changed the name of the 'hornchkin" to 'croissant", bringing it from Austria to Paris................

rhomp2002's picture
rhomp2002

Eric at Breadtopia had a writeup on the poilane loaves.  He ordered one for his birthday and wrote the whole think up for the Breadtopia website.