The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Decorated loaf

Uberkermit's picture

Decorated loaf

Hi folks,


Poilane bakery sells miches topped with decorative dough patterns. You can see an example of what I'm talking about here (in this case a thanksgiving turkey):


What I'm wondering is has anyone tried this or a similar technique at home? From what I can tell, the dough looks like it's been given some sort of wash to make it shiny. There is also a contrast between the rest of the loaf, which definitely looks like it's been dusted with flour. So this all leaves me with a few questions. Maybe you guys can help me pin down some answers.


1) What kind of dough is used for the decorative pattern? The poilane website says it's "made of leaven tamped with flour". Not too enlightening. I suppose "leaven" means that it does not contain salt (right?), but I'm not sure what "tamped with flour" means.

2) What kind of wash is used for the decorative pattern? Egg wash, melted butter, or something else?

3) How is the pattern attached to the rest of the loaf?

I plan on doing my own experiments, but was wondering if anyone out there might already have some insight.


Regards, -Chris


Henry's picture


I been making Decor loaves for some time.

They're popular at the farmers market

Hdecor flowerdecor flowerLeaf DecorLeaf Decor

Uberkermit's picture


If I squint my eyes real close to the screen that looks like what I'm talking about. Though I would definitely love to see larger photos of your work. What are your techniques for achieving this? (If you don't mind sharing your secrets!)



Edit: Here's a perhaps better example from the Poilane site

Floydm's picture

When you insert the image, be sure to select "Original" instead of "Thumbnail" for the size.

I fixed your post. Beautiful breadwork!

Cooky's picture

You can get that high shine on bread by painting it with a mixutre of water and cornstarch. I think the result it shinier than egg wash.


"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

Henry's picture


I just stepped into 21'st century technology and posted

larger images at Photobucket ...hruczynski

Works for you?


Uberkermit's picture

Cooky, thanks! I had not heard of the cornstarch and water technique before. I think that is definitely part of the answer.

Floyd, thanks for updating the images. Henry, those are amazing examples. So how's it done?? I guess I'm more interested in the mechanics and construction rather than the artistry. (Though it'd be great if you could teach us all how to create such artistic loaves, somehow I don't think that can be conveyed by written instruction!)


browndog's picture

Those are the most beautiful breads I have ever seen, (and around here that's saying something.) How could anyone ever bear to take a knife to them?

Henry's picture


Nothing worse than taking secrets to your grave.

Here is how I make my decorative loaves.

There are many different ways to make a décor plaque.

From the examples you provided from Poilane, it seems that some are from levain, some look yeasted and others are from “dead” dough.

At Europain 2005, the French team had displayed some really nice decorated baguettes;

they had interesting leaves on the breads.

 I went up and asked the guy afterwards in my lousy French how it was done:

“Levain dough, yeast is at 1 gm per litre of water.”

Lenotre sells décor loaves for special occasions such as birthdays, etc and his décor dough is made from dead dough:

white wheat flour 100%

water                      40%

salt                            1%

butter                        10%

Most dead dough usually has rye flour and the liquid is boiled water and glucose, cooled down.

Here’s the dough I use for my décor boules.

Flour (A/P or bread) at 100%

Milk (cold and not pre boiled) at 50%

or cold water and milk powder at 5%

Salt is minimum 2%, up to 3%

Fat (I use oil) at 6%

Yeast (instant) hmmmm .1% (that reads… point… one percent)

What that means is if your flour is 250 gms, instant yeast is very little (0.066)

and if you already know this stuff, my apologies.

For 250 gms of flour, I use about a third of a 1/8 t of instant yeast

So... here’s my recipe for the dough

 flour 250 gms, water 125 ml, milk powder 13gms, salt 6 gms, instant yeast ½ gm (don’t go crazy with those scales that weigh in 1/10th increments) and fat

(oil) 15ml (isn’t metric fun?)

It’s important to have stiff hydration.

I put some photos on

hopefully you are able to see them. You’ll notice under the “mix” photo that the dough needs to be worked to incorporate the bits of flour. At this point, add water in drops.

If your dough is too hydrated, image definition will suffer.

I repeat, you want to have stiff hydration.

Flatten out the dough, and refrigerate or freeze for half an hour or so.

Make up your plaques, ( I roll them out to about 2mm, which is about the thickness of a plastic bench scraper) and then immediately freeze them which is where they will stay until you are ready to bake.

I’ve frozen plaques two weeks before using them.

When you are ready for action, slash the loaf, spritz with water, take the décor from the freezer, place on top and bake. I have egg washed selective pieces in the past, as example, the heart in the “all you need is love” decors to make it stand out as the girl and boy hold the heart, but rarely do it now.

There is sugar in the dough from the milk and I find it gives a nice contrast to the boule, no egg wash necessary.

As for the writing, you can use commercial cocoa paste; I saw and used a recipe for the longest time, which consisted of flour, coffee and ketchup! but now I use egg white and cocoa. The white from one egg , added with cocoa powder and stirred to a consistency you are happy with to pipe, will give you a lot of writing paste.

This is how I made these decors and I hope the info is clearly presented and of help and inspiration to you.

Keep in mind there are some pretty talented individuals that are involved with bread and it’s décor

Ciril Hitz has to be one of the top guys and has an interesting website, well worth the visit.

J Hamelman has a lot of information in “Bread”(I love this book)

Special and Decorative Breads Volume one and two

to name just a few resources.

Kindest regards,

Baker Henry

Vancouver Canada



Paddyscake's picture

Am I correct in thinking that the plaques aren't palatable? They are visually very appealing!! artistry!!

Henry's picture


There was a customer, came every week at 8:50 and patiently stood smoking a cigarette while waiting for the market bell to ring at 9:00.

I asked him if he got invited to dinner parties a lot as he bought a decor loaf every week.

"No, this loaf is for me. I eat the entire bread over the weekend, including the


Is it palatable?

Depends who you ask.

Thanks for the kind words.


Paddyscake's picture

Palatable is probably a poor word choice. The plaque looks like it might be very hard and any case they are very pretty!

Uberkermit's picture


 Your instructions seem very clear and easy to follow. I will have to experiment and keep you posted on my progress. Thanks again, -Chris