The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Poilane short fermentations, Yogurt?

Gadjowheaty's picture

Poilane short fermentations, Yogurt?

Hello everyone, been away a long time.  Medical stuff has kept me still-bound for a long time.

Just trying to pick up a knife, and a banetton from time to time.  Knowing the reputation of Poilane (very sad to say, never been there yet), I picked up the book.  Couple questions.

The basic recipe - this is their flagship?  I am very humble in saying this but I've gotten much better results in terms of flavor and complexity using Hamelman from starter through to finished miche.  Can anyone comment?

Secondly, I don't understand the use of yogurt as a starter "seed."  I understand runnier yogurts contain mesophilics, but most yogurts I know contain entirely thermophilic bacteria, not kicking in until 115-122F or so.  There would be a very tiny amount of mesophilics, but I'm puzzled by this notion since s. thermophilus et al would be in the firmer commercial examples I consume. Is she perhaps talking about a runnier, mesophilic-based yogurt?  Any good commercial examples to use?

I've used Chez Panisse's unsulfured grapes, as well as their potato starter, to great results from years in Chicago.  Unfortunately in our move to Madison, my 12-year old or so starter froze and died.  I've not been too pleased with results since.

I'm the last person to question anything baking.  You guys are astounding, and obviously pretty laughable I'd be querying on Apollonia Poilane's method here.  Just wondering what your experiences are.  Many thanks.


idaveindy's picture

I don't have the book, but.... the reviews seem to indicate that the book does not  have the commercial Poilâne bread formula.

As far as starter cultures, a really good performing one is Carl's 1847 Oregon Trail sourdough starter, available for a $1 donation at    It refreshes well, stays alive in the fridge, and performs well leavening/raising the dough.

But, I am not personally satisfied with the taste of it, so I am going back to a Cultures for Health starter, available on Amazon.

I may pick up the Poilane book, out of curiosity, when the used price dips below $10, including shipping.

HansB's picture

I am fortunate to have been to Poilane in Paris a few times. I think that their bread is really good! I preordered the book back in April and was very excited when it shipped. It is a beautiful book, well made with nice photo's. What it lacks is that their formulas have no relationship to Poilane bread. I returned mine the day I received it. Very disappointing.  :(

suave's picture

I can almost guarantee that there is no relation between what's in the book and what actually happens in the bakery.  We've seen it already with Kayser.

PS.  re: Mmle Poilane - my understanding is that she never worked on the manufacturing side of the business, definitely not at the same time as her father.

Gadjowheaty's picture

Thank you all.  Afraid it confirmed my gut check.  I couldn't believe I was looking at basically one miche, not very good, with a variation then on to any number of items generically found in any number of other sources.  I was really hoping for a definitive text on their approach and techniques.  The loaf I made using the poilane book, it lasted about a day, the same as any cultured-yeast baguette.  My levain boules, batards, etc., go for many days, one of the things I love about authentic sourdough.

My Hamelman is broken in two - binding gave way some time ago.  Probably a good sign.  I have several of Peter Reinhart's books coming from the library and will likely be trying one or several of his books as I know his reputation here.  Also as I mentioned, all those years ago, had such tremendous results seeding per the Chez Panisse cookbook.

Appreciate it very much.

Bröterich's picture

Maybe a bit of topic but this article got me interested in bread baking a few years ago. As the author writes he tried to copy Polaine bread and came up with this recipe. It works quite well in my opinion:

I'm not sure if one really has to copy a bread style 'exactly'. In the end it comes down to what tastes best 😁



wvdthree's picture

Hi Gadjowheaty,

                          I looked at the Poilane book today at Barnes and Noble and was disappointed in what I read. Yes, the addition of yogurt and commercial dry yeast. I have been to Poilane in Paris and as others have noted I doubt this recipe has much to do with the original. Although from various sources I understand that in France a bakery can advertise "Pain au Levain" while at the same time being allowed to add small amounts of commercial yeast.


I have several strong starters going and live in Madison WI. If that is where you now live I would be happy to meet up and give you a portion of my starter. One of the ones I am currently maintaining is one from Madison Sourdough. I took two of their Sourdough Bread classes. PM me if you would like.