The Fresh Loaf

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Pain Paillasse Revisited

DonD's picture

Pain Paillasse Revisited


When I first saw the twisted shaped baguettes posted by Shiao-Ping on her blog, I was intrigued. Then I read the posting by Chouette22 on the Pain Paillasse by Aime Pouly and found out that it is an Artisanal Bread made in Switzerland, I was fascinated and wanted to know more about the man and his breads. I purchased Pouly's book 'Le Pain' and studied it thoroughly.

Having spent one year of college in Geneva in the late sixties, I have always had a soft spot for the beautiful country of Switzerland. Although, the Pain Paillasse was not around when I was there, I was determined to try to duplicate it. Problem is the recipe is a closely guarded secret that Aime Pouly only shared with two of his most trusted friends.

From the description and photographs of the basic Pain Paillasse, I understood it to be a Levain and White Flour based Baguette where the high hydration dough is twisted like a wringed towel before proofing and baking without any scoring. Although Pouly refers to his preferment as Levain, his formula for Levain is a mixture of Flour, Water and Yeast at 100% hydration so my guess is that it is really a Poolish instead. However for my first attempt, I decided to use a Poolish preferment made with a mature Liquid Levain instead of the Instant Yeast (similar to the Whole Wheat Levain that Hamelman described in his book). I chose the Liquid Levain to control the sourness from the production of Acetic Acid. To balance the sourness of the Levain, I used the principles of the Gosselin Pain a l'Ancienne formulation first published by David Snyder to extract extra sweetness from the dough.


Flour Mix

300 Gms AP Flour

150 Gms Bread Flour

30 Gms WW Flour

20 Gms Dark Rye Flour

Levain Poolish

125 Gms Flour Mix

125 Gms Water

25 Gms Mature Liquid White Flour Levain (100% Hydration)


375 Gms Flour Mix

200 Gms Ice Cold Water + 50 Gms Water

9 Gms Atlantic Grey Sea Salt

1/8 Tsp Instant Yeast

 Pains Paillasse Proofing

 Pains Paillasse

 Pain Paillasse Crumb


1- Make Levain Poolish and ferment overnight for 8 hrs until tripled in volume.

2- Mix remaining Flour Mix with the Ice Water for 1 min. at low speed w/ flat beater and autolyse overnight for 8 hrs.

3- Mix Levain Poolish, Dough, Salt and Yeast with remaining water using flat beater on low speed for 1 min. Switch to dough hook and knead at low speed for another minute. Let rest for 30 mins.

4- Stretch and fold in the bowl using the James MacGuire method 4 times at 1 hr interval.

5- Dough should have nearly doubled in volume by the 4th fold. Divide dough in 3 and preshape into rounds and let rest 15 mins.

6- Shape into long baguettes, flour generously and twist baguettes before proofing for 45 mins.

7- Bake in preheated oven at 460 degrees with steam for 10 mins.

9- Continue baking without steam for another 12 mins at 430 degrees.

10- Turn off oven and let rest in oven with door ajar for 10 mins.

11- Remove baguettes and cool on rack.


The dough developed nicely during fermantation and was quite extensible but at 75% Hydration was not easy to handle. Generous flouring during shaping helped.

Oven spring was good, the crust had deep golden color and was quite crunchy. The crumb was cream color, fairly open with medium softness and a slight chewiness. The taste had a hint of toastiness and a slight tang balanced with a sweet creamyness (which is the trademark of the Gosselin Pain a l'Ancienne). Overall, I was quite pleased with the results. Next time, I will try using all AP Flour with a touch of Rye and a true Poolish which I think will be closer to Pouly's formulation. I would be curious to hear the detailed description from someone who has tasted the authentic Pain Paillasse.





dmsnyder's picture

I would imagine getting such even twisting is quite a challenge. Those are beautiful.


DonD's picture

Actually, the dough being extensible, it was not very hard to twist it providing you dust it with plenty of flour. BTW, I used your double steaming method but it did not show because the loaves were not scored!


wally's picture


Wow, those are really unusual looking loaves!  Can you tell me more about the technique you used in twisting them?  Did you hold the baguette at both ends and twist, or make twists at intervals from one end to the other, or????


DonD's picture

I was attracted to the way these loaves look because it was simple but yet nobody thought about it before this guy. From the photos, the loaf is kind of free form with twisted knots meaning that there are sections where it is tightly twisted interspersed with more relaxed sections. I started by twisting it evenly from one end and then try to overtwist sections at intermittent intervals sort of like when you stuff sausages and twist the filled casing in sections. This guy is supposed to be quite a lady's man and it is funny that in his book there is a picture of him showing Miss Switzerland how to twist the unproofed loaf!


wally's picture


I'll give your recipe a spin!  Nice to have intentional relief from gringes!


chouette22's picture

... that you did this research, Don! I will greatly benefit from it, since I am also continuing to try getting close to the secret of this bread.

How did you like the rest of Pouly's book? Would you recommend it?

PS: Your croissants and pains au chocolat are still very high up on my to-bake list. Hopefully I'll get to them soon!

DonD's picture

Hi Chouette22,

Since you have tasted the real thing, can you describe what it is like? Is it a sourdough based baguette or a milder Poolish baguette? From just the look of the crumb, based on my experience, my guess is that it is a Poolish baguette because a Levain baguette tends to have more regular and somewhat less open crumb.

As for the book, there are gorgeous photographs of all kinds of breads. I especially like the section about the breads from the different Swiss Cantons. The recipes are shown but they are vague and nebulous at best and of course there is no recipe for the Pain Paillasse. I think that you can take the recipes, read between the lines and interpolate to come up with workable interpretations. I am glad I bought it (from though because I was able to learn about the incredible variety of Swiss breads.