With the death of her father Lionel in 2002, Apollonia Poilâne– then a 19-year-old Harvard student– became President of Poilâne, with a turnover of millions, staff of hundreds, shops in Paris and London, and a state-of-the-art manufacture at Bièvres, outside Paris, where at least 15,000 organic loaves are baked daily in 24 wood-burning ovens, exact replicas of the ovens used at the Paris locations. These loaves are shipped worldwide.
Forty Poilâne-trained bakers use just four ingredients: stone-milled wheat flour, water, a starter (that provides the leavening) and Brittany sea-salt. Rich in magnesium, selenium and iodine, the structural fibers are known to prevent constipation and possibly some digestive cancers. Another reason why the queue is so long outside Poilâne bakeries!
Now’s the time to stock up with Eiffel Tower Butter Cookies, available exclusively at the three Poilâne boutiques until the end of August (€ 4.90). They’re in cellophane bags, seven to a pack. “I remember bagging the signature punition cookies when I worked in the boutique during school holidays,” recalls Apollonia.
Having served her nine-month apprenticeship, Apollonia is proud to be a qualified baker. “I can’t tell you what a high I get from baking bread, the fulfillment it brings. A wheat seed transmits an unbelievable amount of information when it is planted,” she smiles.
“Scientifically, sourdough breathes, reacts to the seasons. The most tricky to bake is without salt, but there are no absolute rules, you have to be intuitive and adjust,” she says.
8 rue du Cherche-Midi, Paris 6th. Tel: 01 45 48 42 59
49 Boulevard de Grenelle, Paris 15th. Tel: 01 45 79 11 49. Open Sunday.
38 rue Debelleyme, Paris 3rd. Tel: 01 44 61 83 39. Open Sunday