Whenever I'm asked what I love most about Paris, the reply is of course the food. More specifically, the boulangeries.
Admittedly not all bread in Paris is created equal, but there are those places that are off the charts. One place in particular is Poilâne. Poilâne is probably France’s most famous bakery, founded in 1932 on the chic rue du Cherche Midi.
The bakery welcomes you with beautifully crafted wrought iron door handles made into the shape of wheat sheaves and then as you enter you are overcome by the warm yeasty smell of freshly baked bread and pastries.
This bakery produces the most famous starter bread in the world simply called pain Poilâne or miche Poilâne. They have taken the most humble of ingredients, bread, salt and water and have elevated it to an art form. One of the things that make Poilâne’s bread so good is the traditional manufacturing process. They use stone-milled gray flour and Guérande salt. A slow natural fermentation process is used which is what helps the bread develop that deep, earthy flavor that is key, and then baked in wood-burning ovens.
The bread is formed into giant wheels, of which you can buy a half or quarter, and boasts a thick crust. The top is slashed with the signature “P” and the bottom is slightly charred to perfection. The moist, fragrant crumb begs for some creamy butter and fresh fruit preserves. Aside from this star item, the bakery also sells specialty breads that are baked with rye flour, raisins or Périgord walnuts.
The wooden slat shelves that support the loaves of bread wrap around the perimeter of the tiny shop. There are also Poilâne-endorsed accessories that make lovely gifts for the bread lover: embroidered aprons, bread bags, bread knives, bread boxes and homemade jams.
There are croissants that take you’re your breath away
as well as flans, apple tartlets, and pale blond butter cookies (which can be sampled from a basket at the register) are all for the taking.
Poilâne’s breads are so distinctive and delicious that loyal fans world wide clamor to have them shipped to far-flung locations. Fortunately, the bread’s crusty exterior and chewy interior lasts up to a week and renders it hardy enough for the voyage, just in case you won’t be able to make a little trip to Paris yourself, grâce à Dieu (thank goodness).