Mr. Poilane might have rolled over in his grave this morning if he saw me eat his prized bread, arguably the best bread in the world, smeared with peanut butter.
We arrived home from France last night with our kitchen in the midst of being renovated, no stove, oven, sink or food in the fridge, but there was peanut butter and I had carefully carried a huge (12 inch diameter?) round Miche Poilane across the Atlantic, so that's what I had for breakfast. But alas, this post is not about peanut butter and I am not going to try to argue it's virtues with the French (I've tried, they won't hear any of it). What I want to talk about today is the bread, pain Poilane.
I had read about it's carmelized crust, chewy interior, the famous starter, the stone milled flour and sel de Guerande that lend Poilane's bread it's distinct flavour and texture. When we decided to spend a few days in Paris on our way down South and a day on the way home, the one must on my list of things to was to stop in at Poilane. Day one we headed to the rue du Cherche-Midi, the tiny Poilane bakery was just as you would imagine a perfect Parisian bakery, lined with beautifully flaky viennoiseries and the signature round miches engraved with a P. I asked the woman for a quarter loaf and she sliced it with a huge apparatus that I can only compare to a paper cutter, we took it home and tasted it that night with my favourite butter flecked with crystals of sea salt. Everything I had read about Poilane's famous bread was true. The rustic crust was almost black on the bottom and the flour had carmelized and released flavours of molasses and toast, the crumb was chewy and moist, salted just enough so that you knew it was there but you couldn't taste it, the starter lent it's little bit of acidity and the butter smeared on top just took it to the next level.
The next day we wandered around Paris some more and I insisted we take the Metro to the rue du Cherche-Midi again for another quarter of a miche. I made sandwiches with brie for me and jambon buerre for JS to eat in the train with a bottle of wine on our way down south. I told myself that on our last day in Paris I would get an entire loaf and haul it with me back across the ocean to take that taste home with me if only for a few days. We had to go to the alternate location because the Cherche-Midi store is closed on Sundays, but luckily the other store on boulevard de Grenelle was open. So, we all headed across the entire city to the 15th (where there is really nothing else to see or do except drink very expensive coffee in touristy cafes and then pay to go pee as we learned) on 3 different metro lines to get the famous bread. Then I carried it all around Paris and back to our friend J's place that night and then on the RER, our transatlantic flight, the Toronto airport and another flight and car ride home and into my makeshift kitchen where it sits proudly on my cutting board as I type this.
I have since gone grocery shopping and have bought some roquefort and chevre with which to enjoy it (the bread has it's pride too) and I intend on eating and enjoying every last carmelized crumb.