In 1932, a young baker from Normandy came to Paris to open his first shop.
The bakery was located on 8 rue du cherche-midi in the artsy Saint- Germain des Prés district. Despite the fierce competition, he was determined to bake the traditional French sourdough loaves which were not as popular as baguettes.
At the time, there were 5 bakeries on rue du cherche-midi. Today, there is only 1.
Large round off-white crumb sourdough loaves are a traditional French bread. However, after World War II, the Parisians preferred white bread in opposition to the dark flour loaves they had to eat during the war.
Nevertheless, Pierre Poilâne saw a dual advantage to his four pound loaves: they kept longer and could be cut into large slices.
He continued to bake this bread using stone-ground flour, sea salt from Guérande and a wood-fired oven.
Lionel Poilâne took over the family business in the early 1970s. He had started his apprenticeship as a baker at the age of 14. Thanks to his travelling, he made contacts that later became his first international retailers. Despite the growth in the number of retailers, the baking techniques remained the same. Each loaf is handcrafted by a baker trained with Poilâne techniques. For Lionel Poilâne, quality was more important than quantity
In 1969, Lionel Poilâne met Salvador Dali. The artist soon began to order objects and sculptures made of bread. In 1971, he even ordered a whole bedroom made out of bread. The Spanish artist wanted to find out if he had mice in his house!
Other artists followed: Man Ray, the Lalannes, César…
To die for : ‘Punitions’ are small butter cookies made with wheat flour, butter, sugar and eggs. They’re perfect to nibble on with a cup of tea or coffee or to accompany a dessert. Where does their name come from? ‘Punition’ is French for ‘punishment’ and the name comes from a little game Pierre Poilâne’s grandmother used to play. She would call over her grandchildren seemingly to punish them and, instead, would open her palms to reveal a handful of butter cookies!
When i go shopping at Poilane, I always order a ” Chausson aux Pommes”, for the way back. I would certainly not, miss a “Galette des Rois” when it is the right moment.
8 rue du Cherche-Midi,
Tel +33 (0) 1 45 48 42 59