Jun 13, 2010

Lionel Poilâne

It's strange that I haven't talked about Poilâne (Poi-lahn) at all! Along side Peter Reinhart, Lionel Poilâne is my other baking role model. 

Lionel Poilâne, if you don't already know, was one of the most famous bakers. He inherited a small Parisian bakery in the Latin Quarter and changed it into a baking empire that centered around simplicity. Lionel actually didn't want to bake. He just wanted to live a normal life, but his father forced him to bake bread at his shop. 

Lionel learned the trade and became a baker. What set him apart from every other baker was the simplicity that he put into his bread. Apposing the popular trend of baguettes, Lionel believed in true and classic French bread, the boule. Not only did he believe in classic bread, he believed in making and baking it right. He took quality French flour, Normandy salt, and water from his well and infused it with his humble sourdough. 

Growing up in this, Lionel knew what was good bread, and he carried this into his business. Lionel was torn because he wanted to bake quality bread, but make more of it. Because of this, he revolutionized mass production of bread by inventing a bread manufactory. If you bread up the word you get manu and factory. Manu, Latin for hand, and factory. Each Poilâne loaf is made by hand --- let me repeat that --- by hand in one of his stores by one of his trained bakers in a classic brick oven.

Lionel Poilâne built his bakery and expanded it into England, but sadly on October 31 of 2002 he and his wife died in a helicopter crash. Their daughter, Apollonia, took on the business. Their boulangerie (bakery) still sits in the same place it has three generations ago. If you ever get the chance while your in Paris (you might think about bringing me!) stop by 8 rue du Cherche-Midi in the Latin Quarter and visit their bakery. You can also buy their signature Miche on their website (they ship globally). 

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