Episode 69
Thursday, December 12, 2019

Continuing a Paris sourdough legacy, Apollonia Poilâne on leading famous bakery

"Bread is not only a food for the body, but it should also be a food for the mind. So it should really feed you—inside, physically for the moment, but also be something that therefore allows you to have the freedom to think about other things."

This week, we're thrilled to welcome Apollonia Poilâne to Salt + Spine, the podcast on cookbooks.

Apollonia is the CEO of Poilâne, the famous Paris bakery her grandfather opened at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi in 1932.

When she was 18, her parents—Lionel and Irena—were both killed in a helicopter accident and Apollonia took the helm of the family business the next day. She juggled the responsibilities of running a bakery supplying bread around the globe with her studies at Harvard University, where she was earning a degree in economics.

The significance of Poilâne's breads is unmatched. When Apollonia took over the bakery in in 2002, they were supplying bread to the ElysÊe Presidential Palace and accounted for somewhere between 1-2.5% of all bread consumed in Paris; across the city, restaurant windows would read "Ici, pain Poilâne," meaning "Here, we serve Poilâne bread."

"I believe that in many ways, all of the good bread we have now in the United States exists thanks to Poilâne's beautiful miche," writes restauranteur and cookbook author Alice Waters, in a foreword to the Poilâne cookbook.

Today, Poilâne's produced over 5,000 loaves daily, which are shipped to more than 40 countries. A team of more than 200 people bake around-the-clock at Poilâne's facilities, including with the original 100-ton, wood-fired brick oven in the bakery's basement on rue du Cherche-Midi.

The bakery is perhaps most famous for it's massive "hug-sized" loaves—so large, you can wrap your arms around it. And, using a "piece of dough" to start each day's dough, the bakers at Poilâne have kept the same starter going since Apollonia's grandfather began baking it nearly 90 years ago.

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