For four years, Apollonia Poilâne, the third-generation head baker and CEO of Poilâne, the storied Parisian bakery widely credited with saving sourdough bread from gastronomic obscurity, ran the company from her dorm room. Apollonia took over in 2002, shortly before she was set to head to Harvard and after both her parents died tragically in a helicopter accident. Her team FedExed loaves weekly for quality control.
But what truly sets Apollonia’s new cookbook, Poilâne, apart is her—and her family’s—remarkable history. Apollonia’s grandfather Pierre founded Poilâne in 1932, when increasingly industrialized bakeries were beginning to rely on white flour and commercial yeast. Not Pierre. He favored a more provincial method, using stone ground wheat and cultivating his own starter. The neighborhood welcomed the approach and Poilâne became renowned on the Left Bank. (Fun fact: Poilâne accepted art as payment for his loaves when his artist patrons couldn’t pay.) Under his son, Lionel (who rollerbladed to work in a silver winged cap in the ’80s), the bakery expanded its distribution as far as Hong Kong, South Africa, and New York, where emphatic fans were willing to have the bread overnighted (including Ina Garten and Martha Stewart).
In Poilâne, you can decide between following the nine-page recipe for the family’s iconic, four-pound sourdough boule or all manner of recipes designed to help the average person use up their almost-stale bread (something which, anyone with a serious baking habit can tell you, happens quickly and regularly).
Most playful among them is the bread sandwich, “a piece of thin bread, buttered and toasted, sandwiched between two buttered slices of untoasted bread.” We favor slightly more approachable, but equally inventive recipes, like her Bread Granola or Walnut-Bread Parsley Pesto, below. When a trip to the celebrated bakery itself isn’t in the cards, the recipes below are the next best thing.
Serves 6 – 8
I love the versatility of granola and enjoy it as a stand-alone snack, with milk and yogurt, or even sprinkled over ice cream. In this version, chunks of dry bread take the place of the usual oats. This is a terrific way to use up leftover bread, especially breads with nuts or dried fruit. For more crunch and flavor, I add puffed rice and finely chopped hazelnuts and almonds. The result is crispy, crunchy, chewy, and just slightly sweet. Feel free to tweak the recipe using your favorite breads and different puffed grains and nuts. You can even add chopped dried fruit.
1 pound Walnut Sourdough or other sourdough, 2 to 3 days old, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks (about 10 cups)
½ cup (57 g) whole hazelnuts, toasted and cooled
½ cup (57 g) whole almonds, toasted and cooled
½ cup (9.3 g) puffed rice
¾ cup (177 ml) wildflower honey
Fine sea salt
1. Position a rack in the middle and preheat the oven to 325°F (170°C).
2. In a food processor, process the bread to coarse crumbs. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. Add the hazelnuts and almonds to the food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Add them to the bowl with the bread crumbs.
3. Add the puffed rice and toss to combine. Add the honey and a pinch of salt and toss to coat. Transfer the granola to a large baking sheet and bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden and fragrant, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely.
4. Stored at room temperature in an airtight container, the granola will keep for up to 3 months.
Walnut Bread-Parsley Pesto
Walnut bread is a great replacement for both the nuts and the cheese in pesto. You can substitute a thick slice of Poilâne-Style Sourdough and ¼ cup walnuts for the walnut bread here. Though basil is more traditional, I love the bold flavor of parsley, plus it’s available year-round. Serve over pasta or on crostini.
2 thick slices Walnut Sourdough (see below) or other walnut bread, diced (see headnote)
4 loosely packed cups (120 g) coarsely chopped fresh parsley (from 2 large bunches)
⅔ cup (160 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. In a food processor or blender, pulverize the bread into fine crumbs. Add the parsley and a few tablespoons of the olive oil and pulse until the parsley is coarsely chopped. Slowly pour in the remaining olive oil and process to a puree. Season with salt and pepper and pulse to combine. The pesto will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 5 days.