When I come to France, all I want to do is eat pastry. Should an immigration officer ask me my reason for entering France, I'll simply say "To eat pastry". Forget chocolate, I can always get good chocolate in Sydney, Tokyo, London or anywhere else I travel. However pastries like this are much harder to find. Poilâne is an institution, their sourdough bread of miche is said to be legendary. Using stone-ground flour, sea salt from Guérande and a wood-fired oven they set about conquering the world, one loaf at a time.
So a visit to Paris isn't complete with a visit to their flagship store on the rue de cherche Midi. I have tried Poilâne bread before as it is available in London so we visited just to "take a perv" at the store and buy some pastries and some other breads. It's an unusual set up. The shopfront is in a small street and hints not at the auspiciousness of the bakery. A stern looking unsmiling woman sits at the counter taking money while a group of older and younger woman flutter about backs to the wall watching customers and straightening displays of bread.
There is a small selection of breads and pastries and a sample box of their flower petal shaped butter cookies. The miche is sold by the weight and you can choose the amount of thinly sliced bread that you want. One woman offers me a sable biscuit from the box while I am browsing and a friendly young woman, a dead ringer for Natalie Portman offers her help. They package up the items for you, you don't help yourself, and they wrap it and write the price on the paper bag and hand it to you and you then pay the stern madam behind the counter.
We take our goodies back to the hotel to try. Today I've selected the brioche loaf, a box of "Punitions" butter cookies 4.65 for a gift, an apple turnover (with no doubt a fancy sounding French name that i can't recall) and a small currant and rye roll 1. Total damage 11.60.
The broiche has small spikes on top and is lovely and buttery inside. I eat this with some fresh tomato and chicken and the butter inside the bread means that any additional butter is not necessary.
The still-warm apple turnover is reason why the French do pastries so well. It's puffy, buttery, crispy and alluring. Alluring I say? Yes, when I know I have to give my husband half and it calls my mouth again and again to eat more, it's most certainly alluring.
Rye roll with raisins
The raisin and rye roll is good and fresh, much nicer than any other rye I've had.
As for the box of butter cookies, they're for a gift but my sample at the store revealad them to be lovely crispy buttery sugar cookies. Not exactly earth shatteringly novel but still a lovely gift when giving a loaf of bread may seem strange. And the recipient? My sister ate the box in two sittings. As for the name Punition, you guessed it. It is French for punishment and the name comes from a game Pierre Poilânes grandmother used to play. She would call over her grandchildren apparently to punish them and, instead, would open her palms to reveal a handful of butter cookies.
There is also a place to the left of the Poilâne bakery where you can buy Poilâne breads although when we visit it looks closed (although the times said that it was open). And given neither of us were hungry and they don't do takeaway, we'll have to leave it until a time where we can appreciate it better.
8 rue de Cherche Midi, 6th arrondisment Paris
Also locations at:
49 bld de Grenelle, Paris 15th
T.+33 (0) 1 45 79 11 49
Open on Sundays
46 Elizabeth Street, Londres SW1W
T. +44 (0) 207 808 4910