Monday, February 17, 2014


It happened on New Year's Eve! When we went to a friends house to join their family and celebrate bringing in the New Year. A wonderful dinner was planned around a loaf of bread. But not BakeHouse bread (it's rare that the bread baker goes to a party without bringing bread). It was to be a loaf of bread that had traveled all the way from Paris, France!

For me it was like meeting a celebrity of sorts. Everyone and anyone who loves true sourdough bread and Paris will speak of the famous Poiláne Bakery and the giant Miche that is shipped around the world.

It had taken a beating getting to Las Cruces, New Mexico wrapped in its double, Kraft paper bag. Our friends had received the loaf as a gift from a dear friend who has a great appreciation for culinary delights.

Once it arrived it was quickly wrapped in foil and put in the freezer. On New Year's Eve morning it was taken out of the freezer and left on the counter to thaw. When the time came to cut the loaf into thin slices for Tartines, it had only thawed about an inch in from the outside crust with the rest of the 4 lb loaf still frozen! Since the sharks were circling from hunger, the loaf was then put into a 350° oven to at least get enough of the loaf thawed so more slices could be made. The slices were then put on a grill for the Tartines. Whew . . . by this time I'm thinking "Yikes, if this poor loaf of bread holds up to this abuse, it will be amazing"!

Tom was in charge of cutting the loaf of partially frozen bread.

Tom then helped our hostess assemble the Tartines.

We made Smoked Salmon Tartines along with Roast Beef Tartines

It was a wonderful evening experiencing this loaf of bread. As I savored it's flavor I imagined the journey it had made starting from kernels of Wheat in Europe, to a loaf of bread and arriving in New Mexico!

A few days into the New Year I found that I couldn't stop thinking about this bread. The artist in me just had to make it! The thought of being able to capture the essence of this famous bread challenged me. I started doing a lot of research. Everything seemed so complicated, and it frustrated me. It seemed that the biggest hurdle I was going to have to overcome was the need for what's called High Extraction Whole Wheat Flour. I was not happy with the thought of having to track down a  flour supplier again, but I wasn't happy with the solutions that were offered in any of my reading material either. In researching suppliers for High Extraction Flour I stumbled across a baker that used White Whole Wheat Flour grown and milled in the high elevations of Montana. This flour is a Hard White Spring Wheat variety.

From Left to Right. High Gluten Unbleached White Flour,
White Whole Wheat Flour (in the middle) and Course Ground Whole Wheat Flour.
After reading about this White Wheat variety, and seeing the specs for the milled flour, I had a gut feeling that is was going to be my solution. I made the Poiláne style loaf just the way I make our big Whole Wheat Miche. As I handled the dough throughout the morning, I couldn't get over the color of the dough. Think of a Golden Palomino Horse - it was brilliant. And the dough was so incredibly soft, like tender skin but extremely strong. It was a pleasure to work with. I made my loaves into 2 lb mini miches. Once they came out of the oven, they had such a delicate sweet aroma - it was . . . . captivating! I couldn't wait to cut into one of the loaves on Saturday morning to see what the characteristics of the bread would be. And to my amazement - when I put my loaf along side the little bit of the authentic Poiláne loaf that had been given to me, it was a thrilling moment!

The original Poiláne is the smaller slice on the Left. The BakeHouse's bread is on the Right.
The flavor was so similar I found myself in disbelief! Could it be? It was so wonderful to actually have a piece of the real Poiláne left so we could taste test one against the other.

The real test came when we brought the loaves to the market. We named our version The Rustic Peasant Loaf. They sold out immediately.

I'm looking forward to making Tartines again, but this time on a fresh loaf made right here in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Thoughtfully - Kath