To food lovers the world over, a trip to Paris is not complete without a visit to Poilâne. Ina Garten raves about the bread’s “extraordinary quality.” Martha Stewart says the P in Poilâne stands for “perfect.” For the first time, Poilâne provides detailed instructions so bakers can reproduce its unique “hug-sized” sourdough loaves at home, as well as the bakery’s other much-loved breads and pastries. It tells the story of how Apollonia Poilâne, the third-generation baker and owner, took over the global business at eighteen and steered it into the future as a Harvard University freshman after her parents were killed in a helicopter crash.
Beyond bread, Apollonia includes recipes for pastries such as the bakery’s exquisite but unfussy tarts and butter cookies. In recipes that use bread as an ingredient, she shows how to make the most from a loaf, from crust to crumb. In still other dishes, she explores the world of grains: rice, corn, barley, oats, and millet. From sunup to sundown, Poilâne traces the hours in a baker’s day, blending narrative, recipes, and Apollonia’s philosophy of bread.
Pollonia Poilâne, the 35-year-old CEO of Poilâne, began life cradled in a crib made from a bread basket. She has expanded the business internationally, and Poilâne now ships to more than 5,000 loaves to forty countries. Poilâne has six bakehouses in Paris, London, and Antwerp.
Makes 14 croissants
Though the croissant—made from a yeasted dough folded around a slab of butter and rolled to create layers of buttery, flaky goodness-probably hailed from Austria, it was perfected in France, where it has rightfully become iconic. Some pastry chefs like a brioche-esque, almost cakey croissant, but I’m partial to one with a drier, flaky texture because I prefer the way that a flaky croissant reveals its layers as you nibble it.
Some people begin by biting off both tips, which tend to be the crispest pieces. Others work their way from one end to the other. Here’s my method: First I break off one tip, then I gently pull up the top of the exposed edge, unravelling the layers like yarn off a skein and eating it in bits as I go. That way, each bite alternates between the crisp exterior and soft interior.
Because this recipe makes more than a dozen croissants, I have included ideas for using them, such as for sandwiches (page 162) and in a bread pudding (page 220). You can also split the dough into two portions and use half for plain croissants and half for pains au chocolat (page 86). Making croissants isn’t hard, but it does take time. You can spread the work over a few days or even weeks. You can also freeze the unbaked croissants, which means you can have warm homemade croissants ready for lucky family or friends at breakfast.
370 g (2¾ cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
125 g (¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons) bread flour
¼ cup (55 g) sugar
1 package (2¼ teaspoons; 7 g) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) lukewarm water
¼ cup (60 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons (12 g) fine sea salt
2½ sticks (10 ounces; 284 g) unsalted butter, preferably cultured (see Note), softened
1 large egg, beaten with
1 tablespoon (15 ml) water for egg wash
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine both flours, the sugar, and yeast. In a separate bowl, vigorously whisk the water, milk, and salt until the salt dissolves. Add the mixture to the flour and mix on medium-low speed just until the dough comes together.
Switch to the dough hook (or, if you’re kneading by hand, transfer to a lightly floured work surface). Increase the speed to medium-high and knead until the dough is smooth and somewhat elastic, about 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, and up to overnight.
Meanwhile, in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, attachment and in a clean bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Scrape the butter onto a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap, shape it into a 6-inch (15-cm) square, and store it in a cool area. (You want the butter just malleable and not cold; you can refrigerate it, but let it soften at room temperature before using it.)
Lightly flour a work surface. Transfer the dough to the surface and roll it into a 9-inch (23-cm) square. Position the butter block on the dough square so that each corner of the butter square points at the middle of one side of the dough. Gently pulling on one corner of the dough, lift and stretch the flap over the butter block until it just reaches the center of the block. Repeat with the other corners of the dough to completely envelop the butter, then pinch the seams together to seal in the butter.
Turn the dough over and roll it out into a 20-by- 10-inch (50-by-25-cm) rectangle. With a long side of the rectangle facing you, fold one-third of the left side of the dough over the center, then fold the dough from the right side over that, so the dough is folded like a business letter. Use a dry pastry brush to brush off excess flour (too much flour will cause the croissants to be tough). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, and up to 2 hours.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out toward the open sides into another 20-by- 10 inch (50-by-25-cm) rectangle. Fold again as described in the previous step; this is your first turn. Chill for another 2 hours. Repeat the rolling, folding, and chilling process two more times, for a total of 3 turns.
After the final turn, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (At this point, the dough can be refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 3 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator before shaping and baking.)
When you’re ready to form the croissants, line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Unwrap the chilled dough. Cut it in half and wrap one half in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you work with the other half. (Or, if you like, use the other half to make a half batch of pains au chocolat, page 86; or freeze the other half for up to 3 months.)
Roll the half you are working with into a 20-by- 10-inch (50-by-25-cm) rectangle. (If the dough resists rolling at any point, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes to let it relax.) Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 7 isosceles triangles (equal on two sides), each with a base of about 4½ inches (11.5 cm). You’ll end up with little scraps of dough at each end; if you like, roll these into smaller, less perfectly shaped croissants as a baker’s treat.
Make a ½-inch (1.25-cm) vertical cut in the middle of each triangle’s base; this makes it easier to roll the triangles up. Gently pull on the tip of one triangle to stretch it slightly, and then, starting at the base and splaying it out slightly where it’s cut, roll the triangle up toward the point. Set the croissant on the baking sheet with its point tucked underneath so it doesn’t unroll while rising. Curl in the tips and pinch the tips closed; they will spread open during proofing, but this helps the croissant keep its curved shape. (I like my croissants well rounded, with the ends curled in like the legs of a crab. This is not only aesthetically pleasing, attesting to extra attention to detail on the part of the baker, but it also reflects the pastry’s original inspiration, the crescent moon.)
Repeat with the remaining triangles, being sure to leave at least 1½ inches (3.75 cm) between them to allow them to rise without touching. Then repeat the same cutting and shaping with the remaining dough if making the full batch. (At this point, the shaped croissants can be chilled overnight, but they will take longer to rise in the next step. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Place them, still on the baking sheets, in the freezer until firm, then store airtight in a freezer bag for up to 3 months. Before baking, defrost overnight in the refrigerator, then let rise at room temperature on a parchment-lined baking sheet.) Cover the croissants with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in size, about 2 hours. (If your home is cool—under 75°F/24°C— place a tray of just-boiled water in the bottom of your oven and, without turning it on, place the croissants in the oven to rise. Make sure you remove them before you preheat the oven for baking.)
Position a rack in the upper and lower thirds and preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
Using a pastry brush, gently brush the croissants with the egg wash. Bake until they are a deep golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Serve the croissants warm or at room temperature. Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.