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Poilane style sourdough

Updated: Wed, 3 November, 2021

The original recipe for pain Poilâne, the famous Parisian artisan bakery bread, is not available to mere mortals. Mine is as close as possible except for the addition of 'old dough' or baking in a wood fired oven.

pain poilane

What is Poilâne?

Poilâne is the legendary, best-in-the-world loaf of bread or 'miche' as per the French word for 'loaf'. This epitome of artisanal traditional loaf, made all by hand, was developed by Pierre and then his son Lionel Poilâne in a Parisian boulangerie in 1930s.

The bakery is at present run by Apollonia Poilâne, Lionel’s eldest daughter.

What's special about Poilâne bread?

Pain Poilâne is all about stoneground flour, natural fermentation and wood-fired oven. Lacking the last element, I can’t very well say I make authentic pain Poilâne!

And anyway I believe the recipe is a bit of a secret squirrel, in the league with Sacher, Coca-Cola and KFC crispy breadcrumbs (okay – I KNOW the other two are not in the same league as Sacher).

But the loaf that comes out of this recipe is outstanding.

poilane style artisan wholemeal bread

What flour goes into Poilâne?

What is known is that the bread uses stoneground whole wheat flour, but with some of the bran removed, just to be extra pernickety in a Parisian way. There is an addition of spelt flour too, and my version has a little rye as well, after Breadtopia’s excellent instructions.

The salt used in baking should be grey Normandy, sel gris de Guerande.

If you want to be super-true to form, sieve off the bran from half the amount of your stoneground wholemeal flour. So far every time I've made it, I considered life too short for sifting half a pound of flour - or more, since your final amount is measured after sifting.

I should sincerely like to try and go the whole furlong one day though and do my sieving conscientiously. I promise to report on the outcome.

For the time being I replace the sifted wholemeal with strong white flour, stoneground whenever I can get it.

poilane sourdough miche

How is Poilâne made?

By hand – mostly. I cheat a little with my standing mixer: the dough is very firm to start off with so I set the ball (of dough) rolling in the mixer with a dough hook.

But after the dough becomes more pliant, elbow grease and proper artisan kneading is unavoidable, for at least 10 minutes.

It proves over 24 hours in the fridge – it’s a pretty leisurely loaf. The following day the dough is shaped, set for the final rise in some warmth and it’s baked, on a stone with a splash of water, or in a Dutch oven.

wholemeal sourdough bread in the style of poilane miche

What else is special about miche Poilâne?

What is also known is that each next loaf is leavened with a little ‘old dough’ which I usually forget to put aside.

If you do reserve a chunk for future loaves, peek into the Basic Old Dough recipe to find out how to transfer the old dough aka pâte fermentée into starter dough.

Score your miche!

The original pain Poilâne has an elegant, shapely 'P' calligraphed on the loaf with a masterly stroke.

Easy to guess I try to score a 'CF' for Cuisine Fiend into mine. I know that looking at the images it is rather difficult to guess that it actually is supposed to be a 'CF'.

But who cares when the bread is that tasty?

Poilane style miche

More iconic sourdough recipes

San Francisco sourdough was reportedly developed by the California settlers of the Gold Rush era. The bread is as good as the gold.

The West Coast of US is famous for cult bakeries, and none better than Tartine Bakery, founded by Chad Robertson in San Francisco. Tartine country bread is definitely one of the best there is.

Off to the other end of the globe, to find Borodinsky, Russian dark rye sourdough, allegedly baked to give courage to the Russian troops before the battle of Borodino.

More French bread recipes

Croissants are probably the best-known French bread, and you can make these, pretty authentic ones.

French almost-crustless sandwich loaf, pain de mie, is baked in a special Pullman tin with a lid.

And last but not least, the best recipe for baguettes, fermenting over 46 hours and leavened on sourdough starter.

Poilane style sourdough

Servings: makes 1 large miche (loaf)Time: 48 hours


  • For the starter: (evening of day 1)
  • 200g water
  • 120g sourdough starter, rye or wheat (mine was rye, refreshed a day before)
  • 236g wholemeal stoneground flour
  • For the main dough: (morning of day 2)
  • 274g water
  • 85g light rye flour
  • 170g whole or white spelt flour
  • 13g salt (Normandy or Guerande if you can get it)
  • 250g strong white bread flour plus more for dusting and kneading



1. On the evening of day 1 mix all the ingredients together with a dough whisk or a large spoon. If your sourdough is thick, dilute it in the water first, then add to the flour. Place it in a bowl (it won’t rise much), cover with cling film and leave at room temperature for 12 hours.

2. On the morning of the next day add the water to your starter and mix well. Add the rye and spelt flours, the salt and almost all of the white flour and mix in - it will now have to be kneaded by hand or in the standing mixer with a dough hook.

3. When the dough has formed a ball, the standing mixer won’t do – dust the work surface lightly with extra flour and knead by hand for about 10 minutes. It should still be slightly sticky to the touch but look smooth and elastic. Oil a large (it will roughly double in volume) bowl lightly, place the dough in and turn it around to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge for 24 hours.

4. After that time (on the morning of day 3) remove the dough from the fridge first thing as it will take about 5 hours to warm up and start rising.

5. Turn it out onto the work surface and shape into a ball, tighten the dough surface by dragging the ball on the worktop towards you with your palms cupped underneath it.

6. Generously flour a large banneton or a proving basket and place the dough in it seam side up. Dust the top with more flour, cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warmish place for 4 ½ - 5 hours, until risen by about a half.

7. Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/gas 8 with a baking cloche or stone, or a large cast iron casserole inside. When the dough has proved, remove the dish or stone from the oven, carefully turn the loaf into the dish, score the top with a lame or a serrated knife, place the lid on and return to the oven. If you bake on a stone, spray the oven with water when the bread’s gone in.

8. Bake for 25 minutes, then take the lid off and bake it for further 20 minutes – the internal temperature, when ready, will be 100C/200F. Cool on a wire rack.

Originally published: Sun, 21 August, 2016

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Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Lawrence - I think it does need kneading. The main thing about Poilane is that it is an artisan, handmade bread - which means getting stuck in and elbow grease on the dough. At least some stretching and folding would be necessary I imagine - but I've never made it any other way than above. Why don't you try no knead and see what happens?
4 years ago
Lawrence Lessin
Can this Poilane style SDB be done in a no knead version.
4 years ago

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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