Sunday, May 2, 2010

BBA Challenge Bread #33 — Poilane-Style Miche


This is it. THE ONE. The cover bread. You know, that gigantic loaf in the apprentice's arms? Yep, I finally made it to that formula—Poilane-Style Miche. So how did it go? Funny you should ask...

I'm baking my way through Peter Reinhart's award winning book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, along with a number of other amateur bakers (I'm not sure how many are still with us, and a few have finished!). Want to join in the madness, or just learn more about this semi-crazy undertaking? Check out the following links:

Due to the shear size of this bread, I decided to half the recipe. PR suggests just dividing the dough, but I didn't need or want that much bread around, so I just halved it from the start.

This is a whole wheat bread leavened entirely with wild yeast (aka my starter, "Tim"). That, along with lots of flour, some salt, and some water, is all there is to this bread. Well, as far as ingredients go. As far as getting all of those parts to come together and behave they way you want, that's an entirely different story. Lionel Poilane, Peter Reinhart and many others have spent more time that I can imagine getting this bread just right.

All of the initial mixing steps went without a hitch. The dough rose on schedule and looked about perfect to my novice eyes. I was just thrilled that this one rose, unlike my ill-fated 100% sourdough rye. It was a the shaping stage the I finally remember to, you know, DOCUMENT the process.


This bread calls for a banneton, a proofing basket or bowl specifically for bread. If you've ever seen a loaf of bread with concentric rings on the top, you've seen a bread proofed in a banneton. The rings are the result of the shape of the basket. They can be pricey, but you can easily improvise at home. Daniel at Ährelich Gesagt made his with a piece of linen sewn around a colander. I used a shallow stainless steel bowl lined with a floured dishtowel. I chose one with a nifty waffle pattern (from Crate & Barrel similar to these) to give the crust some added interest.


I (gently) dumped the dough onto the work surface...

And worked it into a boule.
(Get a look at that gluten structure!)

The shaped dough then goes into the proofing bowl, seam side up.
PSM-5-in couche

I covered it and let it proof, and in exactly 3 hours, it looked like this:


Unfortunately, I sort of screwed up after this. I transferred the dough to my peel by putting the peel over the bowl and turning the whole thing over, trying to degass it as little as possible. I sprinkled corn meal on the dough instead of on the peel because of the whole inversion thing I attempted.
PSM-7-on peel

That worked great, but I wasn't prepared after that. I didn't have a razor blade handy and the dough sat on the peel FAR too long. You can see how much it "spread" from the previous photo to this one.

I had the oven cranked for "hearth baking" and managed to get the dough on the stone, did the steam song and dance and hoped for the best.

All in all, I'd say it turned out "OK". I was disappointed with myself for having let it spread out and was disappointed in the pale crust. One of these days I'll get that part down. It did look nice, though, just not *quite* what I wanted. I mean, look at the cover of the book... then look at mine. See?
bba book

As far as the taste goes, I was very pleased. It was distinctly sour, as it should be, and the crumb was dense and chewy – in a good way. Because I'm not a fan of sourdough, this wasn't a favorite for me. The tang wasn't overly strong, just not my cup of tea – or slice of bread, as it were.


Regardless, it was a good experience. I was quite worried after the 100% sourdough rye and this turned it all around. Hey, look at me. I CAN make a decent 100% sourdough bread - hooray!

For an incredible read on this bread, within the Challenge and out, please visit parts 1, 2 and 3 of Daniel's in-depth look at Le Pain Poilane. Daniel talks about his experience with the bread as a baker and a consumer and provides tons of information on the bread and its bakeries.

Please check out these other BBA posts as well:
Oggi at I Can do That
txfarmer's blog - the text is Chinese, but the photos are stunning!
Katya at Second Dinner - lovely loaf baked in a clay baker
Janice at Round the Table


  1. Nice job! Baking this bread is quite an accomplishment. I think it is the "aha!" moment for a lot of BBAers when they realize they are finally a baker.

    It's all downhill from here (in a good way).

  2. To be honest, the bread on the book covers looks burnt to me. I would much prefer the waffled texture and color of your bread!

  3. I think it looks fantastic! I hate how dark all the BBA breads are in the book because mine NEVER get that dark. I'm looking forward to making it after reading your post.

  4. I love the texture on the top of yours from your towel! If it makes you feel any better, I wish I'd let mine sit on the peel for a bit longer, as mine was very poufy and therefore un-miche-like! =) Yours looks great!

  5. I love the waffle pattern- I'll have to try this. Man, you are full of great ideas. Oh, and it didn't spread *that* much. The proportions look pretty spot-on.

    Thanks for linking to me four times! I'm so humbled.

    The secret to getting very brown bread is to leave it in the oven about 10-15 minutes longer while you are pacing around hoping it doesn't burn. Just don't forget or it will! Or turn the oven off and let it sit 15 more minutes.

    Either that, or have an oven like mine that has an exposed electric heating element at the top. Great for bread- bad for everything else.

  6. What an awesome loaf! It looks beautiful!

  7. I think it looks awesome Kelly! I'm envious of your "baker" status now that you have mastered sourdough. :) Did I tell you that apparently I am such a bad baker that even my banana bread overflowed..... LOL I'll stick to burgers! ;)

  8. Phyl- Thanks! I worried about the SD section (almost) all for naught. It's been quite a ride.

    Frieda- I worry about what the crumb will taste like if I let it get so dark, you know?

    Amanda- Thanks! Good luck with yours.

    Abby- Thank you! I think it's so cool how the dough holds the texture even through baking.

    Daniel- Hey, all of the work you did on those posts deserved to be linked to 4 times. :) Your comment about the electric oven cracked me up! Do you ever have any problems with the crumb when you bake the bread longer?

  9. Susie- I still am really hit and miss with quick breads, so I've got a ways to go. And you DEFINITELY make a mean burger. :)

  10. I usually bake most of my breads on the dark side. I read somewhere that it is called "European Bake" or something like that. As for the crumb, I haven't done any side by side comparisons, but the bread is perhaps a bit drier because of the longer bake time. Also, when I had the old oven, it was a gamble as to what temperature was actually used.

    Try it sometime. If it's not an enriched bread, it won't burn for a while, and if it's sourdough, it will brown beautifully.


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