Friday, July 25, 2014

Poilane Style Miche - Another New Bread

Book Cover showing a Poilâne Style Miche
I have rarely been so excited about making bread as since I received a copy of Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I know if anyone is following my blog, you might be sick of hearing about this book. It opened my eyes to an entirely different world of bread making. I began by making a starter dough from wild yeasts, then following with the "barm" or actual starter dough from which would spring any other bread using this wild yeast type of starter.

My starter grew just exactly as the book described. The starter barm also. I went on to make an Onion Deli Rye which was fantastic. Then I tried a 100% Sourdough Rye. I did add a tiny bit of yeast to help things along, as the weather at the time was awfully cold and the house, though heated, just felt cool. That bread, as well as the Sunflower Seed Rye, just didn't quite grow the way the book indicated. While I have nothing against, and sometimes even prefer a very dense bread, these two didn't quite look like the book's photos.

Challah, Sunflower Seed Rye, Deli Rye, 100% Sourdough Rye
Many times when I have "refreshed" the starter, it would take a very long time to recover and begin bubbling. Now that summer is very much here, and the house, even with air running, is much warmer, the starter has gone totally mad! My little wild yeasts are very happy indeed. The starter is growing amazingly quickly each time it is refreshed, so with that in mind, I decided to try making another bread, using only the wild yeast starter, with no addition of commercial yeast to boost the growth. This time I made the Poilâne-Style Miche. 

Who is Poilâne and What the Heck is a Miche?

Okay, according to Peter Reinhart's book (as well as most any website out there), Lionel Poilâne is a bread baker of such repute that his "miche" (rustic sourdough whole wheat bread) is now just lovingly called "Pan Poilâne" (or Poilâne Bread). His recipe is simple: sourdough starter, whole wheat flour, Fleur de Sel de Guerande and water. Of course, Poilâne uses a wood fired oven for his huge 4-pound miche loaves.

My Poilâne Style Miche
A "miche" as noted, is a rustic style of sourdough whole wheat bread. The size is generally very large at 4 or more pounds, as the loaves keep better this way. In olden days, there would be a communal oven and people would bring their breads to bake in the one oven; it would have to last them the week. 

Reinhart suggests dividing the dough into two or even three smaller loaves for home baking, as trying to manipulate 4 pounds of dough into the oven could be a task. I went farther and just divided the recipe in half. Reinhart gives no poundage weight for this recipe as he does for all his other recipes. Generally it is noted in a recipe that it will "make two 1-pound loaves" or something such. The recipe, cut in half as I made it, weighed 2 pounds. It was a majestic loaf, and I used my "banneton" or bread mold for the first time to give the loaf visual interest. Once the dough has risen, ready to bake, a Bread Lame is used to slash in a pound-sign or "hash-tag" type of pattern. Poilâne slashes his "Pans Poilâne" with a large script "P."  

My Poilâne-Style Miche

Poilânes "Pan Poilâne" or Miche (photo from website)
The first step in making this bread is making a "firm starter." Rather than a refreshed starter as usual, the firm starter requires more flour for a far stiffer dough. It is allowed to ferment at room temperature for a few hours, then placed in the refrigerator to retard (it's growth) overnight. This step brings out more flavors in the final dough. The starter grew amazingly quickly. I put it in the fridge, where it continued to grow, though more slowly. Next day I got out the starter and cut it into smaller pieces, leaving it to warm to room temp on the counter. Because of making half the normal recipe, I did use my Kitchen Aid mixer to do the kneading for me. I kneaded for a full 15 minutes, since it was made with whole wheat, which can make rising more difficult. It passed the "windowpane" test and was just one degree above where it was supposed to be.

After allowing the dough to rise for 4 hours and be shaped into a boule, or round loaf, the book gives the option of allowing the dough to rise in the pan and then turning out and baking, or just putting the shaped dough into the refrigerator once more overnight, to retard growth and add more flavor. Whole wheat bread can be blah, so I was all about more flavor. I formed the boule and set it into my well-floured banneton, covered it and refrigerated.

My Banneton or bread form
Mind you, I had started really early that morning with the initial intent of baking that day, only changing my mind and deciding to retard overnight as I was forming the bread. Later in the afternoon, when preparing for dinner, I opened the fridge to find my loaf fully risen! Yikes! I pulled it out, now at 4:30 in the afternoon. The book says that if it has been refrigerated, to allow 4 hours to come to room temperature and rise before baking. In one hour on the counter, the loaf was far above the edges of my 10-inch banneton. I heated the oven!

The only tricky part was getting the dough out of the banneton. I floured it heavily before placing the dough in. It came out reluctantly. There was a fair amount of deflation caused by this slow release from the mold. Still, after a few minutes it was very obviously recovering. I made the slashes over top of the pretty pattern from the bread mold and slid it onto my new oven stone.
Beautiful Crumb


The bread came out so beautifully. I nearly cried. It is a joy to behold. It tastes wonderful, particularly for a whole wheat loaf. I hope anyone out there who loves bread baking might attempt this recipe. 


My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.  

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