Pain Poilane might very well be one of the most famous breads made in France. The process to make it is convoluted and slow. The bread has a crumb that is not very open, with deep, complex flavor. All in all, a super hearty bread. I’ve made a few versions since I started playing with sourdough 15 years ago, but today I share one of the simplest ways, in which time does most of the work for you. Handling the dough is reduced to a bare minimum. If you are searching for a light tasting bread with very open crumb, this is not it. It is a superb bread to make Croque Monsieur or to enjoy with toppings such as smoked salmon or the very best ham you can find. 

(adapted from several sources)

for the fermented sourdough component:
200g water
120g sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
240g whole-wheat flour

for the dough:
275g water
85g light rye flour
170g spelt flour
250g bread flour
12g salt

If you have a chance to turn your regular sourdough into a rye-based, you can do that by feeding it for about 3 days with rye flour instead of regular white flour. If you don’t have any, just use your regular sourdough.

In the evening, mix all the ingredients for the fermented component in a medium-size bowl. Leave it at room temperature for 12 hours. It won’t rise much, but you should notice fermentation next day.

On the morning of the next day add the water to your starter and mix well. Add all the flours and salt, and knead with the KitchenAid for about 3 minutes. Remove from the KitchenAid, place in a large bowl, and leave at room temperature for 90 minutes. Knead by hand for a couple of minutes at the 30 minute and 90 minute mark. Cover and place the dough in the fridge overnight.

Remove the cold dough from the fridge, form into a ball, and place in a lightly floured banneton, with the seam side up. Leave at room temperature for 5 to 6 hours. Heat the oven to 450F, invert the dough on parchment paper, score the surface and place in a Dutch oven, with the lid on. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake for further 20 to 25 minutes.

Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing, preferably overnight.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Contrary to regular sourdough, this version that contains so much whole-wheat and rye flour, is not appropriate to fold and stretch. It is – if I am to be honest – not very nice to handle. There is a harshness associated with the coarser nature of the whole-wheat component, which in this case is a pretty substantial part of the formula. So, instead of folding, I opted for minimal kneading, a technique Dan Lepard is quite fond of. It is actually the basis for all his breads in The Handmade Loaf, which was my personal introduction to sourdough baking. This bread turned out super flavorful! It was a huge hit with the husband, who already requested that slices of “Poilane” be found in the freezer at all times…

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  1. Good evening Sally,
    I like the notion of complex flavor AND less folding. And since hearty does not scare me, I am looking forward to trying your recipe.

    This is quite the endorsement by Phil. Blame it on the late hour, but for some reason I wanted to see just how monumental his request to have slices in the freezer was. And it was more incredible than I imagined.

    I might have miscounted because after awhile the task grew harder but I counted 237 bread recipes on your blog.

    Ok, maybe it is deserving of its own post, however, I am really curious if you had to pick your top three of all time, which recipes would make the cut? Would you too choose Poilane’s as one of the three breads to freeze for posterity, or at least late night snacking? (Maybe you don’t late night snack? Morning treat?)


    Liked by 1 person

    • very interesting question – for me it is easy – any sourdough with a spice mix in it – I have three favorites – curry, za’atar, and baharat – all with the same basic formula, mostly white and a touch of spelt or whole wheat – those are the breads I make all the time, and always have in the freezer, one of these at a time. I asked Phil and he says his favorite is a regular, no spices sourdough – so it would be my basic formula, no spices added apart from salt (obviously) – and now the Poilane which is really a type of bread he adores. I tend to like adding things to the bread like olives, nuts, cheese, but to me nothing beats the simplicity of the sourdough with a touch of Middle Eastern spices….


  2. Hi, Sally, this looks great and just the kind of bread I like. I only have dark rye flour (which I use for my starter); can I use that instead of buying yet another type of flour? Ditto for spelt—use more whole wheat? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thank you! it is so hard to do everything we want, right? I struggle constantly to put some things in higher priority, but it seems that the list of what I want to do keeps growing and growing


  3. Tried this, and the bread is terrific especially when considering the infinitesimal level of effort. My starter is super-vigorous so the ferment rose substantially overnight on the counter. Final product was chewy and crusty with a good tang. It went well with the squash/spinach/coconut milk soup for a great veggie dinner.

    Liked by 1 person

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