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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Playing with different scoring styles for sourdough… The only new recipe is Pecan Flour Sourdough (top left). I had a bag of pecan flour hanging around, and did a little sourdough experiment with it. Pecan flour brings flavor and some fat to the party, but no gluten, so it’s not a good idea to add too much to your basic bread formula. We loved the texture of the crumb, the delicate flavor, and the slight purple tone it contributed. The bread lasts longer at room temperature without drying. And of course, it freezes beautifully, like any sourdough does.

(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

480g bread flour
20g spelt flour
20g pecan flour
10g salt
370g water
80g sourdough starter at 100% hydration

Make the levain mixture about 6 hours before you plan to mix the dough. It should be very bubbly and active.

When you are ready to make the final dough, place the water in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and dissolve the starter in it, mixing with a spatula briefly, then add the three types of flour, and the salt. Turn the mixer on with the hook attachment and knead the dough for 4 minutes at low-speed all the time. If the dough is too sticky, add 1/4 cup flour, you want the dough to start clearing the sides of the bowl, but still be sticky at the bottom.

Remove from the machine, and transfer to a container lightly coated with oil, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 4 hours, folding every 45 minutes or so. After four hours bulk fermentation, shape the dough as a ball, and place, seam side up, in a lightly floured banetton. Leave at room temperature one hour, and then place in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F. Invert the dough over parchment paper, sprinkle tapioca flour over it for a very light coverage. Next, use a brand new razor blade to score the design.

Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam. Cool completely over a rack before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The picture did not really show the color too well. In real life, there was a very very light hint of purple. The bread is delicious, with a complex flavor, not clearly associated with pecans. I wanted to keep just the flour in this version, but adding pieces of toasted pecan to the formula will be happening in the future.

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She posted. I read the post while away on a trip. Could not wait to get home to bake it. As far as enriched bread goes, you cannot get much better than this. Think brioche loaded with a tangy lemon cream and luscious blackberries. As I said, cannot get much better. THANK YOU, KAREN!

(from Karen’s Kitchen Stories)

For the Sponge:
3 ounces warm water (95 to 105 degrees F)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
30 grams unbleached all purpose flour

For the Final Dough:
All of the sponge
85 grams vanilla yogurt, room temperature (I used plain and added 1/2 tsp vanilla)
56 grams softened unsalted butter
1 large egg, beaten
50 grams sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
300 grams unbleached all purpose flour
one beaten egg for the egg wash
pearl sugar for topping (optional, but nice)

For the Filling:
85 grams cream cheese, at room temperature
25 gram sugar
29 grams sour cream (I used creme fraiche)
1 tsp lemon juice
15 grams all-purpose flour
100 grams lemon curd
Handful of blackberries

Combine the sponge ingredients in a small bowl, stir, and cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
In your stand mixer bowl, combine the sponge, yogurt, butter, egg, sugar, salt, vanilla, and flour. Mix with the dough hook for about 8 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled dough rising bucket or bowl, cover, and allow to rise for one to two hours, until doubled (mine took 2 hours and 30 minutes).

Mix the cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, lemon juice, and flour until smooth. Cover and set aside.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the risen dough not the parchment, and press or roll it into a 10 inch by 15 inch rectangle. Mark the dough lengthwise into thirds by pressing a ruler into the dough. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the middle third, leaving about an inch uncovered at the top and the bottom. Spread the lemon curd on top of the cream cheese mixture. Top with the blackberries.

Cut the outer sides into strips. Cut off the strips from the four “corners” of the dough, leaving a flap at the top and bottom. Fold up the bottom flap and fold the strips over the filling alternating in a braid pattern. Fold the flap over the top before finishing the braid. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap.
Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F.

Let the dough rise for about 45 minutes. When the dough is ready, brush it with the egg wash and sprinkle it with the sugar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until a deep golden brown. Cool on a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes. Slice and serve.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Make sure to stop by Karen’s post because her pictures and explanations are very detailed and will help you with the shaping. The dough is a pleasure to work with, as enriched doughs always seem to be. You can make the filling while the dough rises, and use store-bought lemon curd to make your life easier. Next time I will add more blackberries, I was afraid they would contribute too much moisture and leak too much, but that was not the case.

This basic method can be used for savory breads, or use different sweet fillings. Karen has a lot of suggestions in her article, so pay her a visit.

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I consider this bread a work in progress, as the color is fading a bit during baking. Sugarprism stays very well on cookies (as I showed in the first cookie from this post), but I suppose 450F is a different story. However, this was only my second time doing it, and I already saw some improvement from the first attempt. Any sourdough recipe you are fond of will work. I opted for Elaine’s Herb and Olive Oil Sourdough, which I used as a teaser recipe in my recent review of her wonderful book (click here to read it, in case you’ve missed it). I like the way the olive oil in the dough seemed to tame a bit the crust explosion, and that worked well to keep the design untouched.

Basic things to consider when painting… minimize the amount of flour on the surface. When we do stenciling or even artistic slashing, a coating with flour is super important. In painting the dough, it makes things difficult and interferes negatively with the color. In today’s bread, for the outline I used black cocoa diluted with water. For the petals, Sugarprism in yellow and red. For the center of the sunflower, bronze luster powder diluted with vodka. As you can see, from the before pictures the bronze luster powder was the champion as far as keeping the color during baking. Black cocoa will always stay well, but if your goal is color, that cannot really help you much…

Just in case you are curious, below you see my first attempt painting sourdough. Two small issues happened: the dough had so much oven-spring that it lifted the design in ways that were not ideal. And I coated the surface with flour, which made the Sugarprism color interact with it and fade even more. The flour also gave a rough texture that made it impossible to spread the color nicely with a brush. In this case, I re-painted the bread the moment it came out of the oven to bring the color back. But my goal is to not have to do that, and get some method that retains the color during baking. Stay tuned then for my next adventure, in which I will use exclusively luster powder + vodka, hoping for a happy, very colorful ending…

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I am absolutely thrilled to share this recipe, fresh from the press, part of the second cookbook of my dear friend Elaine (click here for her sourdough site and here for her new book ordering info). Sourdough taken straight into brioche territory, with just the right level of sweetness, filled with your favorite jam. The recipe makes 16 rolls, I actually halved it and divided the dough in 8 pieces for shaping as rolls. To divide the egg, I just mixed one egg with the yolk, weighed that, and used half. It ended up being 30g egg mixture for half the recipe, in case you’d like to go that route.

(from Elaine Boddy’s Sourdough Whisperer)

Either line a large baking or cookie sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with rice flour, or prepare fluted baby brioche pans (3 1/8 inches [8 cm] in diameter and 11/4 inches [3 cm] deep), lined up ready to fill on a baking sheet.

Makes 16 snack-sized buns
50 g active starter at 100% hydration
270 g milk, cold or room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk (reserve egg white for brushing)
75 g butter, at room temperature
50 g runny honey
500 g strong white bread flour, plus more for dusting
7 g (1 tsp) salt, or to taste
200 g jam of your choice (about 2 tsp per roll)
Powdered sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

In the early evening, in a large mixing bowl, roughly mix together all the ingredients, except the reserved egg white and jam. It will be a very sticky dough, and it may be easier to use a bowl scraper or spatula to mix it at this stage. Leave it roughly mixed, cover the bowl with a clean shower cap or your choice of cover and leave the bowl on the counter.

After an hour, perform the first set of pulls and folds on the dough. Lifting and pulling the dough across the bowl until it starts to come into a soft ball, then stop. The butter will not be fully mixed in yet; it will become more so as you work with the dough. Cover the bowl again and leave it to sit on the counter. During this first set of pulls and folds, the dough will still be sticky, but keep working with it.

Over the next few hours, perform three more sets of pulls and folds on the dough, covering the bowl after each set. The dough will remain sticky but nicely stretchy and will come together into a nice soft ball each time. Do the final set before going to bed. Leave the covered bowl on the counter overnight, typically 8 to 12 hours, at 64 to 68°F (18 to 20°C).

In the morning, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pull the dough into a 14-inch (35-cm) square that is an even thickness all over. Using a dough knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into sixteen equal squares. Place a heaping teaspoon of jam in the middle of each square, pull the corners and edges of each square together and stick them together. Turn each parcel over and shape into a ball. Place each ball onto your prepared pan, allowing space between them to grow, or place them in your baby brioche pans. Cover the balls with a large plastic bag and leave on the counter for the rolls to proof again for 2 to 3 hours, or until doubled in size.

Heat the oven to 325F. Mix the egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush the top of each ball gently with it. Bake uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the rolls directly on a rack to cool briefly. These are best eaten warm, with an optional sprinkle of powdered sugar.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This dough is wonderful to work with… smooth, elastic, easy to shape. Do not be afraid of letting it sit overnight at room temperature, unless you live in a super warm climate without air-conditioning. This rich type of dough tends to proof a lot slower than regular sourdough. For the final proofing, I used these brioche pans. They are a bit pricey but excellent quality. Love the way they look… But as Elaine mentions in the recipe, you can simply shape them as round little balls instead.

You can fill them with any jam you like. I used Morello Cherry preserves and it was absolutely delicious… A little bit leaked from the bottom of some of the rolls, but no harm done.

I don’t think I need to say much more, right? The picture is worth 1,000 words… They actually freeze well too. Just wrap them, and when you are ready to enjoy them, bring to room temperature for 20 minutes or so, then place in a warm oven to heat through. They will be as good as freshly baked!

Now let me walk you through Elaine’s new book, “The Sourdough Whisperer.” And in the end of this blog post you will see another bread I baked from her book, as a teaser recipe..

The book is organized in two parts, the first deals with everything you need to know about making sourdough: making a starter from scratch, maintaining it, ingredients, tools, her master recipe and timing your bread baking to suit your schedule. The essence of it all is exactly what we’ve seen in her first book: simplicity. I tell you one thing, in this first part she covers EVERY single question a baker might have as far as tweaking recipes, or changing proofing time and/or temperature. A must-read even if you are a seasoned sourdough baker.

Part Two is devoted to recipes, and you’ll find eight sub-chapters in it.

#1 – The Master Recipe Sourdough Collection. In this chapter she shows how versatile her Baby Master Recipe can be, adapting it to make different shapes, Wedge Rolls, Sandwich Loaf, a beautiful concoction using a Bundt Pan (yes, that is right, and the photo of that one is worth a prize), a Pullman Loaf, and she closes it with a cute little method to use up “ends of bags” of flour. Every single bread in the whole book has a picture, so keep that in mind. I love that.

#2 – The Enriched Sourdough Collection. I love this section! Normally I do a straight sourdough bread, so to me playing with enriched dough is not very common, which is one of the reasons why I chose the featured recipe. Elaine uses her default Enriched Sourdough in some formulas, and also offers a lighter alternative. The chapter opens with a total beauty, Enriched Sourdough Pesto Babka. Stunning! The Jam-Filled Rolls are part of that chapter, and I almost chose the Cinnamon and Raisin Enriched Bundt Pan Bake to showcase here.

#3 – The Spiced Sourdough Collection. I love bread with spices, if you follow my blog you’ve probably noticed. I definitely will be trying some of her versions like Smoked Paprika, Rosemary and Sun-Dried Tomato Master Loaf, and her Turmeric and Onion Seed Sandwich Loaf.

#4 – The Softer Sourdough Collection. Super interesting chapter. It centers on methods that will produce a sourdough with a much softer crust, something she achieves by adding milk into the formulas. She starts with a “Half-Milk, Half-Water Baby Master Loaf”, and moves to variations using different proportions and different liquids such as buttermilk (Buttermilk and Spelt Loaf with Pine Nuts and Oats, another thing of beauty). I made the teaser recipe from this chapter, “Olive Oil and Herb Master Loaf”, so check it out in the end of this post.

#5 – The Filled Collection. Maybe my favorite chapter, I just don’t know. In this section, she really shows her creativity, joining interesting ingredients together. First comes a Cheese, Fig and Walnut Sandwich Loaf, absolutely gorgeous and mouth-watering photo… Apricot and Almond Babka Loaf with very detailed pictures of the shaping. I absolutely MUST make the “Chickpea, Barberry and Lemon Pantry Loaf”.

#6 – The Flat Sourdough Collection. Elaine uses her master recipe to make focaccia, pizza, ciabatta, and fougasse. In other words, she covers all the classics. Pictures are wonderful, including once again quite detailed shots of shaping ciabatta, which can be tricky.

#7 – The Shaped Collection. Another super fun and creative chapter, she shares techniques for special shaping. Braided Loaf is the first example, but don’t think about challah, this braid decorates the top of the bread, super cool. Looks intimidating but the pictures show you exactly how to do it. A Chocolate and Nut Sourdough Crown follows, would be just amazing at a party. The one I intend to try soon is… Pull-Apart Sharing Sesame Sourdough. The chapter closes with baguettes, in my opinion the trickiest bread to shape correctly.

#8 – The Same Day Collection. Sometimes we want to speed things up, right? This series gives recipes to have sourdough prepared and baked the same day. It is all a play with amount of starter and proofing temperature. Sourdough Pizza and Pita are two examples, but my favorite might be Same Day Poppy Seed Sourdough Rolls. They are adorable.

If you bake sourdough bread, or if you flirt with the idea of venturing into it, you need this book. The tone is always friendly, supportive, positive, and again, reading the book and browsing through the wonderful pictures, I just wanted to stop and start baking right away. The mark of a captivating cookbook!…

And now, as I always like to do when reviewing cookbooks, I share…



Isn’t that amazing? The crust is a lot softer than a regular sourdough, and the bread stays fresh longer. A pleasure to work with, great flavor with the herbs spread inside the crumb.

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