Pain Poilâne is a naturally fermented French country bread that weighs in at a hefty two kilograms. The flour used for the bread is high extraction gray flour, containing some but not all of the wheat bran. High extraction flour is not likely to be available at your local grocery store but Peter Reinhart suggests a couple of options in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.
The first option is to sift the coarsest bits of bran from regular whole wheat flour. The approximate weight of the sifted flour should be anywhere between 85% to 95% of the original whole wheat flour weight. It’s a bit messy and time-consuming to manually sift all of the flour needed to make one Poilâne-style miche but there is a more convenient option. Using a mixture of equal amounts of whole wheat flour (100%) and bread flour (70%) approximates the extraction rate of gray flour (around 85%).
After tweaking the formula in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice several times, I settled on mixing 75% white whole wheat flour with 25% regular bread flour. I sometimes use equal amounts of white whole wheat and regular bread flour for a lighter loaf but prefer the added health benefits of using a larger amount of whole grains.
The crusty exterior and minimally airy crumb makes a very satisfying alternative to regular sandwich bread. I prefer lightly toasting a thick slice on one side, either drizzled with extra virgin olive oil or smeared with butter.
This is my entry for Bread Baking Babes, hosted by Sher of What Did you Eat?, where you can find the original formula from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, as well as Peter Reinhart’s method for starting a sourdough culture.
makes 1 two kilogram miche (large boule)
Poilâne-Style High Extraction Miche
For the Firm Starter:
1 cup (7 ounces) barm (sourdough culture at 100% hydration)
2 cups (9 ounces) white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (4 ounces) water, at room temperature
bubbly wild yeast starter at 100% hydration
The day before baking the bread, make the firm starter. Mix all of the firm starter ingredients in a bowl until a firm ball is formed. On a lightly floured counter, knead for about 3 minutes. Place the firm starter in a loosely covered container.
Ferment at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours or until doubled in size. Refrigerate overnight.
For the Final Dough:
4 3/4 cups (21.75 ounces) white whole wheat flour
2 1/4 cups (10.25 ounces) bread flour
4 teaspoons (.81 ounces) salt
2 3/4 cups (22 ounces) water, lukewarm (90°F to 100°F)
- I usually add all of the bread flour on the day I bake the dough. Excluding the flour in the barm, 10.25 ounces amounts to 25% of the flour weight. Feel free to try different proportions of whole wheat flour to bread flour.
- I used the maximum amount of water suggested to get a slightly more open crumb. The original recipe calls for 18 to 22 ounces of water.
firm starter after 6 hours of fermentation and overnight refrigeration
Remove the starter from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the final dough. Cut the starter into small pieces and let sit at room temperature for about 1 hour. Mix the starter pieces with the rest of the final dough ingredients until a soft ball is formed.
Knead for 12 to 15 minutes by hand using the kneading technique demonstrated in this video. Reinhart warns that the dough may be too large for home mixers. Make sure that your dough passes the windowpane test after kneading. Prepare a lightly oiled container.
Place the dough in the lightly oiled container and loosely cover. Ferment at room temperature for 4 hours or until almost doubled in size.
Carefully transfer the dough to a counter. Gently form a large boule as demonstrated in this video. Proof at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or until 1 1/2 times its size.
Preheat your oven to 500°F with a steam pan, preferably cast iron, in the bottom of the oven. Gently flip your banneton or proofing basket to transfer the proofed dough onto the back of a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Score the boule.
Load the oven with the sheet pan or transfer the loaves onto a hot baking stone. Pour 2 cups of boiling water onto the steam pan and immediately close the oven door. Lower the oven to 450°F and bake for 25 minutes. Rotate the loaves 180 degrees and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes until the crust turns golden brown.
Let the miche rest on a cooling rack for at least 3 hours.
Poilâne-style miche crust
Poilâne-style miche crumb
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