Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Touring Poilane with Patricia Wells

It was one of my luckiest days - being able to go into the basement bakery of world-famous bakery, Poilane on rue du Cherche-Midi in Paris with culinary inspiration, Patricia Wells. It has been a while since we crept down the steep half-circle staircase and found the bakers hard at work, but it seems like just yesterday.  I was in Patricia Wells cooking class for the week and part of our itinerary was a tour of Poilane. Can you imagine? 

Did you notice the intricate work being expressed in dough above? This type of culinary art is known as pain décoré - a custom loaf of bread with words, leaves or decoration to denote a special occasion.  
Here you can see the Poilane Country Loaves rising in a tower of linen-lined baskets. Functional and beautiful.  Their famous wood-burning oven is glowing in the distance.
It was a thrill to see the baker pull some Punitions (delicate butter cookies) from the wood-burning oven in the basement - you can see them as they are baking (above). Pierre Poilane (founder of Poilane in 1932) used to tell the story of his grandmother and how she would call her grandchildren to her side for a reprimand (punishment in French, punitions) and then instead surprise them with one of these sweet treats. 

The cookies are just delicious and the perfect cookie to enjoy with a cup of tea. We had a little snack upstairs in the famous room where Poilane displays the paintings of bread they accepted as payment by starving artists of the day.
Why am I spotlighting all of this now?  I keep seeing notices that Patricia is on a book tour in America for her latest book, The French Kitchen Cookbook (Santa, are you listening?) and her birthday was yesterday, so I was able to send her my best wishes on Facebook.  All of these happy events have my mind whirling as I reminisce about my time with her in Paris.  Magnifique!

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