Here is a glimpse of the fascinating information that one finds on the website of a bakery, arguably the most famous and most dedicated in France, that of the family: Poilâne
In 1969, Lionel Poilâne met Salvador Dali. The artist soon began to order objects and sculptures made of bread. In 1971, he even ordered a whole bedroom made out of bread. The Spanish artist wanted to find out if he had mice in his house!
Other artists followed: Man Ray, the Lalannes, César…
At the beginning of the 1980s, Poilane had two Parisian shops. However, this was not enough to respond to the growing demand. Lionel Poilâne and his wife – an architect and designer – conceived a manufactory. The challenge consisted in creating the same bread in larger proportions. The facility the bakery owner and his wife designed has 24 wood-fire ovens where each baker works as if he were in one of the shops.
A First Shop Abroad in London
In June of 2000, Lionel Poilâne opened his first shop outside of France, in London. It took him over 2 years to obtain the permission to use a wood-fired oven: the Great Fire of London in 1666 began in a bakery.
Apollonia Poilâne, the daughter of Lionel Poilâne, took over the company in 2002 . She intends to follow her grand-father and father’s footsteps.
I remember the tragic news when Lionel and his wife (and dog) were killed on Halloween, 2002, while Lionel was piloting the helicopter. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_Poil%C3%A2ne
Now his bread, most famously a round, two-kilogram sourdough country bread referred to as a miche or pain Poilâne lives on under the name of his daughter, Apollonia.
This bread is often referred to as wholewheat but in fact is not: the flour used is mostly so-called grey flour of 85% extraction (meaning that some but not all of the wheat bran is retained). According to Poilâne's website, the dough also contains 30% spelt, an ancestor of wheat. As far as I can tell by eating it often, the quality has remained constant after Apollonia inherited the "toque de boulangier " and we still find the bread a treasure of artisanal baking.
Poilane bread is what you might call "rustic" or substantial and goes well with soups or sauces or as I enjoy it, toasted. I have it for breakfast whenever Monsieur brings home a round or a half round. It keeps well for a week in the open but is easily frozen for future use.
It may interest you to know that Polane bread can be found in Nice in at least two locations:
Galerie Lafayette ( Place Massena and at CAP3000), and La Poulette, charcuterie and cheese shop, at 12 Rue de la Prefecture in the old town of Nice.