Food, Home & Lifestyle

Bread as Art: Decorating Your Loaves

Apollonia Poilâne

Lesson time 13:45 min

Poilâne has a rich history of collaboration with artists, including Apollonia’s father’s friendship with Dalí. Apollonia reflects on the relationship between bread and art, and shows you how to embellish loaves with leaves, roses, and letters.

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Topics include: Leaves · Hearts & Roses · Wheat Chaffs · Letters


APOLLONIA POILANE: In the 1930s, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where our first bakery is located, was an area with artists and craftsmen. And it was known to be this very Bohemian, philosophical neighborhood. My grandfather started baking and exchanging bread for arts. The artists came to the bakery, would have a loaf of bread painted, and then eat the bread. This bartering has become a tradition that's ongoing. The back room of our bakery is clad with the paintings, the drawings, some photography, and even some ceramics of those works. My father carried on the tradition. He met Salvador Dalí in the late '60s, and he used to say that my father was his favorite living Frenchman. One day, Salvador Dalí asked my father to make a whole bedroom made out of bread. So my father made a bed, he made the chandelier. And since that time, in the back room of rue de Cherche-Midi, we've had a bread chandelier brighten up the room. I think for Poilane, the art and bread link has always been something that has fed our sour dough. [MUSIC PLAYING] At the bakery, we have some bakers that are absolute artists and who know how to craft the most intricate decorations. These are things we do daily at the bakery, and it has become a tradition and part of our identity. We bake decorated loaves for every occasion. And if you come in the bakery on a typical day, you will have a bread that will reflect what time of the year we were at. I put on my gray jacket, and the reason I put this on is because this jacket was given by my father when I was 14 years old. He taught me how to make these little bread decorations. In this chapter, I will teach you how to use bread dough as an art medium to create bread decorations, whether you use them for a special occasion or, say, placeholders for a dinner. The bread decorations I have in front of me can be very simple-- a leaf or a little heart. You also have some more elaborate ones, like these little wheat ears, the roses, the little birds, or some more intricate ones, like letters. The dough we're using here is fortified dough. It's a piece of dough to which you add flour to the point that you're not able to mix more into it. This way, it doesn't grow in the oven. Once baked, it will look like this decorated loaf or like these decorations. It won't move because the glutens would otherwise make the decorations blow up. So you can take your piece of your dough that you've left aside and add some flour until it becomes resistant to more. Use your rolling pin and roll it out. You will want to do some doughs very thin. They're almost sheet of paper like or like a leaf. Some a little thicker will allow you to have a good base to add some more decorations on them. And yet, some thicker ones will help you create thicker decorations, like little wheat ears. To make these decorations, you need a good and sharp knife, water, and a little brush to keep the dough hydrated. This is very much key. You need to keep it hydra...

About the Instructor

As a third-generation baker and CEO of the renowned Parisian bakery Poilâne, Apollonia Poilâne keeps time-honored traditions alive with every loaf. Now she’s sharing the joy of making bread from scratch with her recipes and hands-on demonstrations. Learn how to make your own starter and a variety of French breads, including rustic wheat, rye, and brioche. Taste, smell, and feel your way to fresh, warm bread at home.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Apollonia Poilâne

Poilâne CEO Apollonia Poilâne teaches the renowned Parisian bakery’s philosophy and time-tested techniques for baking rustic French breads.

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