Perhaps one of my most memorable food experiences from trips to Paris would be scurrying into one of the many Poilane bakeries, purchasing a loaf of the levain-style bread and then enjoying slices now and again throughout the days ahead.
I always search out the original bakery that Lionel Poilane started on du Cherche-Midi. While Poilane was killed in a tragic accident in 2002, thankfully his daughter took over the business and continues to bake loaf after loaf.
The famous bread is derived from the leavening agent, which is called a levain. This natural yeast slowly leavens the bread and produces a loaf that is beautifully fragrant, dense yet porous and keeps very well.
Oh happy day when I discovered a twin for Poilane bread in Kansas City. It is only available at one location, but it is definitely worth the drive.
The Hen House Market located at 6900 135th Street in Overland Park prepares the bread on site. The bread is part of the incredible Farm to Market selection that is available at this store.
It is labeled Old World Wheat Bread and the friendly bakery folks are always happy to slice it for you while you wait.
The oven mason came from Barcelona to build the traditional Llopis bread oven, according to Bob Pearson, the store manager.
The oven weighs more than 20 tons and contains over 6,000 bricks. The masonry hearth weighs 2,500 pounds and is shy of 10 feet in diameter. The oven is fueled with seasoned hardwoods to produce the perfect loaf of bread.
“Every loaf is like my baby,” said Armen Bagiyants, the assistant bakery manager.
He fusses over each loaf until perfection is attained. The pride of the bakers shines through in the quality of the bread.
Toast and slather a slice with good quality butter or jam and you will be transported to Europe and its fine bakeries through your senses of taste and smell.
The bread is especially popular with their European customers, the bakery manager Paul Singh said.
I bring the round, dark, crusty loaf home and place it in a freezer bag. It freezes well and can be plopped out of the freezer at a moment’s notice for delicious toast, sandwiches and such.
So if a European vacation is not in your budget this year, enjoy a taste of Europe in the deliciousness of this bread.
Roxanne Wyss is one of two cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. Her most recent cookbook is Triple Slow Cooker Entertaining. She develops the recipes for the “Eating for Life” column for The Kansas City Star and is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier. She blogs at pluggedintocooking.com.