Apollonia Poilâne, of the artisanal bakery Poilâne, describes why gingerbread reminds her of Christmas.
“Poilâne began in 1932 in Saint-Germain-des-Prés when Pierre Poilâne, my grandfather, decided to make bread his way, using stone-ground wheat and a natural sourdough fermentation, focusing on quality over quantity.
“Today, Poilâne is an artisanal bakery, creating handmade loaves made with no preservatives or additives,” Apollonia explains.
“I am a third-generation baker and gingerbread was a new product that I created.”
“To make our Christmas gingerbread, we use our own sourdough.
“We created our own tradition with a rye flour sourdough. It hasn’t really changed over the years – we look for the consistency of our recipe.
“We are very proud to maintain our gingerbread sourdough batch after batch,” she adds.
“To make it, like with bread, we feed our starter with water, flour and salt, leave it to prove, shape it and prove again before baking.
“What is unique about gingerbread is the use of honey and spices, which creates a special taste but also changes the way the dough reacts to its environment,” says Apollonia.
“All our ingredients are local, except for the spices.
“Our spice blend is an in-house composition of the best provenances, and our Poilâne twist is the presence of a pinch of Sichuan pepper.
“The gingerbread is dense, rich, flavourful and nourishing,” she says.
“What’s more is that, naked or topped with butter or jam, it is equally delicious!”
“Gingerbread reminds me of Christmas …”
Apollonia says: “Gingerbread reminds me of Christmas, but also of the routes between Venice and the Netherlands that generations before us took to bring the spices from their ports of entry in Italy to their final customers.
“Along the route, you will find many gingerbread traditions.
“Another Christmas treat I love is Yule log. I have a fond memory of making it with my father and sister with gingerbread and crème pâtissière at home.
“For the past couple of years, I have done a version at the bakery that our customers love!”
Apollonia has a new book out called Poilâne: The Secrets of the World Famous Bread Bakery, available in-store.