When we were in Paris on vacation last month, we were fortunate enough to be able to frequent Poilâne, a famous French bakery, nearly every day. Their shop near The Eiffel Tower was just a block from a metro stop on the metro line from our hotel, so most mornings when I was getting ready for the day, my husband would step out and pick up breakfast for us: croissants or pain au chocolat from either Poilâne or Pierre Hermé.
The Poilâne croissants were probably my favorite of the two – unbelievably flaky, better than any I’ve ever tried in the U.S. and not quite as heavy with butter as the Pierre Hermé croissants. Not that I didn’t absolutely adore those too – they were just much richer than the Poilâne croissants.
By the end of the week, we had also tried their butter cookies (called punitions and cut into bunny shapes while were there as we arrived in Paris the day after Easter) and a boule of their dark, crusty bread.
The bread is rumored to be some of the best bread in the world – a claim that I won’t weigh in on as I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten any other truly famous bread. The majority of our loaf of bread actually made the journey back to the U.S. with us (in my laptop bag) and we continued to eat it for a couple of days after our return. It’s rare that a loaf of artisan bread will still taste good several days after purchase (and an 8 hour plane ride), but this bread did.
As for the punitions, they were wholly addictive. Not too sweet and plenty buttery, my husband and I may have eaten a small bag of them in one sitting. A Paris food guide that we brought on the trip, Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, recommended that we try these cookies and Clotilde steered us in the right direction (in addition to the sentence in the book about them, there is an entire blog post devoted to punitions on her website Chocolate and Zucchini). We liked them enough that we carefully packed two small bags of these cookies into our carry-on luggage to give to family members upon our return. I hope they enjoyed them as much as we did.
If you’d like to read a little more about Poilâne, expatriate pastry chef David Lebovitz wrote a great post about the bakery late last year. In fact, this post was one of the main reasons I was thrilled to discover that we could easily visit one of the Poilâne locations on our trip. David’s post also links to several other articles around the web about this famous bakery and its fabulous bread.
Meanwhile, here are a number of photos I took of the various Poilâne goodies we ate and some that I just enjoyed looking at through the shop windows.