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World-famous Paris bakery shares secrets in new book

Customers are shown eying the pastries last month in the Poilane bakery in Paris. Third-generation baker Apollonia Poilane has authored her first English-language cookbook, “Poilane: The Secrets of the World-Famous Bread Bakery,” with a weighty collection of nearly 100 recipes. -- AP photo

PARIS (AP) — If there is such a thing as baking royalty, Apollonia Poilane might be its queen.

The 35-year-old is a third-generation baker for the world famous Poilane in Paris. It was founded in 1932 by Apollonia’s grandfather Pierre and has inspired chefs, musicians, poets, and artists worldwide for nearly 90 years. While it started in Paris, it has a location in London and a pop-up in New York City until Sunday.

Now, Apollonia Poilane is opening the oven doors wide with her first English-language cookbook, “Poilane: The Secrets of the World-Famous Bread Bakery,” a weighty collection of nearly 100 recipes.

Speaking at the bakery’s hub, the soft-spoken CEO is reluctant to discuss her celebrity clientele, but is quick to praise the women she calls her “guardian angels” — TV chef Ina Garten, cookbook author Dorie Greenspan, and the owner of Chez Panisse, Alice Waters, the latter of whom provides the book’s foreword.

“They’re ladies I look up to for what they have accomplished. They inspire me, and I refer to them as my guardian angels for their words of wisdom,” says Poilane.

Apollonia Poilane

Those words of wisdom have proven very important to Poilane, who took over the family business at 18 after her father Lionel and mother Irene were killed in a helicopter crash in October 2002, leaving her and her younger sister Athena orphaned.

“I was incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by a fantastic team, let alone the friends of my parents who helped me also go through those times,” says Poilane.

Fans of the famous Poilane wheat sourdough loaf can now tackle the “big hug of bread” at home, with Poilane sharing the secrets of the company’s sourdough in a recipe which stretches over three pages.

While home cooks may not be able to entirely replicate the conditions in which the loaves are baked (unless they have a wood-fired oven that can reach 500 degrees Fahrenheit), Poilane is happy with the final product that the book’s recipe produces, saying she was “able to duplicate the elusive balance of acidity and sweetness” of the bread.

The recipes that she is most proud of are her gluten-free cornbread, developed over the course of 15 years (using a mixture of corn flour, oat milk and flax seeds), and her late father’s “bread sandwich,” which consists of a piece of thin bread, buttered and toasted, sandwiched between two slices of bread.