Thursday, April 2, 2020

Rye Loaf with Currants

My memory is fuzzy on when I became a fan of Poilane. I remember seeing the shop in Paris on a TV show and immediately becoming enamored with the breads and the bakery’s process, but I don’t recall what show that was or when I saw it. I’ve read a lot about this famous bakery over the years, and I recently read more in Apollonia Poilane’s own words. I received a review copy of her new book, Poilane: The Secrets of the World-Famous Bread Bakery. She writes about her grandfather who opened the bakery in 1932 and began making the large sourdough loaves, how her father took the reins in the 1970s and expanded capacity by building La Manufacture Poilane outside of Paris, and the tragic loss of both of her parents in 2002 when she found herself in charge of the business. At the age of eighteen, she was running Poilane while attending college at Harvard. The book explains the changes the bakery has made from one generation to the next and the things that have never changed. The starter is maintained the same way it always has been, the bakers know by feel when the dough is mixed correctly and when it has risen enough, and the ovens are wood-fired as they always have been. The book includes all the information for creating and maintaining a starter just as they do and for baking sourdough loaves, and there are lots of other recipes too. There are other breads like the Black Pepper Pain de Mie and the Rye Loaf with Currants shown here. There are recipes for using bread including one for toast. Of course, Apollonia Poilane has a preferred way of making toast! And, she shares it. She pairs two pieces of bread and toasts them in one toaster slot so one side stays untoasted for texture variation. There are also croissants and brioche and jams for topping them all. One chapter is for main dishes that include bread or croutons or breadcrumbs, and the Savory Pain Perdu topped with chopped tomatoes looks like a great summer lunch. It was interesting to learn more about the Punitions. Those are the little butter cookies left in baskets for customers to nibble while waiting and are also sold by the box. In the bakery, they range in color from just golden to darker brown so each person can choose his/her preference. A generous, fellow food blogger once sent me a box of these cookies from Poilane as a gift. In the box, they were all light golden, and I didn’t know they’re usually intentionally baked to varying degrees of doneness. The recipes also include tarts, quick breads, crepes, and even an oat milk used in a rice pudding that I have to try. But first, let’s get back to the Rye Loaf with Currants. 

This loaf is made with some sourdough starter in addition to commercial yeast. The publisher was not able to provide the recipe and instructions for the sourdough starter, but I can tell you that my starter that I’ve used for ages and maintain at 100% hydration worked fine here. To begin, the currants were soaked in hot water before being strained while reserving that soaking liquid. The starter was mixed with rye flour, and I was fortunate to get some locally-milled rye flour from Barton Springs Mill. Yeast was added, and some of the currant soaking liquid was mixed in a separate bowl with salt before it was added to the flour mixture. The dough was shaped into a ball and left to rest before being shaped again and left to rise. After rising, it went into a loaf pan to proof for about two hours. Just before baking, the top of the loaf was brushed with the remaining currant soaking liquid. 

This is a delightfully easy bread to make once the timing is planned. The slices are delicious toasted and topped with butter, and all those currants make it taste like a sweet treat. I was surprised to read that Apollonia became interested in cornbread while living in the US and went on to develop a Corn-Flour Bread with hazelnuts that’s gluten-free and vegan with corn sourced from the Basque region. I’m looking forward to trying a Texas version of this with local cornmeal and pecans. I think she’d approve. 

Rye Loaf with Currants 
Recipe excerpted from Poilane Copyright 2019 by Apollonia Poilane. Photography Copyright 2019 by Philippe Vaures Santamaria. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. 

Makes one 9-by-5-inch (23-by-13-cM) loaf 

My father regularly ran home from the bakery before we went to school to drop off a small version of this loaf for our morning snack. He would cut it in half, add a generous pat of butter, and pack it for us to enjoy in his car. Today I still love to have a few slices—buttered or not—for breakfast or as a midmorning treat. We make this in metal loaf pans, but you can also shape it freeform. 

1 1/2 cups (240 g) dried currants 
2 1/2 cups (595 ml) hot water 
230 g (1 1/4 cups) starter  
435 g (3 cups plus 2 tablespoons) rye flour 
3/4 teaspoon (2 g) active dry yeast 
1 1/2 teaspoons (9 g) fine sea salt 
Neutral oil, such as canola or sunflower seed, for the pan 

Put the currants in a medium bowl, add the hot water, and let soak for 10 minutes. 

Set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and drain the currants; reserve the soaking liquid. Pat the currants dry with a paper towel and reserve. 

Put the starter in a large bowl. Add the rye flour and yeast. In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) of the reserved soaking liquid (save the rest for brushing the loaf) and the salt, stir to dissolve the salt, and add to the flour mixture, along with the currants. With wet hands, mix and knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together in a smooth, homogeneous mass. Transfer the dough to a work surface and shape into a ball. Return it to the bowl and let rest for 15 minutes. 

Reshape the dough into a round, return to the bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rise for 1 1/2 hours. Brush a 9-by-5-inch (23-by-13-cm)pan with oil. Turn the dough out and, using wet hands to prevent sticking, shape it into a 9-by-4-inch (23-by-10-cm) log. Transfer to the oiled pan. 

Brush a piece of plastic wrap with oil, drape it over the loaf, and let it rise in a warm (72°F to 77°F/22°C to 25°C), draft-free place until it rises about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) above the sides of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 

Meanwhile, about 25 minutes before baking, position a rack in the lower third and preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). 

Use a pastry brush to brush the top of the loaf with the reserved currant-soaking liquid. Bake until the loaf is golden and firm, 45 to 50 minutes; if you carefully remove it from the pan, it should feel hollow when you knock on it. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour. 

Remove the loaf from the pan, return to the rack, and let cool completely before slicing. Stored in a paper bag or wrapped in linen at room temperature, the loaf will keep for up to 1 week. 

NOTE: As with our sourdough, you will either need to have the starter on hand or plan ahead to make it, which takes a couple of days.

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 


  1. Amazing bread Lisa...100% rye flour...I love it, especially with lots of currants...and yes, delicious with butter...
    Thanks for the recipe...stay safe!

  2. Hearty and delicious! Would be great with some homemade liver pate :-))

  3. Lisa, I'm so glad you were able to share the recipe with us. I visited Poilane bakery in Paris in 2014 and was also able to visit Gertrude Stein's apartment nearby (the door to her building happened to be open so I walked inside). Congratulations on your 12 years of blogging!

  4. a couple of pieces of this toast would stick with you all morning! yum!

  5. Good to know that works too! I learn so much from you as well! Keep it up great post.


Blogging tips