April 29th, 2011
11:45 PM ET
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On a recent spring day, just blocks from the White House, Maxime Holder and a team of French and American bakers are busy preparing and testing their first batches of bread; kneading, pounding and then listening for the crackle of a perfectly baked French loaf.

“Our family is passionate about bread,” explained Holder, Chairman of Groupe PAUL. “More than being an art, we think that giving good bread to people is something that is very important.”

Holder represents the fifth generation of a family business rooted in the craft of baking. His first memories of baking are with his father and grandmother in their bakery in the North of France.

On May 2, Holder will open PAUL’s first flagship in the United States, a dream that began with his father.

“My father wanted to open bakeries in the United States but the fact is he was not speaking good English,” said Holder. “I wanted to bring our shops in the United States because this is a country that we like in our family. It’s kind of a circle, in fact, a family circle.”

With more than 300 stores across France, PAUL’s black façade is a familiar sight along French streets and train station kiosks. Opening in Washington D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood marks the first time the bakery stakes a major claim in the U.S.

The chain has stores in more than 20 other countries. There is also a franchise in Miami, but the D.C. boulangerie represents the first fully-owned PAUL store in the U.S.

Holder chose to bring a baker and pastry chef from France as culinary “ambassadors” training their American counterparts. While the breads with names like, “Fougasse” and “Le Charlemagne” are quintessentially French, the flour is American, shipped from Wisconsin.

“The organic flour that we found locally in the United States is really, really good so we decided not to bring the flour from France but to use the American flour,” explained Holder. “I’m quite proud because this is the only country in which we (are) using organic flour.

Holder sees the development of PAUL USA as a long-term investment the current economic climate.

“I’m very confident in the United States,” Holder said. “I think that coming in a country when it’s not so easy, it’s part of being the story. The fact that we are coming now means that we do trust the country and the opportunities that we can meet.”

The bakery chain already has plans to open its next shop in Georgetown this summer. The President of PAUL USA, Phillippe Sanchez, says so far he’s pleased with Washington’s reaction.

“It is truly the very same baguette you can buy on the Champs-Élysées,” said Sanchez. “So for us, this is a big moment.”

PAUL Bread
Recipe for a 1 kilo of dough (2.2 lbs) which can be divided into multiple loaves

548 gram of organic wheat flour (1.09 lbs)
3 gram yeast (.096 oz)
11 gram salt (.35 oz)
439 gram water (248 fluid drams = just shy of one quart)

Place wheat flour, yeast and salt in a bowl… making sure to put the yeast on one side and the salt on the other, so that the two do not mix in advance and adversely chemically react against one another.

Slowly add the water and begin stirring the mixture together by hand.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 7 to 10 minuted by hand to mix it properly. Once you feel that the consistency is correct, pre-shape the dough into a ball and place it into a covered bowl. Place the bowl in a warm place (75° – 80°F) to allow it to rise for at least 4 hours. Turn the dough once every hour.

Remove the dough from the bowl, and knead it once again on a floured surface.

Shape the dough into the desired forms (round, oval, baguette, or into a bread pan).

Once shaped, let the dough rise once again for approx. half hour to an hour.

Bake and enjoy!

Baking Times and Temperatures:
For Rolls of 50 grams each (1.6 oz) – Bake them for 10 – 15 min at 425°. (220-240° Celsius)
For a loaf that is 100 grams (3.2 oz) – Bake it for 15-20 min at 425°.
Loaves over 200 grams (6.4oz) – Bake for 25-30 min at 425°.

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Filed under: Baked Goods • Make • Recipes • Think • Video

soundoff (8 Responses)
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  4. r

    James Beard put out a book in 1973 called "Beard on Bread". Go buy that and follow those recipes. Delightful.

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  6. really?

    Wheat, yeast, salt, and water? That's some recipe you've got there. It just goes to show idiots will overpay 5x for anything they are told to. "It's French, it is soooo much better than the wheat, yeast, salt and water I get at Wal-Mart!"

    May 2, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • MoniqueDC

      Sir, there is no comparison between good french traditionally prepared bread and anything you could possibly get in the US grocery store and definitely not at a WalMart. I lived for years in France and Belgium and can tell you from personal experience that our food is just mass produced production line stuff. Instead of being so distainful, consider that there might be better ways of producing foods than the "factory" output for maximum profit and maximum shelf life. Traditional French bread will only last a day and so is produced in small amounts, but baked DAILY. Not shipped hundreds of miles, nor frozen, nor preservative laden.

      September 17, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  7. notAFr

    this is realy something. My wife, a French, says the only religion there is in France is food and eating. That used to puzzle me but no more. I can tell now. I can tell that in North America our food is processed and make just like animal food. Only label and tastes are different. The content nearly the same. Beware of what you eat it is not a matter of just stuffing once self with dead-food as someone said before.

    Another thing we north Americans can learn from the French is, they eat for their tongues we eat for our stomachs. Very difficult for me to abide by that. I need to eat, even if the taste of a good recipe changes as I eat more and more. I understand the French now but would they please understand that? smile smile.

    April 30, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
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