Apollonia Poilâne is the third-generation baker and CEO of a famous bread bakery. Her bread is so desirable that it’s FedExed from her Parisian ovens across the world to famous celebrities like Ina Garten, Robert de Niro, and Alice Waters.
Now, Apollonia shares the joy of making bread from scratch with her time-honored traditions and recipes with hands-on demonstrations in Apollonia Poilâne MasterClass. Her bread making course includes lessons on how to make a variety of French breads, such as rustic wheat, rye, and brioche. While her bread is no doubt one of the best in the world, but can the same be said about her baking course? Just how good is the Apollonia Poilâne MasterClass and is it the right one for your time and money?
In our Apollonia Poilâne MasterClass review today, we will talking all about her course to help you decide whether it’s worth investing in.
Quick Summary on Apollonia Poilane’s Baking Masterclass
In this MasterClass, Apollonia Poilâne teaches you how to:
- Bake in the Poilane style and spirit
- Apply different techniques for creating consistently wonderful loaves.
- Create and nurture a sourdough starter.
- Make a home kitchen version of the popular miche Poilane.
- Create and bake a range of sourdough and yeast based breads.
- Prepare fabulous recipes with stale or dry bread as an ingredient.
- Learn a sensory approach with all five senses to baking that can be applied to any kitchen.
- Plenty of amazing tips and tricks to help you bake the perfect loaf consistently.
- Clear, concise and well planned lesson delivery.
- Includes simple yet delicious recipes that includes the use of dry or stale bread.
- Quite a simple course and may not be advanced enough for experienced bakers.
- A home kitchen based course rather than for a commercial kitchen.
- Does not offer non-dairy or vegan alternatives.
Course duration: 3 hours and 35 minutes (17 video lessons)
Suitable For: Anyone who loves baking and wants to learn the science and art of bread baking from one of the best in the world. The course is designed for beginner or intermediate bakers. However, experienced bakers will also benefit from Apollonia’s insight into baking with the Poilâne spirit.
Overall: Apollonia’s intuitive approach to bread baking is what sets Poilâne apart from other bakeries since their establishment in 1932 and this is what she teaches in her course. In addition to that, she also teaches you how to make a variety of sourdough and yeast based breads. Apollonia Poilâne also talks about her philosophies, stories, and family secrets on bread baking.
Who is Apollonia Poilâne?
Apollonia Poilâne is the CEO of the popular French Poilâne bakery that produces dark, crusty artisan loaves. More than 200,000 loaves of their bread are FedExed fresh from the oven to more than twenty countries around the world.
However, her signature Poilâne loaf is known as Miche Poilâne does not contain yeast. The bread relies on the fermentation process that occurs with the addition of sourdough from the previous batch. This essentially means that every loaf is descended from the first one baked by Apollonia’s grandfather in 1932.
The miche Poilâne bread has a story and heritage that gives it its unique look, texture, sound, smell, and flavor. At the tender age of 18, Apollonia took the reins of the family business due to the tragic death of her parents.
Nonetheless, she has worked hard to continue her family’s tradition and Poilâne is now an international business with a gross profit of $18 million a year with four additional retail outlets.
It’s clear that her bread baking knowledge and experience makes the Apollonia Poilâne MasterClass a highly sought-after course for bakers who want to make delicious breads.
What is MasterClass?
The MasterClass platform is an online learning website that provides lessons from the very best in the industry. The courses range from 11 different categories:
- arts and entertainment
- design & style
- science and tech
- home and lifestyle
- sports and gaming
- community and government
The course instructors are well-known industry professionals and experts within their own fields, including Yottam Ottolengnhi, Gordon Ramsey, Marc Jacobs, Shonda Rhimes, Alicia Keys, Annie Leibovitz, and Stephen Curry. MasterClass courses are pre-recorded video lessons where you can tune in and out whenever your schedule allows you to.
By subscribing to a MasterClass membership, you get the following:
Access to exclusive MasterClass courses with a catalogue of more than 100 different classes. Each class are on an average of 10 minutes long with around 20 video lessons per instructor. You can watch the lessons through your smartphone, tv, and computer browser. The platform adds new classes every month.
Downloadable lessons. If you’re frequently on the go, you can also choose to download all your lessons on your mobile device to view offline. However, this option is only available for smartphones and not for computers.
Downloadable workbooks. Each course comes with an accompanying workbook that includes useful summaries, recipes, tips, and exercises that supplement the video lessons.
Online community. The platform has an online community where you’ll be able to interact with fellow members through discussions. Here, you get to share your work, get feedback, and even join challenges and contests.
Taking a Look at Pollane’s Baking MasterClass
Apollonia Poilâne’s MasterClass is slightly over three and a half hours and it consists of:
- 17 lessons ranging 15-20 minutes long each.
- Access to an online community of fellow students.
- 58-page supplementary workbook with all the recipes taught in the course as well as equipment lists, history of bread making, and information about the Poilâne family.
Baking MasterClass Plan
Lesson 1 – Meet Your Instructor
Apollonia kicks off the course with a story of the bakery that was founded by her grandfather in 1932 before it was later expanded by her father. She also gives a short introduction about herself and her revered Parisian bakery before telling you what to expect from this course.
Lesson 2 – Baking a la Poilâne
Apollonia then shares her core baking philosophies of using all of your senses and her practical guidelines for picking ingredients and equipment for making bread.
Lesson 3 – Sourdough Starter
She shares with you her French at-home starter, demystifying how you can build and maintain a leaven and explaining the richness it lends to the loaves.
Lesson 4 – Poilâne-style Wheat Loaf: Mixing and Shaping
Using the sourdough starter taught in the previous lesson, Apollonia shares the secrets of mixing to proofing and shaping the world-famous country-style wheat bread that’s Poilane’s crown jewel.
Lesson 5 – Poilâne-Style Wheat Loaf: Scoring and Baking
She then puts on the finishing touches on her wheat bread by baking and scoring it. She also walks you through a side-by-side analysis of common baking issues to avoid.
Lesson 6 – Rye
The next lesson, Apollonia shares the Poilâne approach to making rye: a rich, floral loaf leavened by the same starter used for the wheat load.
Lesson 7 – Pain de Mie
Pain de Mie translates to “bread of crumb” and this is the first yeast-based recipe that Apollonia teaches in her course. She shares her techniques to creating a loaf with an irresistible, cloud-like texture.
Lesson 8 – Brioche
In this lesson, Apollonia shares the key steps to achieving the quintessential airy texture and perfectly domed tops of the Bioche while she recounts her time spent honing her brioche technique as a young apprentice in the bakehouse at Poilâne.
Lesson 9 – Savory Corn Flour Bread
The cornflour bread recipe is an Apolonia original which she spent a decade refining. She shares her process for making the gluten-free and vegan load that was originally inspired by college dinners during her time at Harvard.
Lesson 10 – Fresh Bread: Sourdough Wheat Tartines
Apollonia shares the recipe for her open-faced ham-and-cheese sandwich that’s an all-time favorite from Poilane’s sister café.
Lesson 11 – Dry Bread: Savory Pain de Mie Pain Perdu
Here, she teaches how you can use dry bread to create a delicious tomato-and-curry studded French toast – a departure from the typically sweet version.
Lesson 12 – Dry Bread: Sourdough Wheat & Rye Granola
Apollonia then introduces an innovative method of swapping oats for dried bread with granola as she shares how you can make use of loaves that are no longer fresh.
Lesson 13 – Stale Bread: Crouton Variations
Just because your bread has turned stale doesn’t mean you need to throw it away. Apollonia demonstrates her techniques for turning stale loaf into delicious croutons with two methods: oven-baked and pan-fried.
Lesson 14 – Stale Bread: Caesar Salad with Flavoured Brioche Croutons
In this lesson, Apollonia teaches you her recipe on her reimaged version of a Caesar’s salad that features richly marinated brioche croutons.
Lesson 15 – Stale Bread: Breadcrumbs & Sourdough Wheat Pesto
She shares her creative and surprisingly true-to-form take on pesto by replacing cheese and pine nuts with breadcrumbs and walnuts.
Lesson 16 – Bread as Art: Decorating Your Loaves
Poilâne has a rich history of collaboration with different artists as can be seen with her father’s friendship with Dali. Apollonia reflects on the relationship between bread and art while showing you how you can embellish loaves with leaves, roses, and letters.
Lesson 17 – Rye Sables
Apollonia Poilâne ends her course with a recipe demonstration of how to make Poilane’s popular grain-based cookies, affectionately named punitions.
What You’ll Need for the Course
- Dough scraper
- Digital Scales
- Hand mixer
- Loaf pans
- Pastry brush
- Sharp kitchen scissors
- Mixing bowls
- Proofing basket
- Greaseproof or parchment paper
- Cocotte or Dutch oven
- Stand mixer
- Food processor
The Apollonia Poilâne MasterClass can be broken down into 7 key sections:
Meet your instructor
Baking À La Poilâne
Bread as art
Section 1: Meet your instructor
The Apollonia Poilâne MasterClass opens with a footage of Apollonia cycling through deserted Parisian streets to open her Boulangerie in the wee small hours of the morning. During this time, she also shares with you:
- Her experience of beginning her bread baking journey.
- How growing up in a bake house shaped her destiny.
- A little history of the Boulangerie Poilâne and its long tradition of baking artisanal sourdough loaves.
- A moving story of how Apollonia came to take the reins of the business.
- What sets Boulangerie Poilâne apart from the other bakeries.
- How to make breads with sourdough and yeast.
- Use bread as an ingredient in other dishes.
- How to attune your senses to what makes a perfect loaf
Section 2: Baking A La Poilâne
In the next section, Apollonia shares with you the fundamental thinking behind baking in the Poilâne style and you’ll also learn:
- The vital role of the senses in baking a la Poilâne.
- Why there aren’t many measuring tools in the Parisian Bakery Poilâne.
- Tips for picking the best flours and ingredients.
- What equipment you need.
- The importance of adapting your techniques according to the environment.
The Apollonia Poilâne MasterClass is designed for created wit home bakers in mind, hence she has included more focus on measurements than would the case be in her bakery. Her apprentices take at least nine months to master the art of attuning their senses to the art of baking bread, devoting themselves to the training all day, every day.
This lesson also makes it clear that the ‘Poilâne secret’ is not something that can be taught through an online video, it can only be developed after a lengthy apprenticeship under a master baker. Nonetheless, this MasterClass still offers value in terms of providing you experience with a variety of different bakes that will help you accumulate knowledge and build a mental library of your own.
Section 3: Poilane Sourdough Starter
The first part of this section is where Apollonia teaches how to make a French ‘at-home’ starter. In this lesson, you’ll learn:
- About the richness and heritage that a sourdough introduces to breads.
- The core ingredients and equipment needed to create a starter.
- Practical tips for using your senses to build and maintain your starter at home.
- How things may go awry and what you can do about it.
Apollonia uses yogurt to boost her starter and makes it clear that this is not how it’s done at her bakery since the sourdough used in Boulangerie Poilane has its roots in the 1930s when Apollonia’s grandfather first started the business. Once sourdough is made, it is kept in perpetuity.
A sourdough purist may be shocked at the use of yogurt but if you already have a sourdough starter at home, you can skip this step as you don’t need to start one from scratch anymore.
Poilâne-Style Wheat Loaf
After creating your starter, Apollonia moves on to teaching you how to make the famous country style wheat loaf, or miche Poilâne. In the lessons, you’ll learn:
- The ingredients that you can use for ‘at home’ version of the Poilâne style wheat loaf.
- Why you should use specific types of flour and salt.
- The techniques Apollonia uses to mix, knead, shape, and ‘give life’ to the dough.
- How to adjust your techniques according to your environment.
- How scoring on rising can affect the dough.
- How to score, bake, cool, and store your loaf.
- Tips for recognizing and correcting common baking issues.
Apollonia also mentions that this is one of the hardest recipes she tackles in the course and that you don’t necessarily have to start with this. You can try out other simpler loaves first to build confidence before attempting this. She also points out that she is using yeast to boost the starter – a step that more experienced bakers may not need.
A highlight for this section is when Apollonia does a side-by-side dough and loaf analysis where she explains how you can know when things have not quite worked out, why, and how to avoid these problems the next time.
In the next lesson, Apollonia introduces you to the infinite possibilities for flavor in rye bread. The recipe she teaches uses the same sourdough starter that you made for the wheat loaf, and you’ll learn:
- The difference rye flour makes to a loaf.
- How to use your senses to determine if the dough texture is right.
- Techniques for taking the dough through two rises.
- How to correctly score your dough and why this is important.
- Poilane’s secret hacks for success at every stage of the process.
Again, Poilâne points out that the techniques she used will be helpful to beginners – a step that can be missed if you’re an experienced bread baker. This section included many super useful tips such as how to prime and care for a new proofing basket.
Section 4: Yeast-based Bread
Pain de Mie
The next section of the course focuses on yeast-based breads and the first one up is Pain de Mie – a cushiony bread with cloud-like texture. Apollonia explains why sourdough starter is not used for this soft bread since the crumb is more important than the crust here.
However, this is an easy bread to bake and there’s nothing particularly revolutionary in this lesson. Still, there were interesting things to learn such as:
- Tricks for adding yeast to the mix to maximize fermentation.
- How to add sale so that it doesn’t interfere with the yeast.
- How mixed peppers or other spices affect the mix.
- Visual cues for knowing when your dough is correctly mixed and risen.
- The fact that chocolate and pepper work well together.
The next lesson, Apollonia Poilâne focuses on creating a rich brioche bread – a loaf that she has worked on every day as a young apprentice and points out that this delicate bread is tricky to get right. In this lesson, Poilâne also teaches a few hacks for success like:
- Why making large batches of dough is better.
- How and why you should use a standalone mixed.
- Why a light, delicate touch is key.
- How and why you should cut, rather than slash the dough.
Savory Corn Flour Bread
Here’s a recipe that took Apollonia 10 years to master. The savory corn flour bread is a gluten-free, vegan loaf that she first experimented with when she was still at Harvard. In this class, she shares with us:
- The magical ingredients that make it possible to make bread with 100% cornflour.
- The visual cues to know when the unusual dough is ready.
- The delicate touch required to maintain the structure of this loaf.
A highlight to this section is how Apollonia included the ‘science’ explanation behind her ingredients of choice. It is important to understand why the ingredients work the way they do and this will give you a better opportunity and understanding to try experimenting yourself with other ingredients in the future.
Section 5: Bread Cooking
In this section, Apollonia talks about the boundless versatility of bread and explains that it’s not just a good, but it can also be used as an ingredient. In the next six lessons, Apollonia teaches you how to make use of bread as an ingredient at every stage of its evolution, from fresh to stale.
These are quite useful lessons as it teaches you how to eliminate waste and show respect for the time and energy gone into each loaf.
Apollonia also shares the techniques and recipes with bread as the main ingredient as well as why each technique works and how to correct any mistakes. Here you’ll learn how to make:
- Quintessential sourdough tartines (open sandwiches) using fresh bread.
- Savory pain perdu (French toast) with dry bread.
- Sourdough and rye granola with dry breadcrumbs instead of oats.
- Crouton variations with stale loaf.
- Apollonia’s reimagined Caesar Salad with marinated brioche croutons.
Sourdough wheat pesto with an Apollonia twist where she replaces parmesan, basil, and pine nuts with breadcrumbs, parsley, and walnuts.
What’s fascinating is the fact that every lesson here encouraged experimentation. Apollonia describes most recipes as discretionary and encourages you to try out different proportions that suit your taste preference best.
Section 6: Bread as art: Decorating your loaves
Apollonia shares how her grandfather used to barter loaves for paintings with artists on the St Germain de Pres. Her father’s friendship with Salvador Dali led to an interesting custom that still exists today in the back room of the original bakery.
The link between bread and art can be seen in all aspects of Poilâne baking, especially in the intricate decorations fashioned by Poilâne craftsmen in the bakery. In this lesson, Apollonia teaches how to use fortified bread dough as an art medium to create bread decorations that will retain their shape and not rise in the oven.
Section 7: Rye Sables
Apollonia ends her MasterClass course with her recipe for making Poilane’s signature grain based cookies. As she bids us farewell, she shares that she hopes that we will continue our baking journey in the Poilâne spirit.
What We Like:
Teaches Sensory Approach to Baking Bread That Can Be Adaptable To Your Environment
Throughout the entire course, Apollonia Poilâne frequently reminds us that we need to attune all our senses not only to the bread making process but also to the environment in which you’re baking bread at.
Being sensitive to touch, feel, smell, sound, visual cues, and working temperature will help ensure you’re more aware of what’s happening to your bread. Not only that, but being aware of everything that’s happening will help you build a mental library and muscle memory to improve with each bake.
Excellent Tips to Perfect Your Bread Making
Apollonia is the 3rd generation baker and shares with us nine decades of baking knowledge and experience. She knows what works and what doesn’t. Not only that, she’s very generous with all the hacks and tips to help you avoid common pitfalls for consistently great bread.
Clear and Concise Lesson Delivery
Her course isn’t just easy-to-understand, but her body language and manner of speech immediately draws you in. Her crisp and distinct precide hand movements are clearly filmed so that you can see every gesture she makes.
What Could Be Better:
More Suitable for Beginners
It’s understandable that it’s not easy to create an online course for a wide audience. While the course offers a lot of value, more experienced bread bakers may find it rather basic. For example, Apollonia demonstrates making a sourdough starter with yogurt to boost fermentation which is not something done in her bakery and not something sourdough purists would do.
Designed as a Home Based Kitchen Course
If you’re expecting to duplicate the breads sold at the Boulangerie Poilâne from this course, you’ll be disappointed as Apollonia’s course and recipes are for a home based kitchen.
Apollonia’s bakers are masters and they use heritage sourdough to make 50-100 loaves at a time in wood fired ovens AT home, you’ll be baking with a new sourdough. Nonetheless, the course really shows how every infinitesimal part of the bread making process and environment will influence the outcome, so you need to mdoerate your expectations.
Measurements are not used in the Boulangerie Poilâne, but Apollonia advises you to be precise at home until you’re more experienced. She even advocates digital scales. However, the recipes in the workbook does not list all the ingredients in grams. It’s written in cup or by volume, so you’ll need to spend time converting it to use the digital scale.
No Non-Dairy or Vegan Alternatives
With the rise of veganism, it would’ve been nice if Apollonia included some non-dairy or vegan alternatives for her recipe.
Who is the Apollonia Poilâne MasterClass For?
This class is a good fit for anyone who:
- Are fans of Apollonia Poilâne or anyone who wants to learn the subtle art of baking bread from the very best in the industry.
- Beginner or intermediate bakers who want to refine their skills. This course covers both simple and complex bakes to make it a good starting point for bakers who want to improve their techniques.
- Experienced bakers who want some insight into the Poilâne philosophy and methodology.
However, if you’re looking to replicate an exact duplicate of the fabled Poilâne breads, you will need to get an apprenticeship at her bakeries instead. This course is aimed at teaching fundamentals for home bakers.
How Much is the Course and is it Worth It?
Just like other MasterClass courses, each member is presented with two options. You can either buy the course on its own for $90 or you can opt to pay for a year of all-access pass subscription to every course on MasterClass for $180 a year.
Option 1 – $90 for a Standalone Apollonia Poilânes MasterClass
The course itself is 3.5 hours and if you break it down to an hourly rate, Apollonia Poilâne’s MasterClass ends up costing a rate of $25 an hour. That’s a very competitive price compared to going for a baking class. The course offers an unbeatable value, especially since you get to learn at the comforts of your own home and at your own pace. You can choose to take as much time to pause and practice as you need.
To buy this course individually, you’ll need to buy it as a gift, and gift the course to yourself. Furthermore, you get lifetime access to Apollonio’s MasterClass, meaning you get to dip in and out or revisit it anytime you like.
Option 2 – $180 a year for a MasterClass Subscription for the Whole Year
The second option to getting access to Herbie’s MasterClass is by subscribing for an annual all-acess MasterClass pass for $180. This works out to be about $15 per month for an all inclusive access pass to lessons by the best experts in the world.
This subscription will give you access to an excellent cooking course by Gordon Ramsay, jaw dropping game of poker by Phil Ivey, jazz piano lessons from Herbie, and how to be a comedian by David Sedaris. As long as you’re able to find at least 4-6 courses you like from the website, you’re effectively only paying $30-45 per course.
MasterClass is an absolute goldmine of information with courses taught by world-class experts at a very reduced price. Nonetheless, if you’re worried about the commitment, the website includes a refund policy just in case you decided that the course is not suitable for you.
Alternatives to Apollonia Poilâne’s MasterClass
There are several cooking or baking courses on the same platform such as the Dominique Ansell Class on French Pastry Fundamentals. But there are also other cooking classes from other amazing chefs such as:
- Gordon Ramsay
- Niki Nakayama
- Thomas Keller
- Wolfgang Puck
- Aaron Franklin
- Alice Waters
- Massimo Bottura
- …the list goes on!
If you want to consider other platforms, you can also look at Udemy and the Online Baking Academy. Both platforms offer much shorter courses on specific bread types for you to pick based on what you want to make that day. However, the courses there are less illustrious than MasterClass.
Your other alternative is YesChef that’s an online learning platform that only offers cooking classes. Or if you want to mix up baking with other creative activities, you can check out CreativeLive or Craftsy.
What Others Have Said About the Course?
No review is complete without considering what others have said about the course. Once again, you need to keep in mind that music is very subjective since everyone has their own tastes and preferences, so it’s worth checking what others are saying about the course.
A quick Google search has resulted in a few interesting points. Most reactions were positive but there were some negative comments too.
“I was hoping to learn how to make Poilâne bread. A bread that earned its fame for being made with 100% sourdough! There is not even one recipe for the Poilâne sourdough bread… it’s really disappointing!”
This is a rather unfair criticism as Apollonia does show you how to bake the classic Poilâne bread as the first baking demonstration. She even included some adjustments for home bakers and inexperienced bakers such as using yogurt to activate the sourdough and yeast to aid fermentation.
She also states that these steps are not necessary if you’re confident or daring enough. The workbook also sets out how to create the bread without either ingredients. Also, there are many factors involved to create a true Poilâne loaf as we discussed earlier. It is almost impossible to replicate it in your kitchen unless you have some Poilâne heritage sourdough starter and a woodburning stove.
“Love Ms. Poilâne’s class. However after 5 years of baking bread it is very silly to list some ingredients in cups and other ingredients in grams in the same recipe. This is so undesirable. Jumping back and forth ruins and adds work to the process”
This is a point that I agree with. On one hand, Apollonia encourages you to be precise about measurements, especially if you’re a novice baker and strongly advises you to use digital scales, and on the other, her workbook mixes gram measurements with cups and spoons, which makes things very complicated as you need to keep going back and fro with conversions.
This is a simple issue that could be solved by editing the workbook. Hopefully, MasterClass will pick up on this and rectify the issue soon.
Other than that, the feedback in the community is mostly positive and goes something like below:
“I think it is one of the best MasterClasses and best instructors I’ve viewed so far. She is incredibly clear, looks at so many details. I consider myself to be a quite advanced sourdough baker and still have learned a TON of things with Apollonia.”
Is the MasterClass Content Unique?
Unfortunately, most of the recipes taught in the course can be found in Apollonia’s book – Poilâne: The Secrets of the World Famous Bread Bakery. However, while the content itself isn’t exclusive to the course, the class as a whole is quite unique.
Those who want more than just learning from a cookbook and being in a class will enjoy this lesson. Apollonia includes tons of tips and hacks you can use to get consistently great bread and to give you that extra level of confidence.
And since the secret to baking à la Poilâne is sensory awareness, you get far more from watching and hearing Apollonia in action than you would ever get from reading a book.
Is it Worth The Money?
Apollonia Poilâne is a third generation baker who’s learned from baking giants. Her popular bread is transported around the world and has a litany of celebrity fans. Her experience and knowledge in baking breads makes her one of the best instructors around to teach this course.
However, experienced bakers may find that this course lack depth and specific Poilâne techniques and hacks you’re seeking for. If you want access to the heritage Poilâne sourdough, Apollonia’s bakery has a nine month apprenticeship program and a wood fired oven big enough for 100 loaves to replicate the popular loaf.
With that being said, the course does provide students with a variety of different bakes and sourdough recipes (including the signature miche Poilâne). The tips and tricks taught in the course helps to build a mental library for you to nurture till you arrive at your own ‘secret’ to baking beautiful bread in your own time and environment.
Poilâne devotes considerable time to teaching you how to mix, shape, score, and bake a traditional loaf. Those who want to try out new challenges can try out her other sourdough recipes and even the gluten-free cornflour bread she developed while she was still a college student.
What I love most about the course is her approach of breaking down the bread into stages of freshness, from fresh-baked to fresh to dry to stale with different types of accompanying recipes. So, in conclusion, yes, the MasterClass course is worth it, especially if you want to watch and learn about Apollonia Poilâne’s baking philosophy and technique.