Pain Polka

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes


    large loaf

Appears in

Making Bread at Home

Making Bread at Home

By Tom Jaine

Published 2005

  • About

This rustic and crusted loaf, so deeply cut before baking that you break off tasty mouthfuls with your fingers rather than cutting tidy slices, is made with a starter of the previous day’s dough - in France called simply, pâte fermentée. If you are not making bread every day, it will keep for longer in the refrigerator. However, the simplest routine is perhaps to make a straightforward bread on one day and keep back enough fresh dough to make a pain polka the next.


  • 375 g/13 oz of the previous day’s dough
  • 15 g/½ oz fresh yeast
  • 325 ml/11 fl oz warm water at 26°C/80°F
  • 640 g/1 lb 7 oz unbleached white bread flour
  • 15 g/½ oz salt


  1. Put the previous day’s dough in a mixing bowl. Crumble in the yeast and add the water. Press the mixture through your fingers until the dough has broken up into a messy soup with a few lumps. Then stir in the flour and salt, handful by handful, mixing vigorously with your hand all the while to absorb each addition. The mix completed, turn the dough on to a floured work surface and knead well for 8 minutes. Leave the dough to rise in a bowl covered with oiled clingfilm in a warm place (24°C/75°F) for about 2 hours, until doubled in size.
  2. Turn out the dough on to the lightly floured work surface and at this point remove 375 g/13 oz of the dough and reserve in the refrigerator for the next pain polka. Knock the dough back and mould it into a single ball. Place it on a warmed, oiled baking sheet, cover the moulded loaf with a piece of oiled clingfilm and leave to prove out of draughts at about 26°C/80° F for about 1½ hours, until doubled in size.
  3. When you judge the bread ready, heat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas 8. Take the loaf, dust flour over the top and press gently yet firmly with your hands to flatten it to about two fingers thick. Then score it deeply with a sharp blade, or serrated knife, in a criss-cross pattern, slicing to within 12 mm/½ inch of the bottom. Leave it to recover for 20 minutes.
  4. Bake the loaf for 25-30 minutes, spraying it with water from an atomizer, or something similar, two or three times in the first 5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.