A round, flattened loaf with a diamond pattern carved across its surface, Pain genevois is the cantonal bread for Geneva. Switzerland has 21 different cantonal breads in all, 12 of which I share recipes for in my book, Swiss Bread. Traditionally made with a half-white flour (farine mi-blanche / halbweissmehl), this bread works well with butter and jam at breakfast, for sandwiches at lunch or with a cheese fondue at dinner.
Where to buy Pain Genevois:
If you would like to buy a loaf of Pain Genevois, please keep in mind that this cantonal bread does not really exist beyond its cantonal borders. As a result, the first time I saw this bread was during a springtime visit to Geneva’s Halle de Rive in 2018. Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Rückstuhl, which has a location at this indoor marketplace, bakes these flour-dusted loaves. This bakery started in Carouge in 1939 and now has five locations. The history of the bakery spans three generations of the Rückstuhl family.
Pain genevois is an easy bread to make at home. If you can’t find farine mi-blanche, I recommend using a white whole wheat flour instead. For more information, please take a look at my article about Swiss flour types and potential substitutions.
Geneva’s Cantonal Bread
– 500 g half-white flour / halbweissmehl / farine mi-blanche /
– 12 g (about 2 teaspoons) salt
– 10 g fresh yeast (3.5 g dry yeast)
– 300 ml water, lukewarm
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.
2. Add the yeast to the lukewarm water, let it sit for a few minutes and then stir until it’s completely dissolved.
3. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the yeast mixture. Stir together until a dough forms and then knead for about 10 minutes with an electric mixer and a dough hook or by hand on a lightly-floured surface. When the dough has become smooth and elastic, place it in a large bowl and cover it with a clean, damp kitchen towel. Let it rise for approximately 2-3 hours, until it has doubled in size.
4. After the dough has risen, punch it down to remove the air bubbles. Then, using a rolling pin, shape it into a flattened circular loaf about 3 cm (1 inch) thick.
5. Place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly dust the top of the loaf with flour, and then cover it with a kitchen towel or parchment paper. Let it rise a second time for about 30 minutes.
6. After the dough has risen a second time, using a sharp knife, make a diagonal lattice design across the top.
7. In a preheated oven, bake at 220°C / 425°F for about 35-40 minutes until it has lightly browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom of the loaf.
For more recipes like this one, please check out my book, Swiss Bread (available in English, French and German) via Helvetiq.
Published in 2020, my Swiss Bread book contains 42 recipes for national and regional breads, as well as the stories behind these special sweet and savory loaves. You’ll also find profiles of 5 artisanal Swiss bakeries that make traditional breads and help to preserve culinary traditions that sometimes span centuries.
If you have any questions or would like some more information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.