Pain d’Epi

Can a baguette shaped like a wheat stalk be called bread inception? Discuss. # 142: Pain d’Epi

Happy Tuesday! Have you ever had a chance to watch professional bakers work with dough? I saw a baker prepping these leafy baguettes en masse once and it was mesmerizing. She was snipping the “leaves” with the precision of a surgeon at lightning speed. It was a solid reminder that the more we practice something, the closer we get to that cool, calm and collected expert. I’m slowly getting better with bread, and I have to say I’m super proud of how these loaves turned out.

Most of the articles I read referenced the translation of this loaf as “wheat stalk” which seems visually accurate. As a person who speaks no French, I looked it up and it directly translates to “ear of bread.” Is it related to the phrase “ear of corn”? Or maybe it’s because the little bread leaves look like elf ears? I’d say “wheat stalk” is more on point. Either way, shaping a loaf of bread to look like one of the ingredients is very meta.

Baguettes have always been perfect for picnics, but this one is especially so – it’s a pull apart version! No knead to remember a bread knife.

I’ve never seen a bread recipe that requested I let the dough sit for 15 minutes after the first mix to allow the flour to fully absorb into the yeast/water mixture before kneading. No baguettes before their time.

I decided to knead it by hand and man, it was an arm workout. Ten minutes of folding and pushing the dough til it was smooth and bouncy. It was really sticky so I had to dust flour on the board every minute or so.

I let it nap for an hour and it transformed into a happy puffy pillow!

Shape into thin loaves on parchment-lined pans.

Let me sing the praises of kitchen scissors again! Literally the most useful tool in the kitchen. Making these diagonal cuts with a knife would have taken three times as long.

As with a classic baguette, you want to put a pan full of water on the rack below your bread in the oven. The steam bath helps create a crispy crunchy crust while leaving a soft, chewy center. I believe it has to do with the starches on the outside of the loaf absorbing the droplets of steam and changing structure. The new starch structure along the outside solidifies into a hard crust while leaving the rest of the starch inside the loaf to bake normally.

I pulled the first one out early to test different crust colors, but the crispy darker crust won out as expected. Next time I make them, I’ll lightly dust the loaves with flour and do dainty cuts on top of each leaf. Only fancy wheat stalks allowed!

Happy munching!

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