The classic wheat stalk shaped bread is impressive and somewhat intimidating, until you see how easy it is to make. We love the Pain d’Epi not only for its gorgeous appearance but because it is the crustiest loaf there is. All of those cuts and angles leave more surface to crisp in the oven. Something a little more sophisticated to serve with dinner than ordinary rolls but just as easy!
Here’s how it is done:
Start by sprinkling the surface with flour so it won’t stick to your hands. Take a peach sized piece of dough from your bucket (master dough (page 26), Pain d’Epi dough (page 41), European Peasant dough (page 46), really anything but the enriched doughs will work.
Pull up the amount you want and cut with a pair of kitchen scissors or a serrated knife.
Sprinkle with more flour so the cut edges won’t be too sticky,
quickly form into a loose ball. This should take about 30 seconds.
To form the Pain d’Epi we are first going to make a baguette. To get a really nice shaped baguette we start by gently stretching the dough slightly into an oval.
Next you want to fold the dough in thirds, like a letter. Bring in one side and gently press it into the center.
Bring up the other side and pinch the seem closed. This will help you to get a tapered end on your baguette or Pain d’Epi.
Stretch the dough very gently into a log. You don’t want to compress the air out of the dough. If it resists your pulling on it then let it rest for just a moment to relax the glutens.
Continue to work the dough until you have a nice thin baguette. It is okay if you let the dough rest a few minutes and then come back to it to give it a gently stretch. No need to fight the dough.
Once your dough is the length and thickness you want, this will depend on the size of the ball of dough you started with and how thick you want your bread. Mine are about 15″. Lay the baguette on the edge of your cutting board, or whatever surface you intend to use to get the bread in the oven. Doing the following steps on a piece of parchment will reduce the chances of the dough sticking as you put it in the oven.
With your kitchen scissors cut the dough from one end at a 45 degree angle until you are about a 1/4″ from the cutting board. Being careful not to cut all the way through the dough.
Lay the piece you’ve cut over to one side. Continue to cut in this fashion until you’ve reached the other end.
Before you slide the cut dough into the oven, make sure that it has not stuck to the board. If it has gently pry it up and put more cornmeal under the stuck parts. Because this Pain d’Epi is longer than my stone is wide, I slide the oven rack out and put the dough in at an angle so it will fit on the stone.
Put a cup of hot water into the broiler tray below the baking stone and quickly shut the door. Bake for about 30 or until it is nicely browned.