- Tried & Tasted -

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Pain D'Epi (Wheat Stalk Bread) with a twist

Pain (bread) D' (of) Epi (ear of wheat) = Bread shaped into an ear of wheat.

I love European bakeries. The varieties and shapes of bread never fail to amaze me. And of course, the smell of freshly baked breads never crease to invoke good memories of family sharing a meal. 

I saw how effortlessly this bread was made on a cooking show and was determined to give it a try. I like rustic bread, it (store bought) has become a staple on our dinner table every Saturday. We usually have it with cheese, Parma ham, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a simple side salad. Now, I have the option of home made bread and I loved the way it turned out. 

I put an interesting twist on the original recipe. I have been doing some research on improving the taste of bread and found a recommendation of using stocks instead of water as the liquid to form the dough. 

I replaced the water with low sodium, organic chicken stock and was pleasantly rewarded with a bread that tasted really good on its own. This bread would be great to soak up all the gravy in the  oxtail stew that I have made.

The dough is first shaped into a baguette, followed by a 45 degrees cut along the dough at regular intervals, using a sharp scissors.

These videos will give you the visuals on how to form a baguette and how to form the wheat stalk.

Pain D'Epi
adapted from Lorraine Pascale's Home Cooking Made Easy
(make one 40 cm loaf with 8 branches)
275g organic bread flour
2 (11g) tsp yeast 
1 tsp sea salt
175g low sodium, organic chicken stock, warmed to 40 degrees Celsius
1 Tbsp olive oil 

Steps to make:
By hand:
  • Place the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add chicken stock until the dough just comes together. Stir in the olive oil.
  • Flour your work surface and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. 
 OR using a bread machine or mixer with dough hook:
  • Add all the ingredients into the mixing bowl and turn the machine to medium low speed to knead the dough for 8 min. 
After the dough is formed:
  • Gather the dough into a tight ball so the top of dough is smooth and taut. Place it onto a floured baking sheet and form it into a long and thin baguette shape (how to form a baguette), thinner than usual as it will expand while it rises. 
  • Cover the tray with lightly oiled cling film so it is airtight but not too tight so the dough has room to expand. Put in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  • Uncover the bread and sprinkle on some flour. Put the bread with the shortest edge facing you (or lengthwise) and, starting at the end furthest away from you, hold a pair of scissors so they are parallel to the bread, then tilt them so they are at a 45-degree angle. Make a large cut 10cm away from the top of the dough, almost as if you were going to snip that bit off but it will still be attached, then take that piece and move it to the left. Make another snip about 10cm down from the bottom of the last one and move that piece to the right. Keep on doing this until you reach the end of the bread. Video on
    how to form the wheat stalk.
  • Sprinkle the top with flour and salt.
  • Spray some water into the oven with a bottle spray to create a steamy atmosphere. Put the dough into the oven. Bake until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom, about 25 - 30 minutes.  

It is very tempting to eat the bread hot out of the oven but please do wait for it to cool down for at least 1 hour so that the flavor of the bread can fully develop and appreciated. 

Homemade dough proofer:
This bread took me 1 1/2h from start to finish as I was able to shorten the time for the dough to double. I did that by creating a dough proofer in my microwave oven.
I placed a microwave safe bowl (heating water in narrow containers or cups in a microwave oven is dangerous) filled with 100ml of water into the microwave oven to heat up for 2min or until it comes to a boil. Once the water in the bowl boils, place the dough into the oven without removing the bowl of water. The steam from the boiling bowl of water creates a warm and moist environment for the yeast to fast forward its magical ability.

This can be done using the baking oven too. In a turned off oven. Using a tray placed on the lowest rack in the oven, pour 300ml boiling water into the tray and place the covered dough on a rack on the upper third of the oven. Take the dough out of the oven when it has double in size. Then proceed to preheating the oven to bake the bread.

Hope that you can try this recipe and do tell me does the chicken stock improve the flavour of your bread. 

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