If you've never had a pain d'epi, this pull-apart baguette is intended to mimic the appearance of the flower of the wheat stalk, or "epi" in French. Each little ear of wheat can be easily pulled apart, which makes this bread shape ideal to pass around the table at dinner parties or picnics.
If you don't have time to create a sourdough bread starter, this overnight dough is the next best thing. Complete the first step of the recipe the night before, allowing the bread to ferment overnight. This imparts a slightly sour yet floral aroma and taste.
Creating the baguette shape may seem daunting at first, but the process becomes more natural by the second or third try. To spread the dough into a rectangle shape with an even thickness, press your fingers in the center of the dough and then slowly knead it outward.
To cut even epi pieces, maintain the same 45-degree angle and spacing between each cut, then use your fingers to alternate the side that each "wheat petal" rests.
The bread will rise when it cooks, so space each loaf several inches apart. To learn how to make these beautiful pain d'epi loaves, keep reading.
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm water (110º F), plus more if needed
Cornmeal, for dipping
Fresh bread goes stale within a day. To avoid this, store leftover bread in an airtight plastic bag in the freezer for several months. For slightly different flavorings, sub in different types of salt, like Himalayan pink salt or fleur de sel.
- Using a food processor or a stand-up mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix 2 cups of flour, yeast, and 1 teaspoon salt. Keep the machine running and slowly add 1 cup of water. Mix until thoroughly combined. Cover and let sit overnight or at least 6 hours.
- Place dough back inside food processor or a stand-up mixer bowl; add 1-1/2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Allow machine to run on low to medium until thoroughly combined and a moist, well-defined ball forms. If mixture is still flaky and shaggy looking, mix in a little water, 1 tablespoon at a time. The dough should be moist enough so it forms a tight ball, but it should not stick to the side of the bowl. If it is too moist, mix in a little flour until the right consistency is achieved.
- Form dough into a ball, place into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow dough to rise for an hour at room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 400º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat, then dust with cornmeal.
- Lightly dust a countertop or flat surface with flour; dust with an even layer of cornmeal. Using a dough cutter, divide the dough into three equal parts. (For more accurate results, employ the help of a kitchen scale.) Roll each part into a ball and set aside.
- To shape the baguettes: take one dough ball and flip it, so the bottom side is now facing upward. Press the dough into a rectangular shape. Take the top portion of the dough and fold it into the center, pressing to create a tight seam. Repeat with the bottom portion of the rectangle, folding it into the center, pressing to create a tight seam. Gently use the palms of your hands to roll the dough out into a longer baguette shape (it should be no longer than the width of the baking sheet). Dip the bottom of the baguette-shaped dough in the line of cornmeal, and place on a lined baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining dough balls.
- Turn the baking sheets so that they are horizontal. Using sharp kitchen scissors, start at the left end of the baguette. Move the scissors an inch or two away from the end, and at a 45-degree angle, cut through the dough until the scissors are 1/4-inch from the baking sheet. Do not cut through the dough entirely. Using your hand, shift the newly formed "wheat petal" to the left. Move the scissors another inch or two away from the slit, and make another 45-degree slice. This time, shift the second "wheat petal" to the right. Continue cutting and alternating the wheat petals in left and right directions until 6-8 "wheat petals" are formed per loaf.
- When all of the loaves are complete, place the tray in the oven, turn the heat down to 350º F, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until bread had a caramel brown exterior and an internal temperature of 135º F. Use tongs or a towel to quickly transfer bread to a cooling rack.
Makes 3 pain d'epi loaves.