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Aug 14, 2018

Pain d'Epi - French Wheat Stalk Bread - Happy Birthday Julia!

Pain d'Epi, or wheat stalk bread, is a classic French bread shape. You shape the dough into a baguette, let it rise, and then snip it with scissors to create the wheat stalk look.

Pain d'Epi - French Wheat Stalk Bread

Making epi bread is one of those methods that is so easy, but looks so professional. As a friend recently said, "you even look at them afterward and think "did I do that?"

While I can make a pretty delicious baguette, I still have trouble achieving the beautiful slashes that open up symmetrically to create a beautiful pattern. Enter a pair of scissors! It's so easy! 

Pain d'Epi

You can create these long stalks, with the sections going left and right, or you can angle all of the cuts to one side, and form the loaf into a wreath. 

This bread takes two days to make. That doesn't bother me at all. In fact, I find baking bread to be so therapeutic. When life hands me lemons, I bake bread. Homemade bread, made with the long, slow rising methods of traditional artisan bakers, is worth the wait. 

This month, the Fantastical Food Fight is celebrating Julia Child's birthday. We are all making one of her recipes, or a dish inspired by one of her recipes. I can't wait to see what everyone made. 

Last year on this day I posted these Petit Pains (French bread rolls) in honor of the 20 (that's twenty!) page bread recipe in the book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2

My proudest early blogging moment inspired by Julia was this boeuf bourguignon from 2013. It was definitely a marathon, but totally delicious. P.S. I later made this Instant Pot Beef Burgundy with much success, but, I must say, the marathon version is better. 

This recipe was adapted from the book Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America's Best Bakers - - In Classic Julia Style, written by Dorie Greenspan, and published in 1996. The book chronicles the recipes from the PBS series of the same name. In this episode, Steve Sullivan of Acme Bread shows Julia how he makes and shapes bread with mixed starters. I definitely recommend binge watching old episodes of this show. Happy birthday dear Julia. 

This bread is crusty, deeply flavored, and full of uneven holes. I'm not going to lie, this dough takes some practice, but it's really worth it. Each time you try it, you will be so happy with the flavor. 

French Wheat Stalk Bread

To start this bread, you will need a small piece of dough from previously baked bread. This time, I used a small bit of my sourdough starter, and it worked out perfectly. If you don't have a starter, just refrigerate a portion of dough from any lean bread you've made recently for up to two weeks. 

After the recipe, be sure to check out the rest of the Fantastical Food Fight Julia recipes! 

bread, artisan bread, baguettes, epis
Yield: 4 loaves

Pain d'Epi (Wheat Stalk Bread)


The First Starter
  • 1/2 ounce piece of risen dough, such as pizza dough. I used some sourdough starter, which may add a more sour taste than you like. 
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
  • 2/3 cup (scant 3 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
The Second Starter
  • All of the first starter
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
  • 3/4 cup (3 1/4 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
Final Dough
  • 1 1/4 cups room temperature water
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • All of the second starter
  • 3 1/3 cups (14 1/4 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt


To Make the First Starter
  1. Around 11:00 a.m. on day one, mix the ingredients by hand, dough whisk, or mixer until all of the ingredients are combined. 
  2. Place the dough into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for about 8 hours. 
  3. To Make the Second Starter
  4. Around 7 p.m., Mix the ingredients by hand or machine until all of the ingredients are combined. 
  5. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and and let rise for four hours in a warm spot. Once the dough has doubled, place it in the refrigerator for one to eight hours. 
To Make the Final Dough
  1. Day Two 7:00 a.m. place the water into the bowl of a stand mixer, and add the yeast. Add the second starter in pieces and allow to soften in the yeast water for 5 minutes. 
  2. Add the flour and mix with a dough whisk or wooden spoon to incorporated. Let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. 
  3. Mix the dough on low with the dough hook, and add the salt. Increase the mixer speed to to medium high and mix for about 8 minutes. 
  4. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl or dough rising bucket and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest in a warm spot for about 90 minutes. 
  5. Fold the dough over itself a few times to deflate, cover, and let rise another 45 minutes. 
  6. Shape the dough into 4 baguettes and place them into a floured couche. To do this, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, and shape each piece into a rectangle. Fold the dough from the top and the bottom like an envelope and seal. Continue to fold and seal the dough until you have a 15 inch long log. Place the log, seam side down, into the floured couche. Fold the couche over the loaves and cover with more floured linens. 
  7. Let the loaves rise at room temperature for 90 minutes. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and line it with a baking stone. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a pan below the rack on the oven floor. Line a pizza peel with parchment paper. 
  8. Move the loaves with a baguette flipping board or baguette transfer peel onto the parchment lined peel. 
  9. Cut the loaves with scissors at a 45 degree angle from the top, nearly, but not all of the way through. Place the cut piece to one side at a 30 degree angle. Cut and repeat every 3 inches, alternating the folding to each side. 
  10. Slide the loaves, parchment and all, onto the baking stone. Pour two cups of boiling water into the steam pan and close the oven door. Bake the loaves for about 20 minutes, until the loaves are a deep brown. The loaves should reach and interior temperature of about 200 degrees F. If your loaves aren't brown enough, turn on the convection feature of your oven for the last 5 minutes, watching closely. 

Pain d'Epi - French Wheat Stalk Bread from Acme Bread

Would you like to comment?

  1. This was one of my favourite breads to make at baking school - mostly because it was fun to say pain d'epi, but also because cutting bread with scissors is very satisfying. Your wheat stalks look amazing!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! I need to learn how to pronounce it. I usually just say "epi bread" and hope no one notices.

  2. That bread looks amazing Karen...of course, you are a constant source of amazement to me.

    1. Awwww Wendy, thanks! Bread is kind of an obsession, as you probably know.

  3. I am in awe. Always. When I decide get serious about learning to make bread, I will definitely be picking your brain.

  4. Your breads always look amazing. Thank you for your blog and the links to other bloggers. I've made Epi's and the challenge for me is shaping and getting the right degree of proofing.

    1. Thanks so much Dave. It's the same for me. This blog, when it comes to bread, is always a work in progress.

  5. You amaze me with your bread baking skills Karen! These loaves are fantastic.

  6. What beautiful bread! Bread is one of the only foods I have patience making. Otherwise I'm just a ball of impatience haha

    1. Thank you Sarah. I think that's the beauty of bread making. It's so "ebb and flowy!"


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