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Sep 24, 2020

Pain Fendu (French Split Bread)

Pain Fendu is a French bread that is shaped by splitting the bread down the middle with a dowel to create a "split" in the loaf. 

This sourdough-based recipe for pain fendu is also spiked with a little instant yeast. It is super crusty with a flavorful crumb and is super easy to make. Pain fendu, or "split bread" in French, is one of the many ways to shape pain au levain. 

If you really want to flex your French bread muscles, you can use this dough to make fougasse, pain d'Epi, baguettes, pain tordu, or pain de beaucaire. It's pretty foolproof! 

Slices of pain fendu in a bread basket

How to Shape Pain Fendu:

First, form the risen dough into a ball, sprinkle with some flour, cover it loosely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for 15 minutes. 

Next, elongate the dough ball into a batard, and tighten it up with a bench scraper. 

After that, press a dowel into the dough to create a deep crevice, and then roll the dowel back and forth to create a thin skin of dough in the middle. Sprinkle some flour into the middle and rub the sides of the crevice with more flour. Roll the sides of the dough together and let the loaf rise, split side down. 

I used a floured couche, which I used to support the sides of the dough while it was rising. 

Shaping pain fendu

I did not have a wooden dowel, so I used the handle of the longest wooden spoon I own. If you are a drummer, a drum stick would work too! 

It took me a couple of tries to get this bread to actually maintain the split. The first time I tried it, the bread "sort of" split, but it was harder to discern (see photo below). It's a sticky dough, and it doesn't always easily separate. 

Pain Fendu slices

You let the shaped loaves rise, crease side down for about an hour to 90 minutes, and then bake them for about 30 minutes. 

The crust comes out super crispy and it crackles like a bowl of Rice Krispies. I can't resist listening. 

You bake the loaves on a preheated baking stone in a steam oven. Instead of a steam pan, I baked the loaves on a hot baking stone under two stacked inverted foil baking pans for the first 10 minutes (you can see a photo of the set-up in my post on demi-baguettes). It's so much easier. 

Pain fendu crumb

This flour in the dough is mostly bread flour with a little bit of added rye flour and whole wheat flour. If you don't have any rye flour, you can substitute more whole wheat. 

I like to keep rye flour in the freezer both for baking, and because it is a great flour to use to revive a sourdough starter. Just add a tablespoon to the flour you are using to feed your starter. 

French bread crumb shot

This recipe makes two loaves. You can easily halve the recipe to make just one loaf and follow the same timing. I've tried it and it works out really well. The dough is 65 percent hydration, making it easier to work with than higher hydration doughs, yet you still get a nice airy crumb and chewy crust. 

Plus, with the combination of sourdough and instant yeast, you can have fresh bread in a little over four hours, plus cooling time.  

This bread is wonderful for serving re-warmed with butter, toasting, grilling, and for dipping in soups and stews. 

Progressive eats logo

Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month's theme is A French Feast, and our host is Coleen who blogs at The Redhead Baker.

If you're unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats it's a virtual party. A theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out. Bon appetit!

La boisson (Drink)

L'entrée (Appetizer)

Le pain (Bread)

  • Pain Fendu (French Split Bread) – Karen's Kitchen Stories

Le plat principal (Main Dish)

Les plat d'accompagnements (Side Dishes)

Pain Fendu (French Split Bread)

Pain Fendu (French Split Bread)

Pain Fendu (French Split Bread)
Yield: 32 servings (2 loaves)
Author: Karen Kerr
Pain Fendu is a French bread that is shaped by splitting the bread down the middle with a dowel to create a "split" in the loaf.


  • 496 grams bread flour
  • 31 grams whole rye flour
  • 31 grams whole wheat flour
  • 339 grams tepid water (75 to 80 degrees F)
  • 138 grams bubbly sourdough starter, 100 percent hydration
  • 12 grams (2 teaspoons) salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flours, water, and sourdough starter on low for one minute. Let rest (autolyse) for 20 minutes.
  2. Add the salt and the yeast and mix on medium low for 4 minutes.
  3. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl or dough rising bucket and let rise, covered, for 90 minutes, stretching and folding the dough at the 30 and 60 minute mark.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half and form each piece into a ball. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Form each dough ball into a batard, sprinkle the center with flour, and press a dowel down the middle and roll the dowel back and forth to create a 2 inch by 1/4 inch flat piece of dough in the center. Lightly flour the center crevice and roll each side toward the other. Proof the shaped loaves, folded side down, on a floured couche for 60 to 90 minutes. In the meantime, heat your oven to 475 degrees F with a baking stone on the center rack and a steam pan on the lowest rack.
  6. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a pizza peel and turn the loaves out onto the parchment, folded side up. Transfer the loaves to the stone, parchment and all. Add boiling water to the steam pan (cover your oven window while doing this), spray the oven with water, and close the oven door. (see note about using foil baking pans instead).
  7. Close the oven door. Reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
  8. Bake the loaves for 10 minutes with steam and 20 minutes without steam.
  9. Cool the loaves completely on a wire rack.


Instead of using a steam pan set up, I baked the loaves on hot baking stone under inverted foil baking pans for the first 10 minutes.



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Recipe adapted from Susan of Wild Yeast. It's one of the most informative bread sites and a source of inspiration. 

Would you like to comment?

  1. Another marvelous bread recipe, Karen! Perfect for soaking up the juice's from Colleen's mussels!!

  2. Liz is right, or just slather on a bunch o' butter and jam it in my face!

    1. That's the way I like when it's fresh! I always have to have at least one slice like that.

  3. This is stunning Karen, what a perfect loaf!!

  4. You are truly the best bread baker I know! We're getting into bread baking season for me, and this is on the list!!


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