A recipe for making pain d’epi or what stalk bread loaves, as well as a photo tutorial on how to cut the loaf. (Recipe from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.)
It is my life’s goal to do as little as possible.
Let me rephrase. It’s my life’s goal to spend as little time as I can doing anything categorized under “things that must get done” like making dinner, doing laundry, scrubbing floors. The reason is so that I have time to do all the other things: learning 3rd and 4th languages, taking classes that force me to read classic and arcane literature, baking chocolate chip cookies, reading for pleasure, bike riding, making 12 flavors of sorbet just because I can, teaching my kids how to snowboard at the same time I teach myself, listening to music, playing music, teaching my children how to play music, berry picking, staring off into the distance.
Basically, I just want to find a way to stretch seconds out into full hours so that I can fit more into my day. I don’t really want to do nothing, but I do want to have more control over what I’m spending my precious minutes doing. While I enjoy baking bread and think it can be cathartic, while I enjoy cooking and find it can feed my need for creativity, and while I am endlessly amazed at how fulfilling it can be to feed other people, there are times when the very things I love become tedious.
There are six of us. We eat three times a day. Some of those meals just need to be easy and not take up all the minutes I have for life enrichment because my soul will die if I don’t get to _______ (fill in the blank with any number of activities I enjoy). You do not want to see me soulless. It is rather disturbing.
To aid in accomplishing this life’s goal I had a bunch of kids to do things for me.
That’s not true at all. Children have a way of filling space and time, not the other way around. They also produce endless amounts of joy and unending love, as well as bread. My kids have opened a bakery in my kitchen that produces epi loaves in mass quantities.
While we’ve been using “Bread in 5” books for several years now, the epi obsession started after my eldest saw an Instagram photo from Zoë of one such loaf, and then there was no hearing the end of it until we looked up how to cut the baguette dough just right, and it turned out to be surprisingly simple.
Step 1: Mix large quantities of dough and let rise.
Step 2: Cut off a 1/2-pound (or so) ball of dough.
Step 3: Shape the dough into an oval, and then fold that oval.
Step 4: Pull log of dough to your desired size and let it rest.
Step 5: Flour the dough, and then cut into it at a 45º angle, alternating sides as you pull your little slices outward.
Step 6: Bake it.
Whether you have kids to do this for you or not, the idea that making your own bread could be so straightforward and take just minutes is not a new one. In fact, this specific method and idea has been widely available since 2007 when the first Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day came out, changing bread baking as we knew it (no kneading), and now there’s a revised and updated edition with new photos, new recipes, and – ::copious grinning:: – weighted measures. We should all convert to metric weighted measures, don’t you agree?
Giving it all away.
I’m giving away a copy of The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg, MD and Zoë François. Just comment below for a chance to be entered to win so you can stop buying bakery bread and start making it at home.
This giveaway runs until Friday, November 1st at 11:59 p.m. CT, at which point I will randomly select a comment and then email a lucky person to receive the book. It is provided by the lovely authors and their publisher, St. Martin’s Press. I asked Zoe for this book so that I could review it because I already knew I wanted it (I have the original, as well as the other two in the series), and she was more than happy to comply. Also, I was planning on writing about the epi and realized my timing coincided with the new book release. Kismet.
- We actually use the “Master Recipe” to make our pain d’epi most of the time. These photos? Master recipe. The only difference is that the master uses all-purpose flour instead of bread flour, which causes it to lose a bit of its definition. I don’t see this as a problem, really, and neither do the kids doing the baking. Below you’ll see I include measurements for both.
- Using the master recipe means I can use the same dough to make baguettes, boules, ciabatta, and more as the mood strikes. Totally worth it.
- Our epi loaves are perfection, not for their obvious flaws (a bit bulbous, not cut quite deep enough, pulled out of the oven a bit too soon), but because they were created and crafted by my 7-year-old. The other day during a parent-teacher conference I caught her shaping play-dough into baguette pieces and using the little plastic scissors to practice the cuts. My heart is full, as is my table.
1 tablespoon granulated yeast (10 grams)
1-1.5 tablespoons kosher salt (17-25 grams)
6 1/2 cups bread flour (920 grams) *see below for substituting all-purpose flour
To a 6-quart bowl or bucket with a loose fitting lid (not airtight), add the water, yeast, and the salt. Mix in the flour using a large spoon until it is incorporated.
Place a loose cover on the bowl/bucket and allow to rise for about 2 hours until the dough rises and then the top flattens. Move the bucket to the refrigerator with the loose lid still in place.
When you are ready to bake, place a baking stone in the middle of the oven with a broiler pan underneath. Preheat the oven to 450ºF for 20-30 minutes to be certain the stone is heated through.
While the oven preheats, remove the bucket from the refrigerator and dust the top with flour. Cut off a 1/2-pound chunk of dough and form into a ball, stretching the top of the dough around the sides to create a clean surface.
Place the dough on a floured surface and shape by stretching into a small oval. Pull the two long sides up to the middle and seal. Then place the seam side down and stretch the oblong piece of dough into a baguette shape, about 14″ long. Place the dough on a piece of parchment on top of a pizza peel or a baking sheet with no sides (for sliding onto the stone) and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
When the oven and stone are preheated and the dough has rested, dust the surface with flour. Take a kitchen shears and cut into one end of the dough at about a 45º angle towards the bottom of the dough, leaving 1/4″ of dough connected. Be careful not to snip through the entire width of the dough. Continue cutting leaving 3″ between cuts and pulling the sliced dough ends to the opposite side as the one before it until you read the end of the dough.
Prepare one cup of warm water to add to the broiler pan. Slide the sliced dough and parchment directly onto the hot stone, pouring the water into the broiler pan and then quickly closing the oven door.
Bake for 25 minutes or until crust is brown and firm. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
Unused dough can be covered with a loose lid and placed back in the refrigerator. One recipe makes 7 1/2-pound loaves.
*You can substitute all-purpose flour for the bread flour (910 grams of ap flour) with similar results, but not as well-defined and pointed pieces.
Makes 7 loaves.
Adapted from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, reprinted with permission.