Pain d’épi

The Pain d’épi Recipe This attractive variation on the baguette gets its name from its resemblance to wheat ears, épi in French. The wheat-ear effect is not difficult to achieve and looks very decorative. Try to eat as soon as it cools.

Rising and proofing time:
4–5 hrs

2½ tsp dried yeast
3 cups bread flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
unsalted butter, for greasing

1 In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over 1⁄4 cup lukewarm water. Let stand for 5 minutes until dissolved, stirring once.

2 Put the flour onto a work surface with the salt. Make a large well in the center and add the dissolved yeast and 11⁄2 cups lukewarm water. Gradually draw the flour into the liquid ingredients to form a smooth dough. It should be soft and slightly sticky.

3 On a floured surface, knead the dough for 5–7 minutes, until it is very smooth, elastic, and forms a ball. Brush a bowl with melted butter. Put the dough in the bowl, and flip it so the surface is lightly buttered. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 2–2 ½ hours, until tripled in size.

4 Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knock back. Return to the bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for 1–1½ hours, until doubled in size.

5 Sprinkle a cloth with flour. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knock back. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 3 equal pieces. Cover 2 pieces while shaping the other. Flour your hands and pat 1 piece of dough into a 7 x 4in (18 x 10cm) rectangle.

6 Starting with a long side, roll the rectangle into a cylinder, pinching and sealing it with your fingers as you go. Roll the cylinder, stretching it until it is a stick shape, about 14in (35cm) long. Put on the cloth. Repeat with the remaining dough, pleating the cloth between the pieces of dough.

7 Cover with a dry kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Set a roasting pan to heat on the floor of the oven. Sprinkle 2 baking sheets with flour. Roll 2 loaves onto 1 baking sheet, placing them 6in (15cm) apart. Roll the third loaf onto the other baking sheet.

8 Make a V-shaped cut halfway through 1 of the loaves, 2-3in (5-7cm) from the end. Pull the point to the left. Make a second cut 2-3in (5-7cm) from the first, pulling to the right. Continue to shape the remaining dough. Place the loaves in the oven. At once drop ice cubes into the hot roasting pan. Bake for 25–30 minutes, until browned. Turn them over and tap the bottoms with your knuckles. The bread should sound hollow. Let cool.

Pain d’épi Recipe
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