How to Form the Pain d’Epi (wheat stalk bread)

Pan D’epi

The classic wheat stalk shaped bread is impressive and somewhat intimidating, until you see how easy it is to make. We love the Pan d’Epi not only for its gorgeous appearance but because it is the crustiest loaf there is. All of those cuts and angles leave more surface to crisp in the oven. Something a little more sophisticated to serve with dinner than ordinary rolls but just as easy!

Here’s how it is done:

Start by sprinkling the surface with flour so it won’t stick to your hands. Take a peach sized piece of dough from your bucket (master dough (page 26), Pan d’Epi dough (page 41), European Peasant dough (page 46), really anything but the enriched doughs will work.

Pan D’epi

Pull up the amount you want and cut with a pair of kitchen scissors or a serrated knife.

Pan D’epi

Pan D’epi

Sprinkle with more flour so the cut edges won’t be too sticky,

Pan D’epi

quickly form into a loose ball. This should take about 30 seconds.

Pan D’epi

To form the Pan d’Epi we are first going to make a baguette. To get a really nice shaped baguette we start by gently stretching the dough slightly into an oval.

Pan D’epi

Next you want to fold the dough in thirds, like a letter. Bring in one side and gently press it into the center.

Pan D’epi

Bring up the other side and pinch the seem closed. This will help you to get a tapered end on your baguette or Pan d’Epi.

Pan D’epi

Stretch the dough very gently into a log. You don’t want to compress the air out of the dough. If it resists your pulling on it then let it rest for just a moment to relax the glutens.

Pan D’epi

Continue to work the dough until you have a nice thin baguette. It is okay if you let the dough rest a few minutes and then come back to it to give it a gently stretch. No need to fight the dough.

Pan D’epi

Once your dough is the length and thickness you want, this will depend on the size of the ball of dough you started with and how thick you want your bread. Mine are about 15″. Lay the baguette on the edge of your cutting board, or whatever surface you intend to use to get the bread in the oven. Doing the following steps on a piece of parchment will reduce the chances of the dough sticking as you put it in the oven.

Pan D’epi

With your kitchen scissors cut the dough from one end at a 45 degree angle until you are about a 1/4″ from the cutting board. Being careful not to cut all the way through the dough.

Pan D’epi

Lay the piece you’ve cut over to one side. Continue to cut in this fashion until you’ve reached the other end.

Pan D’epi

Pan D’epi

Before you slide the cut dough into the oven, make sure that it has not stuck to the board. If it has gently pry it up and put more cornmeal under the stuck parts. Because this Pan d’Epi is longer than my stone is wide, I slide the oven rack out and put the dough in at an angle so it will fit on the stone.
Pan D’epi

Put a cup of hot water into the broiler tray below the baking stone and quickly shut the door. Bake for about 30 or until it is nicely browned.

Pan D’epi

Pan D’epi

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173 thoughts on “How to Form the Pain d’Epi (wheat stalk bread)

  1. I just made 2 Epis for my parents from white master recipe dough I prepared about 18 hours before. I did get the resting wrong and rested it for about 1 hour after shaped the epi. I should have rested it before cutting it, shouldn’t I? It still looked great – more like a zig-zag bread than an epi, but kind of interesting.
    The flavour was fantastic and the crust sensational. My mum’s fan forced oven did a great job.
    My parents absolutely loved it (and they are bread connoisseurs) and my mum now wants to learn your method, too. Are you ever planning on a German version of your book?
    Thanks so much! I can’t wait to get back home where my new copy of ABin5 is waiting for me.

    • Hi Alex,

      That is wonderful, I’m so glad you had such success with the epi! If the loaf stuck to the peel as you slid them into the oven you can make them on parchment paper and they tend to keep their shape.

      Our book will be coming out in the UK in a bit. This is good news because all of the recipes will be converted to weights! We hope for a German edition some day.

      Thanks and happy baking to you and your parents! Zoë

  2. Hi Zoe,
    No, the bread didn”t stick as I did make it on parchment (didn’t fancy having to move such a delicate shape). I think I might have to purchase the UK version, too just so I have the recipes in weights… Can you tell, I”m slightly enamoured with your recipes. My mum couldn’t believe how easy yet tasty the bread was. No improvers or bread mixes. And a little piece was left from last night, but it was still good the next morning which is quite a feat for a plain white bread.

  3. Alex: Especially as the dough ages and develops by-products of fermentation, you’ll find that this acts as a natural preservative…

    Jeff

  4. The book is great. I used to bake bread but now never have time to stay home and babysit it. But I can’t figure out how to cut the wheatstalk. Maybe if i just went at it, it would be clear but do all the cuts come on the same side? Do the pieces just get pulled away to the side or do they sort of flip over?

  5. I am totally loving the book (which I borrowed from a girlfriend) and for Easter offered to bring Pain d’Epi. I made the Master with white spelt flour as she is allergic to wheat. The dough was really wet, so that even with flouring and shaping it kind of turned into an ameoba. I made the cuts and the baked it. It looks a bit odd and sort of flat-ish, but definitely had a wonderful crisp crust and great flavor. My ? is should I add more flour to the master recipe as well as to the next loaf I form?
    Thanks for such a great opportunity.

    • Hi Cheryl,

      We have several recipes written for Spelt flour in HBin5, is that the book you are using? If you are using ABin5 then you will need to add more spelt flour and increase the rising times and possibly the baking time to compensate for the whole grain flour.

      What brand of spelt flour are you using?

      Thanks, Zoë

  6. Hi Zoe – I am using Vita Spelt- White Spelt (it is a sifted spelt so much less coarse than whole grain). It is very much like regular AP flour but not as “sticky” (for lack of a better term). I do not have HBin5 I just used the master for the Pd’E from ABin5. It baked up just fine and the texture was good, just very flat.

    Shall I just keep adding flour until I get about the same texture as my other mixes?

    My wheat allegergic friend will be thrilled with this once I perfect it. Thank You so much.
    Cheryl

  7. Hi Zoe & Jeff,
    I have now returned from my trip to Germany to my copy of ABin5 and have my first batch of the European Peasant Loaf rising on the counter (with decreased yeast). I am looking forward to trying many of the recipes including the Potato Breads.

    I’m especially excited to find a recipe for Pretzels with a reference to Stuttgart. This is where i grew up for the first 20 years of my life and where I just spent the last 6 weeks. Stuttgart certainly has the best Pretzels and I am lucky enough that my parents live just up the road from one of the best Pretzel bakeries in the city. So I have high expectations ;-)

    Just one thing to add to the shaping stage of your recipe: Stuttgart style pretzels are thick in the middle, but the arms are thin and crispy. This is easy to achieve by grabbing the ends of the pretzel and lifting it, slightly bouncing it up and down to let gravity do the work for you.
    And they are also slashed after boiling but just before placing in the oven. This is a pretty good picture of one: http://cache.virtualtourist.com/181003-Food_and_Drink-Stuttgart.jpg The thick part of the pretzel is often cut in half like a roll and spread with butter – yum.

    I will start a batch of the bagel dough now to try it out. Will get back to you. My kids (almost 3 and 9 months) looove pretzels and they both love your breads which is amazing, especially for my older one as she usually doesn’t eat bread, just licks the spreads off. But when I bake bread myself, she actually asks for bread, even the healthy stuff from HBin5.

    • Hi Alex,

      That is so wonderful, thank you so much for this explanation and the picture. I will make a batch for my kids! I love the contrast of the crunchy and the chewy.

      Enjoy and happy baking! Zoë

  8. I noticed in your very detailed description there is not resting time after forming the pan d’epi. Is that correct. It looks beautiful and I want to make it for Father’s Day this weekend.

    • Lisa: After it’s formed into the fully stretched baguette-shape, let it rest 20 minutes. THEN cut it as directed there, sorry about that. Jeff

  9. try cutting w/ scissors in the opposite direction or <<<<<left first method if you want you can catch the very tip of each cut from previous and "saftey tip" your epis

    • Hi Abby,

      I usually stretch the baguettes until they are about 1 1/2 inches across. The length will be determined by how long your stone is. Mine holds a baguette that is about 16-inches.

      Thanks, Zoë

  10. Thanks Zoe I tried tonight but my dough didn’t want to stretch even though I let it rest it wanted to flaten And was short any suggestions I used the master recipe from hb5

  11. I just got your book (ABin5) and you make it sound so simple, I just can’t wait to try baking. I have some queries though. I’m from India and don’t have access to unbleached all purpose flour. We also don’t have specific bread flours or pastry flours. Its either ‘atta’ – a whole wheat flour from soft and hard wheats and ‘maida’ – a bleached all purpose flour. I am loathe to try using maida since it seems so devoid of anything healthy – not to mention the bleaching chemicals. But my previous experiences with atta left me with a thick hard crust and a dense crumb. Do you have any suggestions for me?

    • Vidya: I’m guessing that you can use atta in place of whole wheat flour wherever we do, but that you’ll only be able to store the dough if you have access to vital wheat gluten– which of our books are you trying to use, which recipe (page number)?

      The 2nd book is the one that discusses the use of vital wheat gluten to make storable doughs from whole grains….

  12. Dear Jeff & Zoe
    Thanks for the wonderful book! I got my copy a few days ago and made this Pain d’Epi dough straighaway! I baked it on Saturday. It was really crusty. My family loves it except for my Grandma .. she found it too hard! The next day though, it softened and she could enjoy it. Is that normal – the softening, I mean :)

    I am very interested in the oats recipes as I love oats. However, I can’t get oats flour where I live. What would be the alternative? Could I just grind oats or is there some other flour that I could use as a substitute?

    And sorry, I have another question – does the baking stone really make a hugh difference in how the bread will end up? I would have to purchase one through Amazon and the postage would cost much more than the stone itself! I would buy it if it really makes a hugh difference. My family and I eat bread everyday and if I can bake healthy bread, esp. low GI bread for my diabetic Grandma, so much the better!

    Thans again for the method and recipes in the fab. book. I’ll go through the recipes in this book before I place an order for the Healthy book!

    • Maria: Crust softens as the bread goes stale, especially if you put it into something sealed (plastic bag or a jar). Other way to get a soft crust is to use one of our enriched doughs, or paint melted butter or oil on the crust before baking.

      You can grind your own oats but will take some experimentation; we’ve found that home-ground absorb water unpredictably. You’ll probably need to adjust the water in our recipes. See our FAQ (above) on “Fresh Ground Grains…”

      Otherwise just use whole wheat instead of oats, flavor won’t be the same though.

      I think the stone’s nice, but not essential. Hey, are you in Singapore (.sg??) Are our books available there? Jeff

    • I don’t have an “official” baking stone either but… My landlord has a stash of 12″ ceramic tiles in his workshop; I rescued one and am using it as a baking stone with fantastic results. If you go to your local flooring store, you may be able to find ceramic tiles for much less that buying a “real” baking stone.

      • Hi Ev,

        Using unglazed terracotta tiles is one of our recommendations! They work well and are very inexpensive.

        Thanks, Zoë

  13. Thanks, Jeff. Instead of sprinkling the surface with flour, I had rubbed melted butter on my fingers before I cut off some dough, rolled and shaped it. But I didn’t think of painting it on the bread before baking! And yes, your books are available at Kinokuniya (a Japanese bookstore).

  14. This message is for Maria : Bob’s Red Mill oat flour, vital wheat glutten, rye flour, etc are easily found at NTUC Finest, Cold Storage, Jason’s and would you believe it – Mustaffa! Enjoy :)

  15. I left out this imp. piece of info!

    The items are not found in the usual baking section. It’s in a separate section all of its own and I don’t remember the classification. The baking section has things you would find in an asian kitchen.

  16. Yay! Thanks for the photos of Pain d’Epi – I am ready to go back to the “drawing board” so to speak. My forms kept coming out shaped like some underwater seaweed plant – I think I was using too much dough and fighting it to stretch out – ’cause it wouldn’t behave – I suppose this a time to hone a virtue called patience as I let the dough relaaaxxxxx – and not cutting in deep enough. However, amazingly, it was delicious even if it looked more like Pain de Seaweed Stalk. Thanks for the photos and details on how to. I am ready to try again!!

  17. Van, thank you; I found the oat flour!

    Jeff/Zoe, I bought your second book yesterday. I noticed a lot of the recipes call for “vital wheat glutten” – and I’m wondering if all that glutten will make us fat? (sorry if its a stupid question).

    • Maria: Vital wheat gluten is a protein extract of wheat, it’s no more caloric than any other protein source, as I understand it. It’s not much of a carbohydrate source, by comparison.

      Hope this answers the question? Jeff

  18. Thanks, Jeff. I bought a packet of the vital wheat gluten and will try the master recipe (from the Healthy Bread..) this weekend. Made the oat flour bread (from the 1st book) and its my favourite of all the recipes I’ve tried so far. Thanks!

  19. Maria: Just be sure to mix the VWG with the dry ingredients first, before adding liquids. That’s a change from the 1st book. Jeff

  20. In general, would you say to use 1 pound of dough?
    Also, if a recipe calls for 1 pound of dough but I only use .5 pounds, would I need to reduce the cooking time? Thanks!

    • Hi Sara,

      The Epi is best done with a 1/2-pound piece of dough.

      Yes, if you reduce the amount of dough, it will require less resting and baking.

      Thanks, Zoë

  21. This is my favorite recipe in your books, any of them. Simple and so beautiful that it convinces even the “I only like soft bread” people to try it, and they always love it. I made it for Thanksgiving. One thing I noticed is that it is easy to mess up the shape. Google Pan d’Epi and you will see some really poorly done examples.

    It seams that a lot of the problems come from the joint between the pieces swelling, making it look like a log, instead of a stalk. I solved this by starting my cutting at the oposite end; I cut out the bottom piece first, if that makes sense. That way, each individual piece is cut above a already-cut-and-pulled-out piece, making it easier to get a thin junction between the rolls and less sticking. Also, In winter, I let my baguettes and epi rise for 2 hours before baking, instead of 1. I get a better internal structure. Heck, I may continue the 2 hour rise come summer.

    I have to thank you guys! You saved me from $3.99 baguettes, and lots of stale baguettes-halves sitting above my fridge. Thanks again.

    • Looks like i’m not the first person to think of the opposite direction thing. Well, it’s a good idea none the less.

    • Hi Paul,

      Thanks for the reminder, it is a great way to achieve a beautiful loaf and will be very helpful to many of our readers!

      Cheers, Zoë

  22. I’m about to try the pan d’epi, and realized I had a question. The recipe says to use either bread flour or all purpose flour (increasing the amount to 7c. if using all-purpose). All the other recipes specifically call for unbleached all-purpose flour, but this one just says all-purpose. Am I correct in that this recipe wants bleached all-purpose flour? Otherwise, it would be identical to the master recipe, with the exception of the flour being increased by 0.5 c.

    • Hi Taryn,

      All the recipes, including this one are referring to unbleached flour. Thank you for pointing this out to us! In order to keep its shape we have you making the dough just a touch drier.

      Thanks, Zoë

  23. Hello! I just made a batch of this bread. While it was delicious, I found it to be extremely sticky (it even stuck to the parchment paper!) It also spread a lot . Should I add more flour to the next batch? I used King Arthur bread flour.
    Thank you! I’m enjoying all of your books!

    • Natalie: Any chance you are using spoon-and-sweep rather than scoop-and-sweep? Yes, you need a little more flour in the next batch if the measuring method isn’t the culprit.

  24. I really like your recipes! For this bread I am wondering if it would be possible to use this technique to form a different shaped bread? I really want to try and bake it in a letter ‘B’ shape for a friend’s birthday, and am wondering if you think it would work to form this dough recipe into a ‘B’ instead of the Pain d’Epi?
    Thanks so much!

  25. I just made your Pain d’Epi yesterday after years of wanting to make bread, but dreading the process. Your recipe was so easy and it turned out pretty good – not very pretty, but I think that will take practice. I may have handled the dough too long as it was rather hard to chew but I was pleased with my first attempt. Thanks so much for your wonderful new method of baking bread!

  26. I was a little timid snipping the individual pieces – so I made a chunky wheat stalk! It tasted great, and still looked impressive! I’ve had such great results with the recipes in your book; easy and foolproof!

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