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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If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with others using one of the social sharing buttons above. Thanks, Jeff and Zoë

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

  1. still amazed by the whole process. can’t believe how fast and easy it is to make truly delicious bread. the crust has always been my favorite part. ive always enjoyed the kneading process involved with breadmaking but as a mother of two boys under the age of two it is rare that i get to play around with dough. on first seeing ur segment on showcase minnesota i couldn’t wait to find the master recipe and give it a go. my first bucket was used up in one go the first morning. my secon, i restrained myself to two loaves in a day i was so proud i had to take before and after shots with my phone. im looking for ur book but can’t seem to find it in australia. q: wht would happen if i added sugar or honey to master recipe? sorry i went on a bit but i jus recently stumbled upon ur method so still too excited.

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  3. The bread reminds me of the bread I ate growing up in Germany. Thank You!

    Can I pour the water in the pan while preheating the oven or do I have to wait until I place the bread into the oven?

  4. Thank you, Jeff.

    I ordered your book on amazon. Four agonzing long days and I’m still waiting for delivery. To pass the time, I’m using the recipes I found on your web site. At this moment, I just pulled out a loaf of bread from the oven, am preparing the Superbowl loaf, and am planning to try out the bagel recipe. Imagine, what my life will be like once I have the book (smile).

    My mother passed away a few years ago and I’m using the bowl she used for preparing bread. Because of you, she is smiling down at me. Again, thank you.

  5. Wow.

    Thanks for the note, Elvira. A lot of people say that the bread brings back great memories of baker-mothers, grandmothers, and others who once baked great breads for them.

    It’s made doing this blog all the more worthwhile.

  6. Just a little tip on the cutting of the individual rolls; when you cut into the loaf, use the scissors to guide the top part to the opposite side. It’s so sticky sometimes and ruins the look of you play with the “leaves” too much. Hope that makes sense and can help someone.

  7. Love the book and I’m working my way though the recipes (light whole wheat and cheddar bread today). I am trying to master the Pain d’Epi, but my baguettes always seem to flatten too much to get that nice look. Same thing with my master boule baguettes. Is my dough too wet? Is that even possible with this dough? The book says to let the dough rest 30 minutes between shaping the baguette and cutting it, but Zoe’s instructions on the website don’t include that step. My loaves taste great, but you can’t really pull off a roll neatly.

    Whole wheat is not working too well for me either, but I’ll keep playing with the gluten flour additions and water content and will be running to the book store when your new book hits the shelves!! The Rye was fabulous!

  8. Megan: I’m making some today, I’ll try your idea. Sounds helpful.

    Patty: Sounds like either:

    1. Your dough is too wet OR
    2. You’re using bleached flour OR
    3. You’re not gluten-cloaking enough (see our videos at http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?page_id=63)

    You do need to let these rest; try a 20-minute rest if you’re using white flour and they won’t have spread quite so much. And do the letter-fold, which the book didn’t get into but the post above did.

    What’s happening with your wheat breads? Jeff

  9. Jeff,

    Have you developed a rule of thumb correction for using bleached flour similar to the one you give for using finely ground salt (reduce salt by 25%)?

  10. No, I haven’t tested with bleached at all. Protein’s too low so the “chew” won’t be there even after you correct the moisture. Easiest way to experiment is to just increase the flour by 1/8 cup at a time and see what it looks like. Jeff

  11. Jeff,
    Thanks for the quick reply! I’ve watched all the videos and I think I do OK with the cloak, and I use unbleached flour, so I think too much water is my problem, and maybe too long rise time – I’ll experiment with the next batch.

    My whole wheat doesn’t rise well after shaping or in the oven. Not quite a brick, but close. I used WW bread flour (can’t remember the brand) and added 1 teaspoon Vital Wheat Gluten per cup of flour. Added about ¼ cup extra water as well. Did about a 2 hour rise after putting in the pan. I know you say to add 1-2 teaspoons VWG per cup, but now that I am reading the package of gluten, it says 1 Tablespoon per cup (Bob’s Red Mill VWG Flour). I will try upping the VWG.

    Your website has so much great information on it, I am spending way more than my allotted 5 minutes a day on bread, but I’m loving it!!
    Patty

  12. Yes, push the VWG and see what you think. Keep in mind that wheat breads just don’t rise quite so high, especially if you’re making 100% whole wheat.

    Hey, this doesn’t count towards your 5 min/day allottment! Jeff

  13. I just got your book and am enjoying it. I do not have a baking stone, and until I get one, I was wondering if I could bake bread in a clay cooker. It’s the kind that you soak in water for ten minutes before adding food. If used with the cover that is also soaked in water, would one need to use water in a broiler pan on won’t this cooker work for baking bread. I’m anxious to try your recipes and am looking forward to your upcoming book as we love the whole grain breads. Jeanette

  14. Jeanette: Yep, the clay cookers work. No need to wet them first for bread, but you’ll need to experiment to see how to keep it from sticking. Lots of cornmeal is probably the best bet. No need for the broiler pan water if you do this. Jeff

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  17. I live in a high altitude city and learned a lot from your high altitude thread. Cloaking the ball of dough and resting it in the fridge overnight has made a wonderful difference in the bread’s rise and texture. when making pain d’Epi, would I still need to rise the dough in the fridge overnight after cloaking? Would I do the envelop fold and the shaping of the baguette the night before and the cutting just prior to baking the next morning. What would you suggest?
    I love the book. I haven’t bought bread in over a month, since I got the book as a gift from my mother in law. My family is in bread heaven, and I have been able to give bread as gifts to busy friends. I’m hoping to make pain d’Epi for Easter. Thanks

  18. Hi Rhonda,

    Thank you so much for letting us know that you are having success baking at high altitudes. I do think that if you follow that same cold rise method you will have a wonderful epi.

    Enjoy and Happy Easter!

  19. I just made this tonight and it had a wonderful taste, and the shape was not so great, so I did a google and found you guys! Oh I am so glad I found you! :) The pictures and write up helps alot, I think tomorrow I will do better after all I have three more tries on this batch! Mine was not alagator but a snake that may have eaten to many rats!

    I made the briosche and took it to our church easter breakfast, Most people had no clue what briosche was but they did like it! :) I made it in a regular brioshes pan and also some mini pans. The mini are really cute!

    I have not had the book long but I have loved evetything I have tried.

    Thank you so much for a wonderful book that even this non bread person can love and do!

  20. Middle: Thanks for all the kind words. As you practice more, your epis will get more and more professional-looking. Cut at a very shallow angle–that’s the key.

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    • Hi Sue,

      Yes, you can bake as many as will fit on the stone. I do them on parchment so that I can slide them around on the stone more easily. If you lay them on parchment together, be sure they have plenty of room for the oven spring that will occur.

      Enjoy! Zoë

  22. What about other free form loaves at once? Do you need to adjust baking time? And how about baking more than one loaf pan at a time? Thanks!

    • Rachel: I’ve found that except for the smaller ovens, two loaves doesn’t make much difference, maybe a five minute increase in timing. Same for loaf pans. If you really stuff the oven with loaves, the bigger problem is that they brown differently on different shelves and you have to play musical chairs with them. Maybe a 10-minute increase if the oven is really, really full.

      Bigger loaves cause a much more dramatic increase in baking times; a 3 or 4 pound loaf takes 45 to 60 minutes, not 30. Jeff

  23. This recipe is what I aspire to! My husband said his mother used to make some sort of cinnamon buns in this similar manner but after she had cut the pieces like the pain d’epi she would fashion the bread into a circle and when it baked it looked like a wreath. She is no longer with us so I was wondering if you had any suggestion as to how to do this. Thanks!

  24. I’ve been baking from your book since the summer, and it’s been truly life-changing! I always loved baking before, but never bread. Having the wet dough always on hand makes it so much easier to bake bread during the week without having to stay home with my 4yo all afternoon!
    I just made two pain d’epis for a potluck. Success! So glad I found this post, as I didn’t quite “get” it from the book’s instructions.

  25. Thank you so much for the detailed pictures. They are very helpful. Would love to see detailed pictures or videos on shaping for other loaves also.

  26. Hello–Considering making this today as to be ready by tomorrow. Do you recommend making this in advance or will it stale easily?

  27. Just found the website after living with the book for a while. Thanks for the great method. Not sure where to post this question, but will do it here — the first book mentioned that both of you lived briefly in Philadelphia. Any suggestions, tips or links to previous discussions on how to fashion Philly-style hoagie or cheesesteak rolls with the Master recipe?

    • Brent: Basically, you need a soft roll. Options include anything with enrichment (Buttermilk Bread, for example) but not eggs, which isn’t quite right for Phillie-style sandwiches. Or, start with whatever you like but paint the top surface with any fat (butter, oil). It will stay soft and that’s what you’re looking for here. Jeff

    • Hi Amanda,

      A 1-pound pain d’epi is really quite large. I usually cut that in half and make two. you want to start with a rather thin baguette so that the cuts don’t appear to look bloated.

      Enjoy! Zoë

  28. Oops! I didn’t notice that you said “peach sized” dough – now that I’ve tried making one it makes sense. Left you a question on twitter – was wondering why it might be splitting in the oven. Probably as a result of not resting it. However, I’m not sure if I should let it rest as a baguette or as a pain d’epi.

    Thanks so much!
    Amanda

  29. Hi Zoe, hi Jeff!
    I hope my message finds you well. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve tried your recipe by making pain d’epi (the wreath version) here in Bogotá, Colombia, at 2640 meters above sea level (8,660 ft !~), and you know what? Not a problem! I brought it to a friend’s house who was having a party the other night, and your bread made me an instant hero/celebrity! I’m sure that happens a lot to all those in ArtisanBreadInFiveMinutes-Land who have followed you, doesn’t it? I’ll send photos the next time!

    I started baking about a year ago when I discovered my mom’s clipping of Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread article from the New York Times, and although I love it and make it a lot, I discovered your website not long after, bought your book, and now keep my bucket of dough in the fridge for our daily bread.

    You two are so wonderful and fun and I love watching your videos over and over.

    Your pizza on a stick also made me a hero among the kids!

    My thanks and very, very best wishes to you both!
    Algis

    • Algis: Gracias por todo!

      You know, I can’t figure it out, but some people have no problem at high altitude, and others need to make adjustments, see our post on this at our FAQs tab above. Jeff

  30. Baguette pan sticking problem!
    Based on the master recipe of a whole grain loaf in your last book, I’ve made great baguettes. Just one major problem: they keep on sticking to the metal pan. It’s almost painful to see my baguettes destroyed when I had to remove them from the pan. I’ve been trying to remedy this by oiling the pan with some olive oil. It helps but not much especially if the dough has been in the fridge for more than 1 week. Any suggestions?

    • Valentina: They make non-stick versions, and even a silicone (soft) version. Those will probably work better. If you’re really excited by the older doughs, you may be happier with free-form baguettes. Our dough is wetter, and therefore stickier than most. Jeff

  31. Jeff: Thank you so much for your advice! My baguette pan is supposed to be nonstick but it performs as such only with relatively young dough (up to 3 days). Today, my dough was about 10 days old and extremely sticky. You are right, I like the taste of the relatively old dough and plan to experiment with my sourdough starter. Can you please clarify what you meant under free-form baguette?

    • Hi Valentina,

      Jeff means a baguette that is baked directly on the stone and not in a baguette pan. You can also use parchment to bake on the stone or in your baguette pan to insure that it will come out well. I do this all the time when I am using my baguette pan, just for some insurance. I’ve had trouble with older doughs sticking as well.

      Thanks, Zoë

  32. No Jeff; gracias por todo a TI y a Zoe por el entusiasmo que ustedes dos inspiran en todos nosotros que estamos descubriendo la panaderia!
    Baking bread is so fun, and the way you and Zoe transmit your enthusiasm and passion for it is incredibly contagious.
    Los mejores deseos y exitos para los dos.

    Algis

  33. Thank you , Jeff and Zoe for a wonderful book! I have made several breads for family and friends and everyone has really loved them!
    For Oatmeal Bread in ABin5 p.94, can 1 or 2% milk be used instead of whole
    milk? Or will results be different?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Judy,

      So glad you are enjoying the breads. You can use any kind of milk for that dough. I’ve tried them all and they seem to work equally well.

      Thanks, Zoë

  34. While I prefer heavier wheat loaves…one of my sons loves me to make “lazy” rolls with white flour and calls me about 30 mins before he drops over on his way home from diving or mountain climbing. He is usually dragging a few hikers along with him. Short on time…I use any of the basic recipes in your book… whatever I have left in the frig that’s got mostly white flour…and I don’t bother shaping…I just use a small dough scraper to scoop up a lump of dough, then I plop the “lazy” rolls into a 3 loaf perforated baquette pan which I lightly oil first. I put pic of this tech on the web site for bread pics in case someone wants to see. I don’t slash or glaze, since it isn’t needed with these small unshaped rolls and the wet shaggy dough. I have put this into preheated 450 oven (with steam) in as little as 20 mins rest and still I get a very nice result. I tried slashing but without the cloak and shape it just doesn’t work as the dough is soooo wet. He and his friends LOVE the crusty rolls and no matter what “strange” meal I throw together they eat ALL of the rolls. LOL….where I live now folks think I’m odd offering beans, chili, and gumbos…but best way to get the uninitiated northern folk to try a bowl of whatever is the crusty rolls. Never fails to impress. Course it could be they would eat anything after a long trail. ;-) My son was raised on homemade bread so I know his interest is genuine. He is always saying “Mom…this is really good….did you make it?” Which he knows I did…but he always says it with such surprise…LOL! It’s a running joke in the family since he has eaten tons of “hippy bread” in his life and anything without “granola” in it…he loves.

    • Teegr: I’m so glad you posted on this. I do lazy stuff like this all the time, but was too chicken to actually suggest it in the book. Glad you did. The difference is almost entirely cosmetic and sometimes speed is everything. Not to say that beautiful isn’t also good, but sometimes it should take a back seat to “fast.” Jeff

  35. Hi Zoe and Jeff,
    I must say that I absolutely love your book and thanks to you, I can now bake the most delightful loaves for the enjoyment of my family and neighbors.
    I tried the Pain d’Epi last week and it came out a little heavy. So, this is my question to you: How long for do I mix the dough in the mixer and at what speed?
    It seems that I didn’t mix it well enough and also, I had not checked out this page yet to see how you shape the baguette.
    Thank you for taking the time to teach us all these great techs!

    • Gigi: It’s mixed enough if all the dry ingredients are incorporated, I don’t think that’s your problem. Try it again but this time let the dough age a little longer. This allows you to get a larger hole structure. And follow the directions here and in the book(s). Jeff

  36. To say this is the best bread cookbook is an understatement. My first attempt was with the Pain d’Epi. The result was not as visually appealing as Zoe’s pictures posted on this site – but in my defense my second attempt, after seeing the step by step pictures, came out amazing! Still not to Zoe’s quality, but a definate improvement. Regardless of looks (beauty IS in the eye of the beholder!) the taste of the bread was AMAZING. Didn’t matter how perfect my wheat stalks weren’t, the rolls were gone and the family couldn’t stop raving. I’m so excited about all of the different variations that I’ll be trying. In fact, right now I’ve got more Pain d’Epi baking, carmel rolls rising, and I’m going to try the Challah bread next. My youngest son will be bringing lots of treats for the rugby team today! It is really great to try something new and have it turn out so well, on the first try even.
    Jeff, I’ve got a question for you. Have you ever had “lard” bread? It was on a cooking show I watched and was curious about this bread. The bakery is in New York City and this is their most popular bread. In the bread there is actual lard (hence the name!!) slathered on dough, sprinkled with cracked pepper, then salami chucks added. I tried to make a loaf, but without a guideline to follow (the show was not a how-to, one just showing different foods- this episode was on breads around the world) I’m not sure if my attempt was anywhere near the desired results. Do you have any idea what this bread is?
    Thanks to the two of you for all your efforts on putting together this great book!

    • Hi Denise,

      How wonderful that you are enjoying all the bread and the process of baking it! The bread you describe sounds a lot like the one Jeff wrote about in ABin5 on page 146. Perhaps that would give you a starting point for your lard bread?

      Thanks and enjoy! Zoe

  37. Hi Zoe,
    I did look at this recipe and yes, maybe that’s the one to start with. It was such an odd sounding bread – of course that’s what made it interesting!
    Thanks!
    Denise

  38. Dear Jeff,
    Thank you so much for the feed back: It worked!
    I tried the recipe again and followed all the steps in the book like you suggested. Just then, I realized that on the first time I did it, I miss read the directions and instead of letting the dough rest for 1hour and 40 min, I baked it after only 40 min.
    This time, I put it to rest and went out. When I came back 3 hours later, it was so ready that I had no trouble shaping the baguette with one strech only. I must say that Zoe would’ve been be proud of my acomplishment, since it looked and probably tasted, just like the ones in her picture.
    Thanks again,
    You guys are awsome!

  39. Hi,
    I have baked a couple of the recipes from HBin5 which I own – and ABin5 just aarrived at my home (Australia). Unfortunately I’m currently staying with my parents on the other side of the globe (Germany) so I haven’t even seen the book yet. But I would love to mix up a batch of the white master recipe to show my mum the simplicity of your method. I thought of trying this Pain d’Epi for the WOW factor. Just a few questions: My mum has a fan forced oven (unlike my ancient model) and she doesn’t own a pizza stone or a metal broiler tray. If I were to make a boule, I would probably do it in her Romertopf to get the crust but the Pain d’Epi wouldn’t fit into it. Any ideas? Should I just buy a cheap broiler tray? And her oven has the option to turn the fans on or off. What’s better in this case?
    Thanks for your help – again!

    • Alex: The fans make for a nice crust. Assuming it’s more or less like a U.S. convection oven, you can turn the oven heat down by 25 degrees F.

      You won’t find Romertopf shaped for an epi bread, so look for a broiler tray. Jeff

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