I might have mentioned in a previous We Knead To Bake post that the members in the group are taking turns to choose the bread of the month. This month’s host had something crop up unexpectedly so I undertook to choose the bread for the month. I chose a Pain d’Epi or Épis de Blé Wreath (Wheat Stalk Bread/ Ears of Wheat) With Caramelized Onions. However, I ended up being late with posting both the challenge in the group and here on the blog because we suddenly lost our most loved member of our family – Fudge our Cocker Spaniel.
I believe someone said, “Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished” and I can wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment as will others who have loved and lost their dogs. He was with us for just 5 short years but they were the best years of our lives. It is perhaps fitting that I’m blogging a bread today because Fudge was true bread lover and he would patiently wait for the bread to come out of my oven and he invariably got the first tasting of all the breads I baked in the last 5 years, that was healthy for him to eat.
I first baked a Pain d’Epi years back when I got my copy of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. That recipe involved making a large batch of no knead dough and then fashioning the Epi from that. I baked Epis a few times after that and then forgot about it while going on to discover other breads until now. This time I chose to use a more “regular” sort of recipe where the dough is kneaded and baked within a much shorter period of time.
Epi is the French word used to describe the flower of a wheat stalk. So the Pain d’Epi or Épis de Blé refers to bread that looks like a wheat stalk or the ears of wheat. The Pain d’Epi is a classic and commonly made French artisan bread loaf but when made for special holidays and celebrations, it often shaped decoratively into a wreath.
The Pain d’Epi is easy enough to make and really just one step up from the French baguette. The dough is shaped pretty much the same way but then snipped with a pair of scissors to resemble a wheat stalk. It can be eaten just like the baguette is and can be served with soup, or made into sandwiches. This bread is best eaten fresh, the day it is made. Otherwise wrap it in paper until it is used. If the bread starts becoming stale, it may be revived by sprinkling it with a little water and re heating it in the oven for a short time. Else, use it to make croutons or breadcrumbs.
A Pain d’Epi is a plain bread but I decided to add some caramelized onions to mine just to add some flavour. You may omit this if you want to stay authentic with the bread. I also chose to shape my Pain d’Epi into a wreath this time because my baking sheet and oven would hold this shape better.