The first time I was smitten with bread making (my “dough odyssey” started early this winter), I didn’t want to go all out for baking gadgets because I was afraid it might be just another passing fancy. Baking one loaf alone takes about 3 to 4 hours so I wasn’t sure my new bread hobby would stick.
One of the first baking tools I spent money on was a good pair of baker’s scissors. The shape of the pain d’epi (wheat stalk bread), which requires the use of scissors, seemed like a challenge especially for a bread novice.
The pair of scissors was rather expensive, but I thought it was a good idea to invest in good quality tools if I wanted to create acceptable bread shapes.
Now my confession: the first picture you see isn’t a real pain d’epi. Pain d’epi, like the baguette, is a crust bread. What I used to practice my “cutting skill” was a regular recipe for bread rolls. Like I said in an earlier blog, I have not yet ventured into crumbs, crusts, rye and sourdough. I like to make plain white loaves, rolls and sweet breads. I’m sure there’ll be another time for learning how to achieve excellent crust breads.
If you want to try a genuine pain d’epi recipe and want clear instructions on how to shape it, go to this link: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=152. The owners of this web site wrote Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day which I enjoyed. Their pain d’epi looks a lot more attractive and authentic than mine does. You can certainly see the huge difference. Their pain is a lot thinner with a much better crust (and bite).
As far as shaping the bread is concerned, though, I was pleased with the outcome, considering it was my first attempt. For the pain d’epi cut, remember to:
hold your scissors at a 45 degree angle
gently hold one end of the dough as you make a swift and precise cut on the dough, without boring your scissors all the way through. The recommendation on the web site is to leave a 1/4 inch space from the cutting board
after the first cut, gently manipulate it over to one side (that is, away from the dough roll, as if making a leaf)
then make another cut at a distance of half an inch from the first cut and gently manipulate over to the other side (if you laid your first cut to the right, the second cut should be to the left)
repeat the cutting method until you’ve reached the end of the dough
Here’s a close-up of one cut:
If the prospect of spending 3-1/2 to 4 hours to make bread discourages you, I recommend Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It refutes some of the generally accepted methods of bread making with surprising results that prove the authors know what they’re talking about! In the link I provided, there is a step-by-step on the cutting procedure with crystal clear photographs. And, they have very good recipes for no-knead bread. Yes, no-knead!