Saffron Poppy Seed Sourdough Epi Bread

A stunning yet simple bread for your next holiday table! Making rustic French pain d'epi bread is a surprisingly easy process. I've infused this baguette with saffron and turmeric, it's beautiful golden color and warm flavor is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate.
Also known as a Sheaf of Wheat, the epi shaped baguette is fantastic for gatherings and picnics because of it's pull-apart shape. Take these to your next pot luck.

This gorgeous bread begins as a typical sourdough baguette. I add a little turmeric powder to the flour and then steep a pinch of saffron threads in the warm water used to bring the dough together. 

I use a touch of yeast to boost my sourdough recipes because I like to finish my bread the same day but if your sourdough is active and bubbly, and you would like to leave out the active dry yeast, place the dough into the refrigerator overnight to rise then finish the next day. Bring the dough out to warm for a few hours and then complete the recipe starting at forming the loaves.

Forming the loaves begins by cutting the dough into two equal pieces. Knead those pieces a few times and then roll them up as you would roll up a newspaper and pinch the seam closed tightly. Try to create a smooth "skin" on the baguette with some surface tension.
I use a couche also known as a proofing cloth, to help the baguettes keep their shape as they rise the second time. Make sure to use plenty of flour on the cloth to prevent the loaves from sticking to the heavy cloth. Take a look at the pictures below in the gallery to see how.
When the baguettes have risen to the point where an indent remains for a minute after I poke it with my finger, it's time to finish the loaves and bake them.
I carefully transfer the loaves to a parchment lined baking sheet using a bread peel and brush with an egg wash. I sprinkle the loaves generously with poppy seeds and then comes the fun part! Turning these golden baguettes into beautiful sheaves of wheat.
All it takes is a few simple cuts with some sharp kitchen shears or scissors and a turn of the dough to create this uniquely shaped sourdough epi bread. Hold the shears at a 45 degree angle and make 5 deep snips evenly across the length of each loaf then turn the individual snipped pieces at 45 degree angles from each other, alternating with each one, to create the wheat shape.
The gallery below has several pictures to illustrate the process. Click on the images for more tips and details.
This is a great rustic artisan bread for beginning bread bakers who want to learn how to advance their skills. There are a few extra steps but they are quite easily accomplished and the Wow! factor is truly worth the small amount of extra effort.
I hope you'll give it a try and please send me a picture if you do! I'd love to see your results.
Happy bread baking!
~Melisa

Saffron Poppy Seed Sourdough Epi Bread

Ingredients

For the Bread Dough

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/4 cup bread flour

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon yeast

3/4 cup sourdough starter

1 1/4 cup warm water

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 pinch saffron threads

For the Egg Wash and Topping

1 whole egg

1 pinch salt

1 pinch sugar

poppy seeds for sprinkling

Method

Measure 1 1/4 cups of warm water at about 110 degrees into a pourable measuring cup and add a pinch of crushed saffron threads.

 

Add all of the dry ingredients to a stand mixer and stir to blend for 30 seconds.

Add the sourdough starter and turn the stand mixer on low speed then begin slowly pouring in the saffron infused warm water until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the mixer. Scrape down the bowl if necessary. You may need to add flour or water one tablespoon at a time to bring the dough together to the right consistency due to humidity, weather and the dryness of your flour.

When the dough has come together, continue to mix on low speed for another 6-7 minutes. The dough should be firm, a bit stiff but soft and not sticky.

Remove the dough to a floured board and knead 4-5 times then form into a ball and place into a bowl with a teaspoon of quality oil. Roll the ball around to coat it completely, then cover it with plastic wrap. 

Allow the dough to proof (rise) for 60-90 minutes until it just about doubles in size.

While the dough is proofing, prepare the couche (proofing cloth) with flour and line the baking sheets with parchment paper.

When the dough has doubled in size, scrape the dough onto a floured board and with floured hands, knead the dough 4-5 times by folding it as illustrated above.

 

Now cut the dough into 2 equal parts and knead each one 2-3 times. Roll each piece up tightly as you would roll a newspaper and pinch the seam to seal it.

Place each formed baguette on the couche seam side down to proof for about 60 minutes.

 

Start preheating the oven to 400 degrees 30 minutes after forming the baguettes. Also, beat the egg and mix well with a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt for the egg wash.

When you can poke the baguette and your finger leaves a small indent for a minute it is time to finish the epi bread. 

Carefully move the baguette to the baking sheet lined with parchment then brush with the egg wash and sprinkle generously with poppy seeds.

Make the epi cuts and form as illustrated then let rest 3-5 minutes.

Place the baguettes in the oven and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes, rotating the pans and shifting them from top to bottom half way through to bake evenly.

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Copywrite © 2019 by Melisa Smith