Thursday, July 17, 2014

Black Pain d'Epi

Sometimes recipe ideas get stuck in my head. I see something that I know I want to try, and I carry the idea around in my thoughts for weeks or months until it happens. So it was with this bread. This idea came from the very first recipe in the book The Elements of Dessert that I read last year. It’s a book about desserts, but there’s also a section about bread baking at the beginning. Here, mini loaves were shaped into pain d’epi resembling stalks of wheat. And, not only were they made into pretty epi shapes, they were also made a lovely black color. This was a unique type of bread that I wasn’t going to forget anytime soon. The bread dough was tinted with squid ink which doesn’t impart any noticeable squid flavor, but it does lend a deep, dark color. My plan was to steal the ideas for the loaf shape and the squid ink for color and use them with my favorite recipe for sourdough baguette dough from Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery. This is where part II of the story begins. I’ve been reading a review copy of Dan Barber’s new book The Third Plate. There are so many things I want to share from this book that this blog post could end up scrolling indefinitely. I’ll try to limit my thoughts on it, but I highly recommend reading the whole book. Barber begins the book with a discussion about farmers who “grow nature” by maintaining a complete system rather than growing one thing. This speaks to an understanding of how everything in nature is connected, and that theme is repeated throughout the book in stories about very different parts of the food system. In particular, I want to share some of the story about wheat. Wheat doesn’t receive much attention in the realm of the sustainable food movement in comparison to fruits and vegetables, but it’s a significant crop. In the book, farmer Klaas Martens is quoted: “I see people go to all the trouble to visit the farmers’ market and really take the time to pick out the best peach, or stand in line for a grass-fed steak that’s treated the way a cow ought to be treated. And, then on the way home they buy packaged bread in the store.” We no longer seem to consider the flavor of grains or how they’re grown and processed. For instance, the process for making packaged whole wheat flour from the grocery store is a lot like that of making brown sugar. Brown sugar is refined white sugar to which some molasses has been added. Due to high-volume processing, it’s easier to make it that way than to change the process for a less-refined, true brown sugar. Likewise, whole wheat flour is refined white flour to which a little wheat germ has been added. I’m now inspired to seek out real, whole wheat flour made from the entire wheat kernel, and luckily, it’s available in Austin from Richardson Farms

That’s the whole wheat flour I used in this bread. I converted my sourdough starter to whole wheat by feeding it the whole wheat flour a few times before using it for this dough. The starter was combined with more of that whole wheat flour, some white bread flour, some added wheat germ, and water. After the initial mixing and autolyse, a little less salt than usual was added. Since I was adding squid ink which has a saline taste, I cut back a little on the salt. I started with three little packets of squid ink which tinted the dough dark grey. I really wanted a good, black color, so I added a fourth squid ink packet. While kneading, the color will rub off on your hands, but it washes off easily. The dough was left to ferment for about four hours. Then, I divided the dough into six smallish pieces and formed boules that were left to rest for 15 minutes. Each little boule was then formed into a small baguette, and they were left, covered in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, I cut each baguette into the pain d’epi shape before baking. It seems counterintuitive, but the cuts in the long, slender loaves should all be on the same side, spaced a few inches apart. That way, you can lift every other section between cuts and twist it to the opposite side to form the stalk of wheat shape. The loaves were baked in the usual manner with steam for the first 12 minutes and came out of the oven crispy on the surface and tender inside. 

I often eat with my eyes, and I was delighted with the look of this bread. But, the flavor was really the best part. I promise it doesn’t taste like squid bread. The squid ink really only lends some salinity. And, the whole wheat flavor was front and center. I’ll probably be mentioning more from the book The Third Plate because I can’t seem to stop talking about it lately. It offers great insight into areas of our food system that usually get overlooked or are often discussed in oversimplified terms. 


I’m submitting this to Yeastspotting where you’ll find some seriously well-made bread.

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20 comments:

  1. I grind my own wholewheat flour...it tastes so much nuttier and better. The black pain depi look awesome!

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  2. Hi Lisa,
    I'm always amazed at how you approach a recipe. So much thought and research not to mention that dire need you have to create. It really is a gift and I really do appreciate it:)

    I have heard of people using squid ink which always reminds me of the days when I was younger and had to clean the calamari. I don't know about now but back then the ink definitely did stain. I'm assuming you buy it packaged?

    I had no idea you could change sourdough from one wheat to another very interesting.

    You have done all your research, time and effort a great justice serving this bread to us. Thank you so much for sharing, Lisa...

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  3. Superb! Your pain d'├ępis look fabulous. That is such a great color.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  4. Goodness, I didn't know what it was when I say it! The little breads look fantastic... everything: the shape, the color, the crust! Yum!

    ela h.
    Gray Apron

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  5. Really interesting recipe and brilliant colour in the bread too.

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  6. I never realised how delicious black pain d'epi could look - what a stunning recipe :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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  7. In complete awe! Not only for the color of the bread, but your perfect job with the shaping and cutting. I had a very pathetic performance on my only attempt at epis, and ran away from trying it again ever since.

    I am easily scared... ;-)

    great post, Lisa!

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  8. Lisa this post is filled with magic! Such a phenomenal recipe, I only wish I could try a slice of the Black Pain d'epi!

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  9. this is really unexpected and exciting! cool post, lisa!

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  10. The Martens quote is so true! In France, one would never do such a thing...I try to go to whole Foods and buy the best breads and when in Ft Lauderdale, there is a fabulous French bakery...the breads are divine.
    I so rarely make bread now that the kids are gone. Love the info about whole wheat bread. (Had brunch at one of my favorite restos today and their pastry chef makes a whole wheat biscuit that is to die for. I've tried at home, but can't quite get it. Will ask for the recipe when next I go.)
    Your bread looks marvelous and so does the book. Hope to see lots of recipes coming our way!

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  11. The color is mesmerizing. Wow! It's so true that we take wheat for granted and don't realize the true flavor it ought to have. Plus, it's discouraging how industrial wheat is being grown with higher levels of gluten just to appease our taste for softer whole-grain bread.

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  12. we could have never thought about making this bread with this lovely tint...have seen the lighter version but this looks outstanding,thanks :-)

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  13. That looks amazing - I have never seen bread that colour before.

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  14. I completely agree that, in this world of "foodie" discernment, grains get left behind far too often. The color of this bread is amazing, MJ!

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  15. Oh Lisa your creativity and willingness to always try new recipes is such a joy. I love seeing what you do next.
    What is your cookbook collection up to?

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  16. The only other place where I have seen squid ink being infused in cooking is Master Chef! I have learnt so much by visiting your blog posts...new ingredients, new ways of cooking and some great recipes.

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  17. This recipe is intriguing and I bet the bread is wonderful. Blessings, Catherine

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  18. OMG Lisa, what a beautiful and intriguing recipe...I love the color of it...beautifully done.
    Enjoy your week :D

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  19. Wow, what gorgeous color! Love that. Never thought to use squid ink in bread -- fun idea. I have thought, though, about buying better flour. Even to the point of buying grain and milling it myself. But then I lie down and rest until the thought leaves me. ;-) I should source better flour, though. Fun post -- thanks.

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