Bacon, Cheese & Scallion Epi Bread
Actually, I hope your day has been better than mine. I haven't been feeling too well the past couple of days and I have a headache that just won't quit. But luckily, I also have two purring kitties. And everyone knows that kittens make everything better. Especially when they lay down on my lap and are so so warm. Someone once told me that the purring of a cat actually has healing effects, so fingers crossed haha. On the upside, I've had enough time to bake bread and blog! So as my next Easter brunch recipe I present: bacon, cheese & scallion epi bread. Delicious, fluffy, warm bread with a crispy crust.
This bread may look intricate and difficult, but it is actually so simple to make and perfect for a sharing feast like brunch. The shaping method is deceptively simple, so the 'work' can be done in minutes. I got the idea for epi bread from the bakeries in Japan. The bread that is sold there is quite different from the bread sold here in the Netherlands. Most pieces of bread are pretty, one person loafs with amazing shapes and delicious stuffings (adzuki bean donuts <3 one day I will know how to make you myself). Epi bread is sold quite a lot in Japan. Plain, with bacon, with sausage.. you can find them in all kinds of variations. This variation is mine. Bacon and cheese are a perfect combination, that not only tastes amazing but also looks amazing inside the 'grains' of the epi bread. The scallions add a lovely freshness which balances the saltiness, and that makes this bread perfect to eat by itself or in combination with an array of dishes.
The name epi bread (as it is called in Japan) actually comes from the french name for this type of bread, namely pain d'épi. This pull-apart bread is meant to mimic the appearance of the grains of the wheat stalk, that's why it is also sometimes called a 'wheat-stalk bread'. I love how you can just tear off a section of the pain d’épi and essentially have your own little mini baguette. If that's not perfect for a brunch buffet..
Bacon, Cheese & Scallion Epi Bread
3 regular or 4 little epi breads
- 2 1/2 cups (350 gr.) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (240 ml) warm water (divided in 2 half cups)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
- 6-9 thin slices of bacon
- 30 gram of a hard, flavourful cheese, shredded (see notes for suggestions)
- 1 scallion, finely sliced, use the white and the green parts of the scallion for the best flavour
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the yeast and 1/2 cup of warm water. Leave to proof for about 15 minutes until small bubbles have formed at the surface.
- Mix in the flour, salt and the remaining 1/2 cup of warm water with the yeast mixture and stir until the dough comes together. If the dough is still very sticky, add a little more flour. It should also become less sticky the longer you work it. Flour your hands and a clean workspace and knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is soft but elastic and firm and non-sticky. Then return the dough to a floured bowl, cover with clingfilm and let it rise for about an hour in a warm, room temperature place. After an hour, the dough should be doubled in size.
- Knead the dough for another minute and then divide into 3 equal pieces. Now comes the filling and shaping process:
- take one piece of dough and roll it out until it is long and thin.
- Place 1/3 of the spring onions, 2-3 slices of bacon and a good sprinkle of cheese in the centre of the dough following the entire length.
- Fold both sides of the dough over the filling and pinch together, make sure it is sealed completely, then flip it over and place the baguette shaped, filled dough seam down on a baking sheet.
- Now for the fun part: take some clean scissors and cut 'V' shapes across the length of your baguette. Be sure to cut through the bacon, but do not cut trough the base of the bread.
- Push down the 'V' shaped pieces of bread to the left or the right to create the wheat-like shape and to reveal the filling.
- After filling and shaping the remaining pieces of dough, let the unbaked pieces of epi bread rest on the baking sheet for half an hour. In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 230 Celsius.
- Place an oven proof bowl with a little bit of warm water in the bottom of the oven. This will create some steam that will give your bread a lovely texture. Bake the epi breads in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the loaves are firm and golden brown. Let them cool for about 10 minutes and then enjoy warm or let them cool completely.
- I used a dutch farmer's cheese, like matured Gouda, but matured cheddar, Emmenthaler or gruyere will work as well. Don't use any soft cheeses, for they will become runny and make the end result soggy. Just find a hard cheese that you like to eat, have it shredded and try it. You will probably love the outcome!
- The warm water for the dough should be warm, but not boiling hot! It should still be pleasant to stick your finger into the water. I like to use water that is slightly warmer than body temperature.