Wheat Stalk Bread.
Whatever you call it, it's a classic (French) artisan bread you can make from baguette dough, or just about any other bread dough. You simply roll a baguette shape, cut almost through at an angle with scissors, and separate the cut parts. There is a great blog post about forming and cutting a pain d'epi on Bread in Five.
Way back in culinary school, I made this sheaf of wheat from salt dough as a decoration for a wedding buffet. Why? Oh, very symbolic.
A sheaf of wheat represents the prosperity of a bountiful harvest. To early agricultural people, a good wheat harvest assured plenty of the bread that would keep the community alive throughout the winter. Wheat sheaves became symbols of the successful harvest, associated with all that is truly nourishing and life-affirming.
It is also a symbol of death, resurrection and fertility. ‘I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’ (John 12:24) It is used af funerals to symbolize the fruitful and productive life of a person of faith.
In ancient Greece and Rome, wheat was a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Early Roman wedding guests tossed grains of wheat at the bride and groom for good luck and fertility.
As customs evolved, guests would bring small wheat cakes to the ceremony and crumble the cakes over the bride's head, symbolizing the same gifts of fortune and fertility. They would then eat the fallen crumbs to share in the young couple's good fortune.
Later, wheat cakes were stacked in a tall mound between the bride and groom, and if they were able to kiss over the stack, they would be blessed with many children and much prosperity. Today’s traditional French wedding cake, the croquembouche -- a tall pyramid of profiteroles held together with spun sugar – evolved from this custom.
Getting back to the epi bread, Wise Geek describes it as "easy and stylish." Yep, that's about it. It is like several rolls bound together along a central stalk. It looks cool, and it is easy to eat -- you just break a piece off.
And if you happen to like crust (which is MY favorite part of the bread), you'll be in heaven!
We made some today with rustic sourdough, which was a little dry. We might have to do it again tomorrow with a softer dough (one with a higher percentage of water).