A new loaf

January 23, 2019

Breadbaking yesterday featured something new — pain de mie, or “soft bread,” which is what you’d get a sandwich on in France if it wasn’t on a croissant.

(Note: I do not know if the French make sandwiches with croissants or not, or if that is an Americanization of France’s national bread. Worth looking up. Be right back.)

(Note 2: “A savory ham and cheese sandwich on a croissant is nearly unheard of in France.” And other kinds, too, one presumes. Now you know, and I do too.)

So, if you get your ham and cheese sandwich in France, be it a Croque Monsieur or a Croque Madame, you’re gonna get it on pain de mie.

Pain de mie is rather unexceptional white bread, a fairly rich dough in that it has six tablespoons of butter, and a quarter-cup of dry milk, along with a little honey. It’s unusual in that you need a special pan in which to bake it.

The Pullman pan has a slide-on lid that keeps the dough from rising with oven spring. The crust is soft, and the compressed dough is quite dense, but still very soft. It’s a great sandwich bread, and it ain’t half bad toasted with some jam for breakfast, either.

The making of the dough is ultra simple. One mixes flour, yeast, dry milk, butter and room temperature water into a soft dough. Then one kneads salt and honey into it. It gets a quick rise on a floured counter — just 15 minutes to “relax” — before you shape it and pop it into the greased Pullman pan.

You let it rise for about an hour and a half, with the lid almost closed and the gap covered in plastic, until it’s about an inch from the top. Remove the plastic and close the pan completely. Then you preheat the oven to 425. When it’s hot, gently put the bread in and leave it for 30 minutes.

Slide the lid off, and leave the bread for another 20 minutes to brown the loaf. Then take it out and cool it on a wire rack for an hour, at least, before you cut it.

That hour damn near killed me, but then, it always nearly kills me to have to wait on a piece of fresh bread. This is the advantage to rolls, y’all.

The loaf is an interesting looking critter. Its sides are straight, so when they’re cut, the slices are almost perfect squares (they’re SLIGHTLY rectangular). The crust is very thin and very soft, much like supermarket bread. The bread is a fine crumb, and soft like supermarket bread. This is where the resemblance ends.

Sweet Baby Jesus, y’all. This is what God intended sandwich bread to taste like. It’s sturdy enough to hold up to your best Dagwood, as well as any loaf bread. It’s rich, vaguely sweet, and adds so much more to your sandwich than just the means of holding it together. Get you a Pullman pan from Amazon, and make you some.

My recipe is from Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Bread Bible, possibly my favorite breadmaking cookbook. A copy of her recipe is here.

I have leftover ham in the freezer. I have Swiss cheese. I make a fine white sauce, and I can fry me an egg. I see a Croque Madame in my immediate future, yes, I do. You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em come up and I’ll make you one.

2 Responses to “A new loaf”

  1. Kath the Cook Says:

    Hi _ Are you posting? The last one I see is from January 25. Other blogs I read are displaying currently. Hope all is well. Best – Kath the Cook

  2. kayatthekeyboard Says:

    This is the last one I posted. Life seems to have intervened. Today is the first time I’ve looked at the site since about then. I’m thinking I need to get back to it.

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