Why this recipe works Pain de mie (mie means “crumb” in French) is a loaf of bread with straight edges, a tender, velvety crumb, and a minimal crust—excellent for making a standout peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese sandwich. This bread gets its perfectly square corners from being baked in a straight-sided Pullman loaf pan, which has a cover that slides over the bread. These pans were famously used in the small kitchens of Pullman railway cars because the bakers could stack the squared-off loaves. In the early 18th century, long before the pans were used on trains, European bread makers started using squared pans in an effort to minimize crust. We wanted to do just that: create a straight-edged, airy loaf with crust so thin that no child would ask to remove it. For the flour, we landed on all-purpose instead of bread flour because it produced an airier interior and a softer crust. Curiously, many pain de mie recipes we researched included dry milk powder, so we thought it might soften the crumb even further. Not so. Loaves made with a combination of liquid whole milk and water had a much fluffier, more tender crumb. Four tablespoons of butter, melted and combined with the milk and water, enriched the bread’s flavor without making it greasy. Finally, for a hint of sweetness, we preferred the addition of honey to sugar because it increased the moisture of our bread enough so that we wouldn’t have to add an excessive amount of milk or water, which would make the dough difficult to work with. To obtain even browning, we removed the lid of the Pullman loaf pan and rotated the loaf halfway through baking.
- makes 1 loaf
- rising time 2 to 3 hours
- baking time 35 minutes
- total time 3½ to 4½ hours, plus 3 hours cooling time
- key equipment 13 by 4-inch Pullman loaf pan, instant-read thermometer
- 4 cups (20 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) whole milk, room temperature
- ¼ cup (2 ounces) water, room temperature
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons honey
1). Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk milk, water, melted butter, and honey in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until honey has dissolved.
2). Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add milk mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, about 8 minutes.
3). Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.
4). Grease lid, bottom, and sides of 13 by 4-inch Pullman loaf pan. Press down on dough to deflate. Turn dough out onto lightly floured counter (side of dough that was against bowl should now be facing up). Press and stretch dough into 12 by 10-inch rectangle, with long side parallel to counter edge.
5). Roll dough away from you into firm cylinder, keeping roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go. Pinch seam closed and place loaf seam side down in prepared pan, pressing dough gently into corners.
6). Slide lid onto pan, leaving 2-inch opening at end. Cover opening tightly with greased plastic and let dough rise until loaf is level with lip of pan and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 1 to 1½ hours.
7). Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Slide lid completely onto pan and bake until loaf is light golden brown and registers 205 to 210 degrees, 35 to 40 minutes, removing lid and rotating pan halfway through baking.
8). Let loaf cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and let cool completely on wire rack, about 3 hours, before serving.
problem The sides of the loaf collapse.
solution Let the loaf cool in the pan for 15 minutes.
Many pain de mie recipes call for removing the bread from the pan just 5 to 10 minutes after baking, but we found that this amount of time is not sufficient. If you don’t let this airy bread cool for a full 15 minutes before removing it from the pan, it will not have a chance to set up and the sides will collapse, making for a loaf that lacks clean lines.
problem The top of the loaf is pale.
solution Remove the lid halfway through baking.
Covering the loaf pan ensures that the bread emerges straight and squared. However, if you keep the cover on for the full baking time, the bread will have a pale crust with a steamed texture. Be sure to remove the lid halfway through baking, at which point the bread will be done rising and the crust won’t overbrown and toughen.
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