13 July 2023

Pullman Loaf - Pain de Mie

Pullman Loaf - Pain de Mie / www.delightfulrepast.com

A pullman loaf, or pain de mie, can be used just as you would any other loaf of bread. But it has some other uses as well. If you're not familiar with it, it is a loaf baked in a straight-sided pan with a lid on top so that the loaf is perfectly rectangular and the slices perfectly square. It is the classic French sandwich bread, soft and fluffy yet, with its tight crumb, quite sturdy. 

It's for those who like uniformly shaped sandwiches or cutting tea sandwiches into squares, triangles, or rectangles with a great deal less waste. The first thing I used a pullman loaf for years ago was pinwheel tea sandwiches (slice the loaf horizontally, spread on the filling, roll up, wrap, chill, slice into pinwheel sandwiches).

I lost the lid to my pullman pan years ago, but I've come up with a way to "make-do," which you'll find in step 5 of the directions below. It came in handy when I got on that Pain Perdu - French Toast kick recently and another search for the lid came up empty. It's my very favorite bread for French toast ...

and for grilled sandwiches, for two reasons: 1. the taste and texture of the bread, and 2. because four of them fit perfectly on my square griddle!

Of course, you could just make my recipe and bake it in a regular 9x5 loaf tin and enjoy the delicious bread with a crowned top! Tell me your thoughts on Pain de Mie.

Pain de Mie - Pullman Loaf / www.delightfulrepast.com

Pullman Loaf - Pain de Mie

(Makes one 9x4x4-inch/1.5-pound/680 grams loaf)

3 1/2 dip-and-sweep cups (17.5 ounces/496 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (7 grams) instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons (9 grams) salt
1 cup (8 fluid ounces/237 ml or grams) water or half each milk and water
2 tablespoons (1 ounce/28 grams) unsalted butter
1 large egg 

1 In a 2.5- to 3-quart mixing bowl, measure or weigh the flour. Take out 1/8 cup and set aside for kneading and shaping. Whisk in the sugar, yeast and salt. 

2 In a 1-cup glass measure, measure the water, or water and milk; heat in the microwave until hot but not boiling. Stir in the butter until it is melted. Check that the temperature of the mixture is very warm (120 to 130F/49 to 54C), but not over 130F/54C.

3 Make a well in the center of the flour, then add warm liquid and egg to the well. With dough whisk or large spoon, slowly stir until combined. Knead gently in the bowl with one hand until the dough comes together.

4 Scrape dough onto very lightly floured (from that reserved 1/8 cup) work surface and knead gently for about 10 minutes, using some more of the reserved flour as needed, until smooth and bouncy. Place it in a lightly oiled (I use 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil) 2-quart glass measure (makes it easy to tell when dough has doubled) and cover; let rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until doubled in size.

5 Grease well a 9x4x4-inch pullman pan and lid* with solid shortening (I use 2 teaspoons of Crisco).
* I lost the lid to my pullman pan years ago, so I do this: Pull off a 12x8-inch piece of aluminum foil and shape it to the top of the loaf pan. Grease just the center part that will cover the top of the loaf pan. Then when it's time to put the lid on, I put that preshaped piece of greased-in-the-center foil over the top of the pan, place a 13x9x1-inch quarter sheet pan on top of the foil, then place a "heavy object" on the quarter sheet pan. I thought of a foil-covered brick, but it seemed too heavy and bulky. Next thought, my tortilla press, but it's too heavy for this task. Almost went with a couple of all-metal tools from the garage, but then I remembered my Cast Iron Heat Diffuser and found that it weighed about 1.5 pounds. Perfect!

Pullman Loaf - Pain de Mie - when you don't have a pullman pan / www.delightfulrepast.com
I actually use aluminum foil between the bread pan
and the quarter sheet pan, but it wasn't showing up
well in the photos so I used a piece of baking
parchment paper for the photos.

6 Turn risen dough out onto lightly floured surface, flattening gently to break up any large bubbles. Press into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle. Fold in short ends of dough until piece is about 6 inches long. Roll from one rough edge, pinch seam to seal and roll gently to form a tight log the length of pan.

Place seam-side down in prepared pan and press dough into pan so that it reaches sides, ends and corners. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until about 1/2 to 1 inch from the top of the pan, about 60 minutes. At the 30-minute mark, preheat the oven to 375F/190C/Gas5 for at least 20 minutes. 

8 When the dough has risen to about 1/2 to 1 inch from the top, remove the plastic wrap and slide the greased lid, or place the lid substitute, onto the pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for an additional 5 minutes, until golden brown, shrinking from the sides of the pan, and bottom of loaf sounds hollow if tapped. Remove immediately from pan and let cool on wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing. Wrap well as soon as bread has cooled thoroughly. Store at room temperature.

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