My Pain de Mie White Sandwich Bread
Although I like crusty breads with crackling, caramelized crusts above all other breads, I find myself making this bread more than I once might have..Most of my relatives just do not have the same appreciation for artisan breads, as they do for more commercialized breads with softer crusts..This is especially true of my aging mother who, although she wears full dentures, thinks nothing of attacking 2-3 full ears of corn-on-the-cob with great relish..But, ask her to chew on crusty bread requiring the same amount of chewing force as the corn-on-the-cob, and she claims that the crust hurts her mouth to chew..It is a cultural prejudice, I believe; more than her not being able to chew the bread's crust..
The following recipe is a compilation of many different white bread recipes that I have made since my first loaf of sourdough white sandwich bread at age 14..The recipe used to create those first two loaves of bread came from a recipe printed in the Editorial / Hunting column of Outdoor Life Magazine in 1968..My greatest influences as regards to white sandwich bread have been the various bakers that I have worked with over the years..I trained as a pastry chef, but soon drifted into the restaurant instead..95% of my life's baking has been done at home for my own pleasure..
Books that have influenced this recipe in some fashion are listed below in the order in which I purchased them / baked a loaf of bread out of them..
The Tasajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown (my first bread book ever purchased)
Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook by the Editors of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine (early 1960's edition)(age not determineable due to partial disintegration because of acid paper construction)
Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices by George Leonard Herter and Berthe E. Herter
The Complete Sourdough Cookbook by Don and Myrtle Holm
The Old-Fashioned Dutch Oven Cookbook by Don Holm
The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book by Laurel Robertson, with Carol Flinders and Bronwen Godfrey
The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (1981 edition)
Breads From The La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton
World Sourdoughs From Antiquity by Ed Wood
Classic Sourdough: A Home Baker's Handbook by Ed Wood
The Complete Book of Breads by Bernard Clayton
Crust & Crumb by Peter Reinhart
The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
All of these books, as well as many other recipes culled from magazines, freinds, etc. have influenced in some fashion the Pain de Mie recipe..This recipe is a recent (past two years) attempt to make a really good loaf of white sandwich bread that would please not only friends and relatives, but ME!!!..I am relatively pleased with this recipe..Is ANY baker ever truly content not to strive for a better loaf??..
Pain de Mie
19 oz. whole milk, by volume, heated to 100 degrees Fahrenheit
3 oz. pumpernickel flour
10 oz. K.A. bread flour
1 oz. granulated sugar
1 3/4 tsp. SAF Gold instant yeast
Contents of sponge
1 oz. unsalted butter, softened until not quite melting
14 oz. K.A. bread flour
2 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt, or table salt
2-3 weighed out portions each of bread flour in 1/2 oz. & 1 oz. increments for adjusting dough's hydration (if necessary)
Notes---The sponge I make directly in the bowl of my DLX mixer..I thoroughly heat the bowl under hot running water to take the chill off of the bowl..This considerably speeds up the proofing process, especially during the colder months of the year..I do all my proofing, even in the summer, on the propped open door of my gas oven that has been set to the WARM setting..I place a cotton tea towel onto the door that I set the bowl / pans that are proofing on..I proof the sponge for at least 1 hour, or until it has at least doubled in volume..
I mix in the very soft butter to evenly incorporate it into the sponge, before I add the remaining flour and salt..If necessity dictates that I must use milk that is not whole, I add an extra amount of butter to compensate for the lower butterfat content of the reduced-fat milk..For instance, if using 2% milk, I double the unsalted butter to 2 oz., and compensate by adding extra flour..
I used to adjust the hydration of the pain de mie during kneading by eye, with somewhat inconsistent results..About a year into experimenting with this type of bread I decided to be somewhat anal, and to weigh out 1/2 oz. and 1 oz. portions of flour to add during the come-together stage of kneading..I found that this allowed me to more accurately add only as much flour as was absolutely necessary in order to account for the differing moisture levels of flours across the seasons..I tended to add too much flour when using a scoop out of the flour bucket..
After the dough finishes kneading, 6 minutes total time, and reaches 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit internal temperature; I remove the dough from the DLX's bowl, wash it out, spray it with baker's pan spray, flatten the dough ball in the greased bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and set it back onto the oven door to proof for the second time..This takes approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour for the dough to double in volume..
The dough is now removed from the DLX's mixing bowl, and divided even into two equal portions by weight; usually 1 lb. 8 oz. to 1 lb. 9.5 oz. per portion..These portions are tightly rounded up..I place them on plastic wrap that has been folded to have 3-4 layers, which I then spray with pan spray..I cover the two rounded balls of dough with additional folded plastic wrap that I also spray with oil..I have learned NOT to add any additional flour to this recipe at any stage after final kneading is accomplished..The dough is now allowed to proof / rest until it has relaxed enough to be formed into loaves..This takes approximately 20-40 minites, depending upon how tightly the dough was rounded up..
After the dough balls have relaxed sufficiently, they are formed into loaves..I used to bake this recipe in a single 4" x 4" x 13" Pullman bread pan..All of the published recipes that I have read say to use the 13" Pullman pan for this amount of dough, approximately 3 pounds..When King Arthur started offering the custom-sized 4" x 4" x 8 1/2" Pullman pans from Chicago Metallic, I purchased two of them..They are much easier to handle, and bake up into a much more convenient size loaf for a two-person family..Most importantly, two loaves provide for MORE crust, which I happen to like..
My recipe differs from most that I have read in four ways..First, I am taking a 3 lb. recipe and baking it in what are essentially two 2 lb. Pullman pans..The original Pullman pans were 4" x 4" x 16"..They were large in order to bake a lot of bread in the smallest space possible in the ovens on Pullman dining cars attached to passenger trains..Most 16" Pullman pan recipes call for approximately 4 lb. of dough..The two K.A. 8 1/2" Pullman pans are equal in volume to a single 16" Pullman pan..An inch longer, if one wishes to be exact..I modified the 3 lb. recipe to allow for a fourth proofing to develop flavor..The second difference is the number of proofs..Most pain de mie recipes that I have read have three proofs..I added an extra 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast to accomodate the yeast feeding for a longer period of time, and an extra 1/4 teaspoon of salt to slow things down a bit..
The third difference is that all of the liquid in the recipe is milk, no water is used..Using all milk allows for more sugars for the yeast to feed on..The fourth difference, which I can take no credit for, goes to King Arthur Flour..That difference is the addition of pumpernickel flour to what is essentially a highly refined white bread recipe..They provided a recipe for pain de mie containing pumpernickel flour with the two 8 1/2" Pullman pans that they shipped me..I did not like that recipe the way it was written, so I set out to modify it..The fourth proof and the pumpernickel flour makes this white sandwich bread better than most I have tasted..It is essential, in my opinion, to allowing a 3 lb. recipe for a 13" Pullman pan to be divided in two to be baked in two 2 lb. pans..
After the loaves are formed I flatten them into the Pullman pans, attempting to fill the corners of the pans..They are covered with a lid of folded plastic wrap, and proofed for the fourth, and final time on the oven door..It takes 45-60 minutes for the loaves to reach a height that comes to within 1/4" to 3/8" from the top edges of the pan..The greased lids are then installed on the pans..The pans are removed from the oven door, the door closed, the temperature dial raised to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and the oven allowed to heat for 5-10 minutes..The amount of time that I allow the warm oven to come to 350 degrees Fahrenheit depends on the speed with which the loaves in the pans have been proofing..I have occasionally slid the pans right into the oven without letting it come to temperature if the dough was proofing quickly..The loaves are baked for 30 minutes with the lids on..The lids are removed, and the loaves allowed to finish baking for approximately 10 minutes..The tops of the loaves should be a nice golden brown..I like the internal temperature of the loaves, taken in the exact center of the loaf, to measure 200-205 degrees Fahrenheit..Remove the pans from the oven, cool 5 minutes in the pans, turn the loaves out onto a cooling rack, cool for 1-2 hours..Slice, and enjoy!!!..