Pain de Mie: French Sandwich Bread

December 31, 2011

OKAY, I’LL ADMIT IT. I’m addicted to French sandwich bread, or Pain de Mie. What a versatile loaf! I use it for sandwiches, toast, French toast, croutons and canapes. Pain (pronounced “pan”) is French for “bread,” and mie (pr. “mee”) means “crumb,” or “interior.” And the crumb in this instance is soft and moist. Yet the bread is so deliciously dense that you can cut it into paper-thin slices. My New Year’s resolution is to have this lovely loaf on hand at all times. Fortunately, it is incredibly easy to make:

To achieve a rectangular, and practically crust-less loaf, you’ll need to bake the dough in either a Pullman Pan (a special, extra-long loaf-pan with a sliding lid), or in a regular loaf pan with an improvised cover of some sort. I have found that a casserole dish placed over the loaf pan, and weighted down with a brick, works perfectly well.

Pan de Mie: French Sandwich Bread
Based on a recipe from Julia Child
Ingredients for one 8-cup  loaf pan
1 package active dry yeast, dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water; let proof for 5 minutes
1 1/3 cups whole milk, scalded and then cooled
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
4 Tbs (1/2 stick) cold, unsalted butter

Special Equipment – a standing mixer, outfitted with a dough hook; a large bowl; a pastry-scraper; a rolling pin for smashing the butter, and one buttered 8 cup (or slightly larger) loaf pan with fairly straight sides.

1. Mixing the dough — Pour flour, milk, salt, and the yeast mixture into the bowl of your standing mixer. Blend at low speed for about 10 seconds. Then increase the speed to medium (number 4 on my model) for 2 minutes, or just until the dough masses on the hook attachment. Let rest for 2-3 minutes; blend at medium speed for another 2 minutes. Let rest again, while you prepare the butter.

2. Pounding the butter — Use your rolling pin to smash down the cold butter. You want the butter to become malleable, but not so soft that it becomes oily. Scoop up the flattened butter with your pastry-scraper, and carry it to standing mixer.

3. Adding the butter to dough — With the mixer running at medium speed, add the butter one 1/2 tablespoon or so at a time. Stop the machine once all of the butter has been incorporated into the dough.

4. The first rise — Dump the dough, which should be sticky but elastic at this point, onto a lightly-floured board. Pat the dough out, then fold it over on itself 3 times. Place the dough in the large bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it slowly rise until tripled in volume — about 3 hours in a 75 degree kitchen.

What’s that? You don’t heat your house to 75 degrees? Neither do I. Consequently, to help the dough rise to triple in a 3 hour period, I set the bowl of dough on an ordinary heating pad. The pad, depending on just how cold my kitchen is on a particular day, is set either on the low or medium setting.

5. Deflating the dough, and the second rise — With floured fingers, deflate the dough and pour it out onto your lightly floured board. Then quickly wash out and dry the bowl. Fold the dough over on itself 3 times, just as you did in step 4. Return the dough to the clean bowl, cover, and let rise to almost triple — which this time will take about 2 hours.

6. Forming the dough, and the third rise — Pat the dough out, fold it over on itself, then use the side of your hand to seal the edges. As you can see, I prefer the karate-chop sealing-method.

Flip the dough so the sealed edge is on the bottom.

Now karate chop a ridge down the center of the dough. Then fold at the ridge and karate chop again to seal. All this manipulation is to create surface tension. Repeat the karate-chopping and folding once or twice more, until the surface of the dough appears fairly smooth. Then pinch the underside of the loaf to seal.

There is nothing more satisfying than pinching the seam of dough.

Place the formed loaf in its pan; cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until the dough reaches 1 inch (not more!) from the top of the pan — about 30 minutes.

7. Baking – 40 minutes at 435F. Tightly cover the pan with a sheet of buttered aluminum foil. Then place an oven-proof dish, such as a Pyrex casserole dish, oven the pan. Place a brick or some other oven-proof weight in the dish.  The goal is 5 lbs of weight to hold the loaf down.

8. Remove the weights and aluminum foil, and gently release the loaf onto a cooling rack. The loaf will cool faster if you set it on its side, as above.

In a feat of self-restraint, try not to gobble the bread while it’s still warm. Let it cool completely, and you’ll find that you can slice it just as thinly as you like.

Think you’ll try Pain de mie? I certainly hope so.  It’s as fun to make as it is to eat. Furthermore, if you want to make a proper cucumber sandwich or a simple “Jam Penny” (above), you simply have to have this bread.

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Related Posts:
French Baguettes
Onion Soup Gratinee
Pumpkin Muffins

Comments

  1. Gen says:

    Ooooo… I will definitely have to try this! It sounds wonderful, and my picky picky husband that only will eat crustless white bread might actually eat it! No stand mixer though, so I guess it’s good old hand-kneading for me.

  2. Gen – Well, it sounds like this bread has your husband’s name on it! Knead it exactly as for French baguettes. (Personally, I love to hand-knead dough. It’s great exercise, and the work makes me feel more “connected” to the bread).

  3. Marilyn says:

    Kevin,
    This I will try. Also, thanks for all the tips – especially the heating pad tip and using a casserole dish as a top tip. Your pictures inspired me to finally order a marble slab board and marble rolling pin from Amazon too. Happy New Year!! Again.

  4. Eliza J says:

    That looks amazing. I have always seen the pans for this bread and been curious about making it. Great blog, it’s on my “to do list” for sure! …and like Marilyn, love the rolling pin and marble slab in your picture! Happy New Year!

  5. Marilyn – Sounds like you are starting out 2012 with good pastry- and bread-making equipment. I use my marble board all the time — it is virtually indestructible.

    Eliza J – One day I will indeed own a “Pullman” pan — but in the meantime, the weighted cover works perfectly well. Happy New Year to you!

  6. Vicki says:

    Kevin, I’ll bet the house smells wonderful while this bread is in process. This is one recipe I definitely plan to try! Meanwhile, I found a spectacular salad featuring lavender and lemon and fresh roasted beets, carrots and apples. If you want the recipe, I will send it along, as an encouragement for your gardener readers to grow Provence Lavender in their gardens and then take the trouble to harvest it and save it to use in cooking. Happy New Year to you and Will and Lily!

  7. Brenda Johnson says:

    Well doesn’t that look interesting!? I shall have to give this one a try!!!!

  8. Donna B. says:

    Good thing I got a stand mixer for Christmas! ♥
    The Baguettes you posted back in October seemed a little advanced for my novice bread making skill… but this looks perfect! I would love to just make a couple of loaves of this and keep a tradition of Sundays being ‘bread-making day’ to keep the supply up.
    Mmm… cucumber sandwich…

  9. Donna B. – a standing mixer…what a great Christmas gift!

    You can, if you wish, let your mixer (dough-hook attached) do all the kneading of the French baguettes. Then your only work is forming the loaves and baking them off.

    In any event, I’m with you on making Sunday “Bread-Baking Day.” (Although, as I write this on a Tuesday, I’ll admit that I have yet another loaf of Pan de Mie in the oven…my second one today!)

  10. Brenda Johnson says:

    Oh how I love this versatile bread!!! When Kevin delivered a piping hot loaf to me… I immediately ate a hot crusty end (okay… both ends….) slathered in butter- delicious! I then very nicely brought the rest of the loaf home to share with my family. This bread slices beautifully! I’ve NEVER had home made bread slice like this! We had it toasted with a salad for dinner (it toasts very nicely as well) and sandwiches for tomorrow are going to be made on this incredible bread. This is my new bread recipe/method of choice- thank you Kevin!!!!

  11. Brenda – Thanks for giving poetry to this great bread. Would you believe…I made another loaf after I delivered yours? And I ate only 1/3 of it last night :)

    Before baking last night’s loaf, I added extra weight to hold the bread down. Thus a baking sheet went over the foil-covered loaf pan, then a cast-iron skillet, then a brick (set on a piece of foil in the skillet). These 3 did their job admirably, and forced the bread to form a perfect rectangle.

  12. George Lytle says:

    I just bought a Pullman loaf pan on my way home from work (Williams and Sonoma Columbus Circle NYC). I have been wanting to back bread at our Columbia county home but the Kitchen is too cold in the Winter and in the Summer I don’t feel like turning the oven on – in between seasons there are too many gardening chores. A simple heating pad – BRILLIANT!

  13. George Lytle says:

    That should read “bake” not “back”

  14. George – Green with envy here. Tell me — what length, size and width is your Pullman loaf pan?

  15. George Lytle says:

    Was sick last weekend so spent Sat and Sun watching bad TV – going to try the recipe this weekend – wil provide dimensions and pics this weekend – maybe trade a pullman loaf pan for some of those lovely Boxwood cuttings in the spring…

  16. George – Hope you are feeling better. I ordered a 13-inch long Pullman pan last week…should arrive soon. Very excited to give it a spin. More than happy to share boxwood cuttings…after the shrubs receive their annual spring haircut.

  17. George Lytle says:

    Just started my “second rise” my loaf pans are 9 x 4 x 4. I am glad I got two – I think these are smaller then the one you use in this article. At the last step I will divide the dough evenly and then start my Karate chopping. I’ll share my results tomorrow.

  18. George Lytle says:

    Divided and chopped the dough – put them in the separate pans and it did not look like enough dough in each – took it out and re-kneaded / chopped and put it in a single pan. The bread turned out great! Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  19. George – So glad you liked it. As an experiment, I once divided the dough between two approx. 6-cup loaf pans — it didn’t look like enough at first, but then the bread rose…and rose…and turned out very well indeed.

    Tell me: Did you let the bread cool thoroughly before making that first slice? Or did you give in to temptation?

  20. Anna says:

    I enjoyed the texture but mine turned out too salty and I had to throw it away. Not sure why.

  21. chris says:

    This bread caused a TV sitcom like eruption in my house when I made it as a teen. I made it every week for 2-21/2 months. Then I stopped. My dad thought it was from a bakery and was very very angry when it ran out. He and mom were yelling as mom had no idea “what bakery bread, we haven’t had bread from a bakery in 2 months!” It was truely comical until she said, “oh that , that is not from a bakery, your son has been making that a loaf a week for 21/2 months” Side slap to my arm ( not a painful thing , just a tap to get my attention, it was quite funny), followed by”so why did you stop???!!!” “but it takes 7 hours to make it” I said, “you don’t have a job!” the retort. “but it is too hot now to make it the btter just melts all over the table”.

    I make it from time to time and am making it right now.

    made with raisins and cinnamin, nuts and nutmeg it is awesome to be reckoned with, or plain toasted with butter, oh my word!

    This site is the only one where the tepid milk is explained it must be scalded. If you do not scald milk before using that much in yeast bread the bread will have issues. If you like you can add butter in the recipe in the begining, but letting it rise sans le beurre is the preferred method, as it allows for glueten formation. Unscalded milk at this volume will destroy it as well, or scew it up.

    trust me, been there mangled that!

    ciao

  22. chris says:

    regarding too cold too hot a kitchen

    13.George Lytle says:
    January 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm
    I just bought a Pullman loaf pan on my way home from work (Williams and Sonoma Columbus Circle NYC). I have been wanting to back bread at our Columbia county home but the Kitchen is too cold in the Winter and in the Summer I don’t feel like turning the oven on – in between seasons there are too many gardening chores. A simple heating pad – BRILLIANT!

    Cold dough rises, just slowly, slow rises make nicer tasting breads. In summer after making dough fridge it, let it take 3 hours to rise whilste you pay bills go shopping retar the driveway, then come back rework back to fridge/counter.

    This I did not understand when I was a kid and leared to make this bread.

    Take the fat out of this bread just use water and you will have a nice Itaian bread.

    Always use ~ 1/2 tspn salt per cup flour. A cold rise is really nice for this or the italian bread. If you make the thin loaves I believe you want a 4-425 oven spray them with water put a pan boiling water in oven with them. For a nice sheen you can coat with beaten egg white with water the second they errupt from the oven and allow to cool.

    ciao

  23. Hi Chris – Oh, what a great story! I make this bread every week (and sometimes twice a week), using my 13x4x4 pullman pan. (Recipe for this extra-long loaf is here.) You are absolutely right about the milk — it must be scalded and then cooled, even if the milk has been pasteurized. Enjoy your bread, and stay in touch, okay?

  24. chris says:

    Well I tried just adding raisins and cinnomin powder to it (I rolled it. It has been so many years I forgot NEVEr BUTTER IT WATER MAYBE FAT, NO!

    It opened up a swirl that killed my loaf.

    Also if you do not have sweet butter, then leave out or lighten the salt you add!

    Right now I have a cinnn/rasin where I added them at the begining And due to not having two ovens I screwed up again. I am loosing my touch! If I had a bigger fridge, (or just put it ouside in my car) it would have stopped it and my bread would be glorious right now. Todays expensive expiriment will be so so . I may try using butter milk eventually. You do not scald butter milk, no need. The enzymatic action is prevented, by culturing the milk.

    ciao

  25. Barri says:

    Kevin:I have heard stories of tops of Pullman pans exploding off during cooking. Have you heard of this?

  26. Caitilin says:

    I really want to make this, but don’t have a standing mixer….

  27. Barri – I make Pain de Mie in a Pullman pan almost every week. Have never had an explosion here.

    Caitilin – You can knead the dough by hand.

  28. Caitilin says:

    Thanks! Going to try it today!

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