One of the gifts I received for my birthday was a 13 x 4 x 4 Pain de Mie pan. While it is certainly a specialty baking item, it is a “nice to have” addition to the home bread baker’s repertoire. Pain de Mie (roughly pronounced “Pan duh mee”) is a French sandwich-type bread traditionally made in a Pain de Mie pan or a Pullman pan.
The recipe I used for my Pan de Mie is from Sarbeth’s Bakery cookbook. The only translation necessary from her cookbook was from compressed yeast or active dry to the instant dry yeast I was using. The typical conversion ratio is 1 oz. compressed = 0.5 oz. active dry = 0.4 oz. instant dry. So for her recipe I ended up using 0.2 oz. of IDY.
The instructions are very straightforward. This bread is mixed like any other white bread.
Following an initial mix, flour is gradually incorporated until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You then mix on medium-low (speed 2 or 3) for 6 minutes. The resulting dough is put in a container and set to rise for 1.25 hours.
Following the rise, the dough is dumped onto a floured surface and gently shaped into a long loaf.
The prepared dough is then added to the greased pullman pan.
With the lid in place, but not fully closed, the dough is left to rise for approximately 1 hour. I let mine rise for 1 hour and 10 minutes and it still had some room to grow; however, I slightly underproofed it.
After rising, the lid is locked into place and the risen loaf is added to a 350F oven and set to bake for 35 minutes. After cooking through (mine baked for 40m), the bread cools in the pan for 5m, then it is inverted onto a cooling rack.
The crumb is light, fluffy and flavorful. This bread is indeed the same size as a supermarket bread loaf but the taste and texture is much more desirable. I was blown away by the taste of a slice of this bread that had been toasted and buttered.
This is a recipe that requires intuition over precision. You will need to add enough flour to get the proper consistency but not enough that the bread will end up dry. I’ve come to believe that less flour (initially) is more desirable than too much flour. Remember that after its initial rise, the dough will become more manageable, so even if it seems slack at first it will firm up as it rises.
If you want a completely squared off (rectangular) loaf, just let the dough rise higher in the pullman pan. As it expands during the initial moments of baking, the bread will have nowhere to go, so it will square-off in the pan and develop a more dense crumb.
This bread was a big hit in my household. Although a loaf of supermarket bread may sit around for a week, this bread was consumed within 12 hours of baking it.