November 20, 2013 · 10:45 am
For some now forgotten reason I decided that I wanted to make croque monsieur and croque madame sandwiches. I realized that I didn’t have the right bread. American white sandwich bread is such a lump of dough that it wouldn’t hold up to the other ingredients. Artisanal breads also didn’t sound right. The only thing that would really work is French sandwich bread – pain de mie (“soft-in-the middle bread”). It also goes by the name of a Pullman loaf in the USA. I grabbed onto that idea, because my pain de mie pan, complete with lid, had been gathering dust. There really is no bread that will substitute for pain de mie: if has a fine crumb, the crust is soft and brown, it cuts so easily that you can turn it into thin Melba toasts, it toasts beautifully, and it has a delicious flavor not remotely the same as American sandwich bread.
Besides all that, it is a kitchen gadgeteer’s dream because of the special bread pan with a lid. Of course, if you don’t have such an implement, you can fashion your own with a regular bread pan and some sort of lid – a tile or small metal pan that can serve as a lid. You will also need a weight. I used a piece of flagstone from our yard.
If you want to make the investment in the pan, you may have a hard time finding it at your local kitchen store. Fortunately the pans are readily available by mail order or on the internet. I bought mine from King Arthur Flour . They sell two sizes of the pain de mie pans complete with lids. The smaller size measures 9 x 4 x 4 inches and sells for $29.95. The larger pan measures 13 x 4 x 4 inches and sells for $34.95. This recipe is designed for the larger sized pan.
The crumb of this bread is amazingly soft. At the same time, the crust is brown and, well, crusty. All of this is due to the ingredients::
You should use a flour with lower protein content. Don’t use bread flour. All-purpose flour will work, but Southern lower-protein flours like White Lily, Martha White or Gladiola, are even better.
Potato flour, made from ground dried potatoes and also called potato starch, adds moisture.
Powdered milk also adds moisture along with a little sweetness, but it may prevent the dough from rising as fully.
Butter should be unsalted, and it should be softened to room temperature so that it can be readily incorporated into the dough.
Be sure to pre-heat the weight so that baking of the bread is even.
Classic pain de mie pan complete with lid
Improvised pain de mie pan with aluminum-foil-wrapped oven-proof ceramic tile for a lid
Softened unsalted butter
Potato flour for moistness
Incorporating flour into the wet ingredients
Dough kneaded and ready for the first rise
Dough deflated, patted out and ready for the bread pan
Dough in the well-greased pan, ready for the final rise
Lid opened just enough so that you can observe the bread rising
Ready for the oven
Bread in the oven complete with the weight
Remove the lid and finish the baking
The finished loaf cooling on a rack
Pain de Mie
- 2/3 cup milk (110° F, 43°C)
- 1 cup water (110° F, 43°C)
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened at room temperature
- 2¼ teaspoons salt
- 1½ tablespoons sugar
- ¼ cup dry milk
- 2 tablespoons potato flour
- 1 package instant dry yeast
- 4¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- In a large bowl, combine the milk, water, butter, salt, and sugar. Then add the dry milk, potato flour, and yeast, stirring with a whisk until well mixed. Add 4 cups of the flour, one cup at a time, stirring until the flour is completely incorporated and the batter pulls away from the side of the bowl.
- Turn the dough onto a clean work surface dusted with the remaining ¾ cup of flour. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Then place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1½ to 2 hours.
- After it has risen, turn the dough onto a lightly oiled surface, deflating it gently. Let rest for 10 minutes. With the palm of your hand, flatten the dough into a rectangle that is the length of the pan and about twice as wide. Fold in half lengthwise, and pinch the seam closed tightly. Place the dough, seam side down, in the well-greased pan. Also, make sure the under-surface of the lid is well-greased. The dough should come up to no more than 1/3 of the height of the pan. Place the lid on the pan, leaving it open several inches. Cover the opening with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for the second time until the dough comes to about ¼ inch below the lip of the pan, about 1½ hours.
- In the meantime, pre-heat the oven and the lid weight to 375°F
- Remove the plastic wrap, carefully close the lid, and let rest for another 10 minutes. Be very careful not to deflate the dough with the lid.
- Bake for 30 minutes in the middle of the oven at 375°F with the weight placed on the lid. After 30 minutes, remove the weight and lid, and bake for an additional 15 minutes. The loaf should register 190°F with an instant read thermometer. Remove from the oven, let rest for 10 minutes, and then turn onto a cooling rack. Cover with a clean cloth and let cool completely.
Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes
Tagged as butter, croque madame, croque monsieur, Gladiola, Martha White, pain de ie, potato flour, potato starch, Pullman loaf, sandwich bread, White Lily, yeast
September 13, 2012 · 1:56 pm
A few weeks ago, I bought a loaf of potato-sesame bread from a baker at the local farmers market. It had a nutty flavor, and the crunch of the sesame seeds gave it a unique bite. While waiting in line to pay, I heard the baker tell another customer that the bread was the first he learned to bake when he was in a monastery many years ago.
Later I bought another loaf of the same bread. It had lumps of whole potato – not nearly as good as the first loaf. That made me think that I wanted to bake my own version. I looked in vain for a recipe. There were lots of breads made with potato water, some made with potato sourdough starter, some with instant potatoes, and several with potato flour. There were none with mashed potatoes, which sounded to me like a good beginning.
Then I thought, “monastery – bread”. The only connection I could make was the classic baking book by Edward Espe Brown called The Tassajara Bread Book, Shambhala Publications, 1970. I checked my copy, and sure enough there were recipes for sesame bread and potato bread using mashed potatoes. There was no recipe for potato-sesame bread, though that was alright because I had already begun to work out my own version. The recipe follows. It is an easy bread to make, with a fine crumb and a chewy crust from the enrobement of sesame seeds. Since potatoes contain no gluten, I have added gluten powder to promote rising and good texture.
The finished loaves
- In a medium saucepan over high heat, put the cubed potatoes in plenty of water to cover and bring to a boil. Continue to boil the potatoes until they are done and a sharp fork pierces them easily, about 30 minutes. Do not add salt to the boiling water.
- When the potatoes are done, drain them, reserving 2 cups of the potato water. Pass the drained potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill and set aside. There should be about 2 cups of mashed potatoes. Let the potato water cool enough that it is warm but not hot.
- In a large ceramic bowl, combine 2 cups of potato water with sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then sprinkle the dry yeast on the surface of the mixture and let stand for 5 minutes. Then stir so that the yeast is dissolved.
- Stir in the salt, melted butter, and gluten until well combined.
- One cup at a time, stir in 3½ cups of flour, combining thoroughly after each addition.
- Knead the dough in the bowl for about one minute. Then turn out onto a flat surface covered with the remaining one cup of flour. Knead for about 10 minutes until the extra flour is incorporated and you have a smooth dough. The dough should be sticky. This will make it difficult to work with, but too much flour will make the finished bread too firm and tough.
- Form the dough into a ball, lightly oil the surface, and place it in a covered clean bowl or bread-proofing box.
- Let rise in a warm place until the dough is doubled, about 2 hours. Punch down the risen dough and let rise a second time until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Divide the dough into two equal portions. Shape each into a ball and place in a shallow pan or dish of sesame seeds. Sprinkle additional sesame seeds on the top of each round until completely covered with the seeds, and shape into a rough loaf.
- Place each shaped, sesame-coated loaf in a well-greased 8½ x 4½ inch bread pan. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for about 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375° F.
- Bake the loaves in the middle of the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Test for doneness by thumping the bottom for a clear sound.
- Turn the finished loaves onto a cooling rack and cool.
Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes
Tagged as bread flour, Edward Espe Brown, mashed potatoes, potato flour, potato-sesame bread, sesame seeds, sourdough starter, Tassajara Bread Book, vegetarian