White bread, pure and simple

Ahhhhh, cinnamon toast.

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Ahhhhh, bread and butter.

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Ahhhhh, grilled cheese.

And what, pray tell, is the progenitor of ALL of these AHHHHHs?

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White bread, a.k.a. pain de mie, a.k.a. The Perfect Sandwich Loaf (grilled cheese bread, French toast bread, appetizer base extraordinaire…)

Think back to your childhood. Unless you were brought up by parents unusually devoted to the benefits of whole grains, your first piece of buttered toast was made on plain white bread. Your PB & J? White bread. French toast, grilled cheese, egg salad, tunafish—white bread, white bread, white bread.

Maybe it was Wonder or Sunbeam, the air bread of old that now, in adulthood, we regard with scorn. (Except for my husband, who remains a devoted disciple despite my best efforts to wean him of this shallow loaf.)

Or maybe Pepperidge Farm was the loaf of choice in your family’s bread box. Or Arnold, with its cozy brick oven logo. These sturdy-yet-moist, close-grained breads were my idea of white bread perfection, for years and years.

Until I discovered the lidded pain de mie (Pullman) pan, well into my bread-baking career—right here at King Arthur. And my life changed forever.

No more sandwich loaves with their unattractive mushroom-shaped silhouette. From now on my bread would be perfectly square-cornered. It would fit just right in the toaster, without an over-risen crown peeking out the top. It would have the same close-grained, moist texture of my beloved Pepperidge Farm. And it would make slices every bit as thin as PF’s Very Thin White Bread—the bread of choice for appetizers, or for the crunchiest toast ever.

I still eat PFVT white bread at my in-laws’; it’s a nostalgic throwback to the days before pain de mie. But PF doesn’t hold the same power over me as it used to, back when I hadn’t yet discovered the home-baked alternative. Now, when the urge for comfort bread strikes, I simply pull out my  pain de mie pan, and Pepperidge Farm passes into the mists of memory.

I’ll warn you up front: the pan is expensive. But it’ll last you forever. And after all, how can you possibly put a price on a lifetime of perfect PB & Js?

Now, I know you’re going to ask me if you can make this bread without a pain de mie pan. The answer is — no, not really. You can rig up a weighted cover for your standard loaf pan, if you like; use our recipe for White Sandwich Bread, as the following recipe is too big for a standard pan. But I warn you, yeast dough is unbelievably strong; you’ll need several bricks to keep it contained, so beware!

Want to read the recipe before you start? Check out our recipe for Pain de Mie.

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First we’ll make a basic white yeast dough, starting with King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, whose 11.7% protein makes a delightful, soft, tender-textured loaf. Mix the ingredients together…

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…then knead till smooth. This is easily accomplished in a bread machine set on the dough cycle, too.

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Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl (or large measuring cup, which allows you to track its rise); cover the bowl or cup.

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Let rise till doubled. This is a very cooperative dough; it’ll rise nicely.

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Here’s your lidded pain de mie pan. It’s a 13” x 4” x 4” pan with a sliding lid.

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Spray both the inside of the pan, and the underside of the lid with non-stick vegetable oil spray; I always use Everbake.

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Gently shape your risen dough into a 13” log.

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Place it in the pan, pressing down to make it as flat as possible.

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Cover with plastic wrap and let rise…

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…till the dough is within 1/2” or so of the lip of the pan.

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Put the GREASED cover on…

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…and close it up. Let the dough rest an additional 10 minutes or so, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.

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Bake the bread for 25 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and remove the cover; it’ll be a light golden brown.

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Return it to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes…

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…until an instant-read thermometer registers 190°F, or just over.

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Turn the pan on its side, shaking slightly to loosen the bread.

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Then turn it over, and lift off the pan.

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Gently turn the bread right side up, so its pretty top is facing up.

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Look at those corners!

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The length of it—I tell you, that’s enough for more than 2 dozen sandwiches!

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And the crumb….

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Perfect. Note how thin the crust is, too; your kids probably won’t even ask you to cut it off.

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Unexpected bonus: as the bread cools on your rack, it imprints its own slicing guide.

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And let’s have one more look at that cinnamon toast. If you haven’t yet tried our Cinnamon-Sugar Plus, you’re missing a real treat. My boss, Karen, has three kids, cinnamon toast aficionados all. I asked her to do a blind cinnamon sugar-test with them. Cinnamon-Sugar Plus won hands-down, easily supplanting their former favorite. Thanks, Sivi, Tage, and Lily, for your valuable input in this serious matter.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Pain de Mie.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Pepperidge Farm Very Thin White Bread, 22¢/ounce

Bake at home: Pain de Mie, 8¢/ounce

P.S. Speaking of the perfect white bread, do you have a “perfect” loaf of bread? Enter it in our National Festival of Breads contest. Entries close Feb. 15, so ladies and gentlemen… start your ovens!

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. gerry jackson

    Being gluten sensitive may I substitute another flour for the all purpose flour. one

    of the newer grains flour perhaps?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Alas, yeast breads are a particularly tough nut to crack in the gluten-free world, though there are some exceptions. Gluten happens to be uniquely good at supporting the rise and structure of yeast bread loaves, so subbing in a gluten-free flour won’t provide quite the love needed to make it fly. Rather than attempting to convert an existing yeast recipe to be gluten-free, we recommend using a recipe specifically developed for gluten-free ingredients. You’ll find a number of recipes choose from on our site. The Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread comes highly recommended! Happy GF baking! Kye@KAF

  2. Naiyya Nasa

    Thank you PJ Hamel.
    Tried the whole wheat smaller pain de mie recipe today. As given on the king arthur site. But added 1tbsp of gluten. Used 2&1/2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1cup of allpurpose flour for the 3&1/2cups of flour mentioned.
    On baking with the lid covered, had it overflow from both ends. The lid did not come of easily as the dough was syuck to the lid on the sides and on removing the lid,the top was torn off .
    Please tell me what I did wrong.
    Should I have ised vital gluten at all?
    King arthur flour is not abailable where I stay and vital gluten is generally used to up the protein of the flour we have available to us for bread.
    How do I prevent the dough from sticking to the lid? I greased tje lid generously with vegetable oil.
    Await your response. These failures are immensely exasperating. Would appreciate your feedback.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for reaching out, Naiyya. It sounds like the vital wheat gluten made the bread rise a bit too much and the pan couldn’t hold it all in! Try omitting the vital wheat gluten, or simply decrease the recipe by 25% and you should have better results. You prepared the lid perfectly, there was just an overabundance of dough. Annabelle@KAF

  3. Naiyya Nasa

    Please help.
    Have made the smaller pain de mie recipe numerous times over in the 9″pullman pan.
    Each time have the following issues….
    1) I close the lid when the centre of the dough crowns up to very nearly to within 1/2″ inch of the top of pan ( but the sides are always a little below1″). But on opening the lid after 1/2an hour to bake uncovered,the dough remains at the same height or drops a little. The dough never fills up the pan to give the straight ,ootj surface.
    2) The surface of the dough tears in places as the dough rises in the second proving and the end baked result has a n uneven,dimpled and torn surface.
    Please tell me where I am going wrong.
    I do not use potato flakes or flour in the recipe as they are not available where I stay. Is it possiblie to use flattened rice flakes instead of the potato flakes as the purpose seems to be to provide the extra starch ?
    Awaiting response.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Naiyya, it sounds like you might be having a flour issue. If you’re not using our King Arthur Flour (or flour with a similar relatively high protein level), the dough can only rise so high before it stops rising and starts to fall. The dough simply doesn’t have the necessary strength to keep going and press itself up against the lid. The tearing you mention is also a potential sign of this. The solution? Without access to a higher-protein flour, I think you’d need to tweak the recipe to make more dough for the same pan, so that it doesn’t have to rise quite as high to fill the pan. If you want to experiment, try doubling the recipe, then using maybe 2/3 of the dough in the pan (you can make rolls with the remaining dough). If this fixes the issue, and you end up with a finished loaf with square corners, one that filled the pan as it baked — there’s your answer. Hope this helps — PJH@KAF

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