White sandwich bread, also called a “Pullman loaf” or pain de mie, is about as simple and easy as homemade bread gets, especially if you have a Pullman pan, since it eliminates the need to slash and/or top your loaf. The Pullman pan delivers exactly what it’s designed to deliver: a loaf that is crustless, tight-crumbed, semi-bland and perfectly square. In other words a specialty bread that’s superior for sandwiches, toast, canapés, bread pudding, French toast, the list goes on.
The recipe is here. For a truly fluffy, super-soft white bread, use more more bread flour in place of the semolina (durum) flour. Or for more of a “wheat bread” subtract four ounces or so of the bread flour and substitute whole wheat flour. Any way you, er, slice it, you can whip this recipe out start to finish in a little over three hours. Combine all your ingredients in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle.
Stir about a minute until everything is moistened, then let the dough sit and soak in the moisture for about five minutes.
Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5-7 minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky and mostly smooth.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover it with a cloth and let it sit for an hour or so until it’s more or less doubled.
About like so.
Then, let the wacking begin. Beat the dough up so that any large gas bubbles hidden inside break. This is an important step with any sandwich loaf, since gas bubbles can rise and collect in the unbaked dough causing a large gap just under the crust. We called these “mouse houses” in the bakery, and they’re a critical defect we’ve all seen before. I like using the back of my knuckles.
But you can pick up the dough and slam it on the counter…
…or just pound on it with a closed fist. All these methods work well.
After several minutes of naked aggression, it’s time to shape. Pat the dough into an oblong rectangle.
Fold the bottom up making sure you don’t enclose any large pockets of air…
…and pinch the seam closed with your thumb.
Put the shaped loaf seam-side down in a 14″ pullman pan. The pan does not need to be lubricated. Close the lid and let it proof for about half an hour. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
It will look about like so.
Bake it for about 40 minutes until it’s golden brown.
Immediately turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool. Once it has cooled completely — ideally for about an hour and a half to allow the crumb to set — it’s ready to slice.
Oh yeah, that’s the stuff. Where’s the ham?