Making two 13" pain de mie loaves takes the same amount of effort and oven-energy as one 13" loaf--and, given the versatility of this delicious bread, you will be glad to have an extra one at hand in the freezer. I have simplified the ingredients and method for making this French bread, which was Julia Child's stand-by loaf making for canapés, breakfast toast, and sandwiches. My version of the classic bread recipe appears below. ~~M-J
Two Pain de Mie Loaves
1 1/2 cups of lukewarm milk or buttermilk
1 tablespoon of granulated yeast
4 tablespoons sugar
1 cup of lukewarm water
7 cups of white flour (unbleached "white" flour is ideal), plus another, separate cup for possible use during kneading process--different conditions may require more flour--so you need to have a total of 8 cups of flour.
1 tablespoon of salt
1.5 standard sticks of butter, sliced into about ten or twelve pieces to more easily incorporate it into dough-mixture
Pain de Mie simply means, directly translated from the French, "Bread of the Center", or the "crumb", which is bakers' terminology for the interior of a loaf of bread. Pain de mie is not supposed to have a deeply browned exterior or a pronounced crust. In fact, if you see a recipe for pain de mie that instructs you to pull the lid off during baking to 'brown the top," ignore that suggestion. If you prefer a crust, just leave the lid off during baking and you will have what is simply called a sandwich loaf. One of the beauties of an authentic pain de mie is that, when using this bread for canapés or tea sandwiches, there is no dark crust that needs to be removed, which is a tedious and sometimes problematic process. This doesn't mean that the edges cannot be trimmed if you wish. Pain de mie also makes perfect grilled cheese sandwiches, croques monsieurs, and panini.
M-J's Pain de Mie Method
Combine all of the ingredients, beginning with the lukewarm milk, yeast and sugar, gradually adding flour, salt and butter; knead this mixture to form a smooth, soft dough. I always use a standing mixer with a dough-hook attached, but it's not necessary. Kneading is good exercise.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured or greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for at least one hour or until doubled in bulk. In cooler kitchens, this may take an hour and a half.
Punch-down the dough, divide in half, transfer it to a flour-dusted counter, shape it into two 13" rolls, and fit them into the Pullman pans--each of these dough-rolls should leave room in the pan to rise until triple in bulk. Cover the pans with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise to within an inch of the tops of the pans, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (The dough will likely rise a further inch in the oven. Do not worry that it will touch the lid of your Pullman pans, because the heat of baking and the nonstick quality of these vessels will prevent the top crust from sticking, as you will discover when sliding the lids off after baking.) Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Remove the plastic, and place the Pullman pan covers on the pans. Bake the bread for 50 minutes. Remove your pans from the oven, let cool for ten minutes, then slide-off the lids. Turn the two loaves out of their pans onto a rack and allow them to cool completely before slicing or storing. These pain de mie loaves freeze well.
©M-J de Mesterton