Pain de Mie (A Fancy Name for White Bread)

As fate would have it, as we near the end of our Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge journey, in which we have baked everything from French and Italian breads to celebration breads to breads filled with meat and cheese, for the fortieth bread in the Challenge, we hit on a very simple (some might argue too simple) white bread. The French call it pain de mie, which translates to “bread of the crumb” but is really just a fancy way of saying everyday sandwich bread.

I wasn’t as ambivalent about this bread as some BBAers, like Paul from Yumarama. In fact, I really liked it toasted with homemade jam. But I can see his point. It’s not what you expect this late in the game. This is more of a first-loaf, getting-your-feet-wet kind of bread. I know the recipes are in alphabetical order. Still, it felt like a bit of an anticlimax to be making such a basic loaf the 40th time out.

I baked this bread twice: once using variation #1 and a second time using the sponge in variation #3. I used my Pullman pan both times, although the second time I didn’t put on the lid. Here’s how the first version came out:

Note that the Pullman pan gives you a perfectly rectangular loaf, and nice, square slices of bread. Perfect for sandwiches, but not so artisanal looking.

Version #3 starts with a quick sponge. Unlike the typical preferment, the sponge is only allowed to ferment for about an hour before it is mixed into the dough. Otherwise, it is a fairly standard enriched dough. It kneaded beautifully and had a nice texture.

I didn’t divide the dough after it fermented, as the Pullman pan requires almost 3 1/2 pounds of dough per loaf.

When I made version #1, I allowed the dough to rise until it was about 1/4-inch from the lip of the pan, then I sprayed the lid with cooking oil and slid it on the pan. I began preheating the oven at that point, and baked the loaf with the lid on for about 20 minutes. I removed the lid and allowed the loaf to finish baking.

With version #3, however, I decided to use a Dutch crunch topping, which meant I couldn’t use the lid, as I was afraid the topping would all stick to the lid and probably burn. For the Dutch crunch, I used cornmeal, flour, yeast, salt, oil, and water. I brushed it on after the bread had proofed in the pan, shortly before I put the loaf in the oven.

Pain de Mie - Proofed, before Dutch Crumb

Pain de Mie with Dutch Crumb

 I baked the loaf at 350 dF for 20 minutes, turned it 180 degrees, inserted a probe thermometer, and continued baking until the internal temperature reached 187 dF.

Check out that crazy oven spring! The top of the loaf was about 1/8-inch below the top rack. And it baked over the sides of the pan quite a bit, too.

As far as taste goes, version #1 was a decent, but not remarkable, loaf of white bread. Fine for sandwiches or eating toasted with jam. Version #3 was still not an out-of-the-ballpark bread, but it was much tastier than the first version. I’m not sure whether it was the sponge, Dutch crunch, or a combination of both. I suspect they both played a role in the flavor of this bread. Again, it was a good sandwich bread and great for eating toasted with homemade jam. And it was tasty enough to eat toasted with just butter.

I will make this bread again, as I enjoy making pain de mie to use for sandwiches and toast. I’ll definitely use version #3 again. And probably Dutch crunch, too. I might try using the crunch with the lid on just to see what happens.

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Stolen Stollen

The 36th recipe in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is Stollen, a German holiday bread. Never was a bread so aptly named. But we’ll get to that in a minute. Stollen is traditionally made at Christmastime. The shape of the bread is meant to resemble a blanket in a manger. And the color (studded with candied fruit) is supposed to remind us of the gifts brought to the baby Jesus by the Magi.

Before I started this bread, I made a quick trip to the store to stock up on ingredients: candied fruit, almonds, candied citrus peel, and golden raisins. I decided to take PR’s recommendation and soak the fruit for several days before making the bread. I measure out the dried fruit, raisins, and peel (I decided to add some citrus peel); added lemon, lime, and orange oils; and then reached for the brandy.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered there was no brandy in the house. And no rum, either. It was a dark and stormy night, and I didn’t feel like running back to the store, so I decided to use something I had on hand. And the something I reached for? Scotch. Single malt scotch. Expensive single malt scotch. It’s not that I mind using expensive ingredients when I bake. I just wasn’t sure how fruit soaked in scotch would taste. But, it was what I had, so I decided to use it. After adding the whisky to the fruit mixture, I stirred it up and covered the bowl. I stirred the mixture several times a day for the next few days.

On baking day, I made the sponge. Since I don’t bake with milk, I mixed the sponge with warm water, flour, and yeast.

After an hour, it looked like this:

I mixed the dough and sponge for a few minutes in the Kitchen Aid (substituting buttermilk powder for the milk), let it rest for about 10 minutes, then added the fruit a little bit at a time. After kneading the dough for another 4 minutes, I put it in an oiled bowl to ferment for 45 minutes.

I patted the dough into a rectangle and sprinkled it with almonds, raisins, and dried fruit.

Then I rolled it into a batard and placed it on a baking sheet, curving the ends slightly.

I let the dough rise for about an hour-and-a-half, then baked it in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. I removed the loaf from the oven, turned it for even baking, then inserted a probe thermometer into the dough and let it bake for about another 25 minutes, until the internal temperature reached 190 degrees.

Then I removed the bread from the oven and immediately brushed it with vegetable oil.

And finally sprinkled it liberally with two layers of powdered sugar.

I went off to do something else for an hour or so while the bread cooled. After about half an hour, I heard my daughters laughing and yelling at the dog (never a good sign), and I walked into the dining room to see Bailey standing on the table, licking all the powdered sugar off the bread. Here’s what it looked like when he was done:

I will say that dog saliva gives the bread a nice shine. Unfortunately, it’s not too appetizing. My mom and I were the only ones brave enough to try it (without the top crust). It had a really good flavor from the spices and nuts. And the fruit in whisky wa s interesting combination. The scotch mellowed a bit with the soaking and baking, but it still had the distinct taste of the bog where it was produced and the peat harvested there.

It really was a beautiful bread, and had it not been a sugar lick for the dog, I think it might have made an excellent bread pudding.

Portuguese Sweet Bread

The following recipe is the November BOM (Bread of the Month) for the Facebook Artisan Bread Bakers Group — http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/event.php?eid=166811805757&index=1

Portuguese Sweet Bread (based on Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice)

Makes 2 1-pound loaves

Ingredients

Sponge:

  • 1/2 cup unbleached bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup water, at room temperature

Dough:

  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup powdered milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour
  • About 6 tablespoons water, at room temperature

Directions

To make the sponge, stir together the flour, sugar, and yeast in a small bowl. Add the water and stir until all the ingredients are hydrated and make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the sponge gets foamy and seems on the verge of collapse.

To make the dough, combine the sugar, salt, powdered milk, butter, and shortening in a 4-quart mixing bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer). Cream together with a sturdy spoon (or the paddle attachment) until smooth, then mix in the eggs and the extracts. Knead by hand (or switch to the dough hook attachment) and mix in the sponge and the flour. Add the water, as needed, to make a very soft dough. The finished dough should be very supple and soft, easy to knead, and not wet or sticky. It will take 10 to 12 minutes with the electric mixer and close to 15 minutes by hand to achieve this consistency. (Dough with high amounts of fat and sugar usually take longer to knead because the gluten requires more time to set up.) The finished dough should pass the windowpane test (see NOTE below) and register 77 to 88 degrees F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into two equal pieces. Form each of the pieces into a boule (ball shape – stretch opposite sides, tuck them under, turn the dough 180 degrees, and repeat). Lightly oil two 9-inch pie pans and place 1 boule, seam side down, in each pan. Mist the dough with spray oil and loosely cover the pans with plastic wrap.

Proof at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or until the dough fills the pans fully, doubling in size and overlapping the edges slightly. (If you only want to bake one loaf, you may retard the second in the fridge for 1 day, although it will take 4 to 5 hours to proof after it comes out of the refrigerator.)

Very gently brush the loaves with egg wash. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

Bake the loaves for 50 to 60 minutes, or until they register 190 F in the center. After 30 minutes, check the loaves and rotate 180 degrees, if necessary, for even baking. Because of the high amount of sugar, the dough will brown very quickly, but don’t be fooled into thinking it is done. It will get darker as the center gradually catches up with the outside, but it will not burn. The final color will be a rich mahogany brown.

Remove the bread from the pie pans and place on a rack to cool. The bread will soften as it cools, resulting in a very soft, squishy loaf. Allow the bread to cool for at least 90 minutes before slicing or serving.

Ciabatta – Add a Lotta Watta

This week’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge bread was Ciabatta, a wonderful, holey Italian bread. I was really looking forward to making this bread. It’s a simple artisan bread, made of flour, yeast, salt, water, and maybe a little oil. I had never baked Ciabatta, so I was excited about shaping the “slippers”. And, even though I love the enriched breads we have been making so far, to be honest, I was ready for a simple, straight dough.

In typical fashion, I decided to make two versions — the poolish and the biga. I actually made the poolish a week or so before baking them both together. My first try at poolish did not result in the big holes I was expecting, so I increased the water a bit on my second attempt. 

Poolish (left) and Biga (right) Ciabatta Dough

Biga (left) and Poolish (right) Ciabatta Dough

Even though I increased the water in the poolish a bit (by about an ounce or two), you can see that it is considerably firmer than the biga version. I think if I weren’t familiar with working with wet doughs, I would have been a bit freaked out by the biga dough. It was really wet.

 

The biga (on the right) is much wetter than the poolish.

The biga (on the right) is much wetter than the poolish.

 

After fermenting - biga in front

After fermenting - biga in front

 

The poolish dough (left) held its shape better

The poolish dough (left) held its shape better

 

Poolish Ciabatta - Ready for the Oven

Poolish Ciabatta - Ready for the Oven

 

Bake-a Da Biga

Bake-a Da Biga

 I had originally planned to bake all four loaves at the same time, but by the time they were done proofing, they were too big. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until I had stretched the dough, and the biga loaves relaxed a bit too much, resulting in flat loaves.

 

The biga Ciabatta (right) is a bit flat,...

The biga Ciabatta (right) is a bit flat,...

 

But look at dem holes!!!

But look at dem holes!!!

 

 
Both breads were delicious. I think I liked the biga version a little better. The crumb was open, chewy and really held the herb-infused olive oil well.
 
Up next:  cinnamon rolls and sticky buns (of course I’m making them both!)