French Sandwich Bread

Pain de mie

Pain de mie - literally crumb-bread, i.e. without crust - was first made to satisfy the demands of tourists from Britain or America who found French loaves too crusty, too rustic and perhaps too tasty. All that was in the early years of this century. Now the French, too, have been convinced of the utility of this loaf: at least for some sandwiches and delicate little canapés. Generally, however, they remain wedded to their baguette.

In the days when bread prices were fixed by government decree and profits were minimal, some bakers begrudged the expensive ingredients such as milk and butter that soften the texture of this loaf and keep it looking white. They used instead grated raw potato.

To keep the crust as thin and soft as possible, this loaf is cooked in a covered pan, just as are Scottish tin loaves and the square English sandwich loaves. Without going to the expense of buying a special tin, simply cover a normal bread tin with an oiled baking sheet and put a 2 kg/4 lb weight on the top to hold it down. Alternatively, if you have a cylindrical steamed pudding tin at the back of your kitchen cupboard you can use that.

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Ingredients

  • 450 g/1 lb unbleached white bread flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 15 g/½ oz fresh yeast
  • ½ teaspoon malt extract
  • 300 ml/10 fl oz warm milk
  • 30 g/1 oz butter

Method

  1. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and make a well. Crumble in the yeast and add the malt extract and milk. Shave thin slivers of butter on to the well of liquid. Stir with your finger to dissolve the yeast and then gradually mix in the flour. Mix until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl, turn on to a floured work surface and knead for 8 minutes. Leave the dough to rise in a bowl covered with oiled clingfilm at room temperature (21°C/70°F) for about 2½ hours, then knock it back and let it rise again for 1 hour.
  2. Turn out the dough on to the lightly floured work surface and form a ball. Leave to rest, covered with a cloth, for 5 minutes. Flatten the ball with your hands, then roll into a loaf to fit a long, thin tin (either well greased or non-stick), measuring 10 × 33 × 9 cm/4 × 13 × 3½ inches.
  3. The dough should at this point occupy one-third of the tin. Let it rise, covered with oiled clingfilm to prevent skinning, until it has reached three-quarters of the way up the sides. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7.
  4. Put the top cover on and bake immediately for about 20 minutes. Remove the cover and continue baking for 15 minutes. Though the crust will not be hard, it should still sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.