9.21.2013

My Pain

One might think, if one merely pretends to speak French, that pain de mie might translate to "my pain." It doesn't.

I knew that but, until today, I didn't know that pain de mie actually translates to "sandwich bread." Pretty shocking for someone who is a pain de mie junky. I always thought that it referred to the "crumb" of the bread, because it has such a cake-like texture.

I was close. Translated literally, the mie is the soft part - or crumb - of bread. (In case you are wondering, the word for the crust is croûte.) If you reverse pain de mie to à la mie de pain, it is slang for 'worthless.' But I love the mie! It isn't worthless to me!

When I was a kid - and all you out there who were finicky eaters as kids need to come clean and admit it, too - I always wanted the crusts removed from my sandwiches. To this day, I think that is why I love those little quartered sandwiches served at tea.

My absolute favorite way to use it is for Toasted Bread Boxes. I made them for a post a couple of years ago - Toasted Bread Boxes with Mushrooms and Truffle Oil. Last week I made them and topped them with oven-roasted San Marzano tomatoes, and lardons cooked with shallots. Tonight I will serve them with a simple ragoût of shiitake mushrooms, pancetta, and rosemary.

The first time I served them to guests, the guests were - at the very least - an intimidating pair. They were Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, owners and chefs of one of the finest restaurants in which I have ever eaten. Arrows, seemingly rustic on the outside, was nothing but upscale elegance on the inside. I had the audacity to invite these two gourmands to dinner.

What to serve? I was a bit nervous, but decided, like Remy in Ratatouille, to serve simple-yet-elegant fare. The menu would consist of items that had few ingredients, but ingredients that were, themselves, special.

The bread boxes were made with pain de mie that I purchased at a local French bakery, farm fresh eggs, artisanal Italian cheeses, roasted asparagus and a drizzle of white truffle oil. The main course was sea bass poached in a tomato-saffron broth. And dessert was panna cotta with a mixed berry and port reduction.

After dinner (I believe they were duly impressed), I admitted my anxiety, to which they replied, "You could have given us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we would have been happy. No one ever invites us to their homes for dinner!" Well, if I had only known...

To share in my anxiety, check out this article in Travel + Leisure. Back in 2001 (when we lived there, Arrows was named one of the top 50 restaurants in the United States, and year after year were chosen as one of the top romantic restaurants, as well. Articles appeared annually in Bon Appétit and Gourmet Magazine. Both were named as James Beard Foundation Best Chefs Northeast in 2010. Here is another nice write up on The Foodie Journal blog for their 25th anniversary. Can you see why I was a wee bit jittery?

For my 55th birthday last month, Mark said he had no idea what to get me. I told him to sit down at the computer, go to www.amazon.com, and search for pain de mie pan. He located one; I told him to click "purchase," and have it sent to our home. Can you guess he’s not much of a shopper? Happy birthday to me!

I made my first loaf a few days later on my actual 55th birthday and have now made it again, having made a few notes and changes to the original recipe, which is based on one from King Arthur flour.

I love this bread. It is the perfect toasting bread - it is cakey, dense, yet very tender. It is also good for cutting into little shapes for canapés, making pain derdu (French toast), and is the traditional bread for Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame sandwiches.

It is very much worth having this odd specialty pan, as this bread is very easy to make. I give directions for a stand mixer, but you will succeed just fine if you use traditional bread making techniques.

Happy buttering!

~ David

Pain de Mie

2/3 cup fat free milk
1 cup water
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/8 ounces nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 ounces potato flour
20 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 ounce instant yeast (scant 2 teaspoons)


In the bowl of a standing mixer using the paddle attachment, combine the milk, water, butter, salt and sugar.


Using a large bowl placed on a scale, add the nonfat dry milk, potato flour and all purpose flour, resetting the scale before each ingredient is added to ensure the correct weight. Add the dried yeast and whisk to mix. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir using the paddle attachment until the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl.

Switch to the dough hook, and knead at level 2 for 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover tightly with cling film, and allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Lightly butter a 13 x 4-inch pain de mie pan and underside of the lid. Transfer the risen dough to a lightly oiled work surface ( I used a spritz of olive oil), shape it into a 13-inch log, and fit it into the pan. Cover the pan with lightly buttered plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise until it's just below the lip of the pan, about 1 hour.

Remove the plastic, and carefully slide the cover onto the pan, let it rest an additional 10 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, carefully remove the lid, and return the uncovered bread to the oven to bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until it tests done. My test for doneness is usually a “thwack” with my finger to listen for hollowness, but that doesn’t work for pain de mie. The internal temperature should be about 190°F. Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely.

Yield: 1 13-inch loaf.

Notes: for the two risings of the dough, I run the microwave empty for 1 minute to create some warmth in a draft-free place, then put the covered dough in to rise. I reheat the microwave before each rising. Do not heat a bowl of water in the microwave, as you do not want the humidity.

32 comments:

  1. I LOVE the art of bread-making. I can't do it. :) The kneading is just a wonderful motion - therapeutic. My sister bakes up all kinds of yeast breads, but I wasn't granted that talent. I'm always so impressed with those who can bake with yeast. Your bread is beautiful!

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    1. Pearl - I am pretty shy when it comes to yeast. I have a few really successful breads - this one and the No-Knead Bread I posted about a year ago. Other than that, I leave it to the pros!

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  2. Such a gorgeous piece of loaf...tender...while we heart each and every kind of bread...somehow we love the softer cakey ones more ,this is so perfect...we will be trying this recipe out for the weekend...bread making is a soulful experience,thanks for sharing :-)

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    1. Bread making IS soulful, isn't it? Thank you, as always, for your kind and gracious words.

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  3. David, this is absolute perfection, my dear friend - love absolutely every single detail about your wonderful post (down to the Dr. Oetker "Hefe") - your bread is fabulous, with the most wonderful crumb and color and evertyhing - and your pain de mie pain is unbelievable - I know why we get along so fabulously although we live a few thousand kilometers apart - you love these baking pans as much as I do!!! I have never seen a pan like this before and I am most intrigued by it!
    P.S.: Do you already know when you will be leaving for Venice - I certainly hope that all is well with Mark´s mum! - I am so looking forward to co-posting - did you have a chance to look at the book yet?
    Kind regards from Bonn,
    Andrea

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    1. Andrea - I thought you would like the Dr. Oetker Hefe! Believe it or not, it was the only instant yeast I could find in my neighborhood store. I was told by a baker this morning that my pan has many uses, but for me it is only Pain de Mie.

      Thanks for asking about Mark's mother. All seems to be well and he will return later this week.

      I am loving the Veg book - so many good recipes to try!

      Liebe Grüße aus Tucson!

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  4. That looks like it would make the PERFECT Mozzarella in Carrozza too David! And I think I just found a new kitchen toy to add to my wish list ;-)

    XOXO

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    1. Yes, Karin - you need one of these pans! I have never made Mozzarella in Carrozza - but have tried at and love it. Maybe I will give it a try for dinner tonight!

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  5. It never stops shocking me how one of the oldest and most widely popular foods is also a very finicky one to make.
    I guess I'm intimidated by yeast, but D, this is a perfect loaf! xo

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    1. Colette - I know exactly what you mean! I am truly intimidated by yeast and only have a couple of recipes I feel comfortable making. My goal this winter is to "get over it!" Keep watching - you may see more! (And all I can say is - thank goodness for the KitchenAid and its dough hook!)

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  6. As a child, I would never let a crust pass my lips (and I had wavy hair anyway!). My favorite sandwiches were made of chopped olives and your pain de mie would have been the perfect vehicle for that filling. Now that I am a grown-up (and ever so sophisticated), I suppose I will have to find another filling...sigh.) Anyway, the bread sure looks inviting! Terrific post!

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    1. Well, Susan - what is wrong with the chopped olives? Sounds quite sophisticated to me... in fact, I think the French have a fancy name for it: tapenade!

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    2. My version is chopped black olives with mayo!

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    3. Well, you can upgrade to tapenade! :)

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  7. Mmmmm bread! My stepdad, a flour miller by trade, still makes amazing bread well into his eighties. Whenever I ask for recipes he just shakes his head and says it won't work with the flour we have in the US.

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    1. Rachel - I fear your father is mostly right. It is only now, in the third millennium, that we are getting some artisanal flours to use. Maybe he could change his mind? Maybe it is the bread making that has kept him so healthy over the years?

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  8. Ahhhh! Is it wrong that bread excites me SO much?! Nothing quite like a fresh baked loaf of bread. Beautiful, as always.

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    1. I agree, Ahu - fresh bread from the oven is irresistible.

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  9. Oh, this looks very yummy! I want to make the Toasted Bread Boxes with Mushrooms and Truffle Oil!

    I, too, have had a fear of yeast, but got over it when I got a wonderful bread making book - Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking - a few years ago. I posted my favorite recipe (and more about my fear of yeast) a while ago: http://www.rieglpalate.com/european-peasant-bread/

    Last night I served some bread from a fabulous local bakery and my husband and I agreed that it tastes pretty much like the European Peasant Bread that I can make from scratch!

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    1. Thanks, Nicole, I will definitely check out your European peasant bread post and the book, as well. Glad we share a fear of yeast! I am getting over it, too... just a matter of time and practice, right?

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  10. This looks incredibly delicious and soft....so gourmet! :D Oh man, I'd be scared to death to cook for someone who's already talented. You're really brave for doing that, hehe.

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    1. Thanks, Ellie - the funny thing is that I think of this bread as gourmet, too, but it is just sandwich bread to the French! :)

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  11. Ooh David I really must have one of these pans, I will have to put it on my Christmas wish list :) This bread looks lovely, I want to make it so I can make some Croque Monsieur, crack open some champagne and relive our holiday in France :)

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    1. I love how we all "need" this pan. But it's true, isn't it? We DO need it! I hope I get it to relive your time in France, Karen!

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    2. Haha yes indeed - my better half is going to take away my blogging privileges if I "need" any more kitchen gadgets :)

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    3. Mark swears the same thing but I know he would starve without me so I wield the power. I have a feeling you do, too! :)

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  12. I love pain de mie too! We have 'mie sandwiches' here made with very thin slices of this bread (no crust!) and different fillings, usually ham with one other ingredient like olives, hard boiled eggs, cheese, tomatoes, etc. They're one of the main staples of our teas, and are similar to the english tea sandwiches, but the bread is sliced thinner. And no cucumbers! In spanish it translates well, crumb bread, which talks about the interior. That dinner must've been amazing David! And so true that no one wants to cook for great chefs.

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    1. I am glad to know that 'mie sandwiches' are popular with you, too. Why no cucumbers? I love cucumber sandwiches! I bet people don't want to cook for you, either! :)

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  13. I can't believe that you invited chefs to dinner. Cannot believe it! I would've been crapping my pants (and when that metaphorically happens, I stuff up EVERYTHING in the kitchen. It's terrible. I don't cook well when I'm anxious). Sounds like your menu was brilliant though David. Delicious! And this pain de mie looks wonderful... I love crusty loaves with a delicious soft, sweet crumb. I think I could polish off the whole loaf! And I'm glad that you got that wonderful tin for your birthday, yay for Mark buying the perfect gift (albeit with a bit of 'help' from you! Haha). I need to get me one of those pans ;)

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    1. You are so sweet, Laura! Actually, I admit to making things I was pretty confident with for these two guys. Usually, I experiment - but not for them!

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  14. What a terrific gift...you got exactly what you wanted. The pan certainly did provide you with a lovely loaf of bread. I love that you had Mark and Clark for dinner...that was truly a brave decision. I'm sure they loved the meal.

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    1. Thanks, Karen - I am still not sure if that was a brave or stupid thing to do, but we all had fun. I hope to get back to Arrows someday...

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