Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pullman Bread ( Pan de Mie )

Living with three school aged children, we go through a lot of sandwich bread. I bake a fair amount and the kids always enjoy having homemade rolls and hamburger buns at dinner time, but coming up with a decent sandwich bread is tricky.
Sandwich bread has to have enough body and structure to hold up to slicing without caving in. At the same time, it can't be tough or too chewy. It needs to be fairly uniform in shape and it needs to taste good.

Pan de Mie is a style of bread that fills these requirements, but the right pan is important. A couple of years ago, I got this great Pullman Loaf pan. ( Another in our collection of specialty pans by USA Pans)

This pan, with its sliding lid, forces the loaf to bake into a perfect square shape. Its heavy gauge aluminum construction results in an even, perfect crust.

I hadn't used the pan in a while, so I dusted it off yesterday and baked a loaf while the kids were at school. When they got home, they shouted "Bread!" when the aroma hit them as soon as they walked in the door. They ate about a third of the loaf while doing their home work. We'll see if we have enough left over for sandwiches.

There are a lot of variations of Pan de Mie out on the internet. The one below is an adaptation of Rose Beranbaum's version from The Bread Bible.

(I found the cooking time here to be way too long. My loaf was slightly overdone (197 degrees) at 35 minutes)

Pullman Loaf Sandwich Bread (Pain de Mie)
By Rose Levy Beranbaum,  The Bread Bible
4 cups unbleached all purpose flour (Gold Medal, King Arthur, or Pillsbury)
1/4 cup dry whole milk
1 Tbsp dry instant yeast
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 liquid cups water (70-90 degrees F_)
2 Tbsp honey
2 tsp salt

In a large mixer bowl, whisk together the flour, dry milk, and yeast. Add the butter and mix with the dough hook on low speed, then add the water, honey, and salt. When all the flour is moistened, raise the speed to medium  and beat for 7 minutes. The dough will be smooth, shiny, and slightly sticky to the touch. If the dough is not stiff, knead in a little flour.  If it is not at all sticky, spray it with a little water and knead it in.

On a lightly floured counter, shape the dough into a football.  Flour the top and cover it with plastic wrap. Allow to relax for 10-15 minutes. Removed the plastic wrap and gently deflate the dough, using your fingertips to spread it into ar ectangle about 10" x 8" wide. Flour the counter as necessary to keep it from sticking.

Give the dough one business-letter turn, then press or roll it out again to about 12" x 5" and shape it into a 16" loaf. Set it in the prepared pan. Grease the top of the pan and slide it into place, leaving it a few inches ajar so that you can gauge the progress of the rising dough.  Cover  the exposed area with plastic wrap if not using a proof box. cover the pan with a large container or set it in a warm area, allow it to rise until it is about 1/2 inch below the top of the lid, approx 1-1 1/2 hours.  When the dough is pressed with a fingertip, the depression will very slowly fill in.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees 30 minutes before baking.  Do not use an oven stone.
Bake for 30 minutes. Gently slide off the lid and continue baking about 30 minutes or until browned.
Remove bread from the oven and unmold it onto a large wire rack. 

Cool it top side up until barely warm, about 1 hour to make for easier slicing.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Friday, February 7, 2014

New England Style Hot Dog Buns

We were having lunch with some folks in Maine years ago. Grilled hot dogs were on the menus. These were not like any hot dogs I had seen before. For one, they were bright red (referred to as "red snappers by Mainers) for another, they were served on a bun that was unlike any I had seen before.

The buns, used for hot dogs and for the classic presentation of the lobster roll is a split top affair, cut from a loaf. This means that most of them have crust at the top and bottom. The sides are soft.
What I liked about the buns right of the bat was that they were less spongey and more substantial than regular buns. What I didn't like was that you can't find them in California.

That's why I was pleased when I noticed recently that USA pans has come out with a baking pan that allows the home baker to make them. Pleased, not just because I would have a chance to make these buns at home, but because it was this company that chose to make them. USA makes very nice, sturdy pans that are a pleasure to use. [ I used to think a pan was just a pan. About this as with many other things in life, I was mistaken.]

I made my first batch recently. I was not disappointed. 

I won't go into detail here. As with most recipes, it has been documented with more detail and style than I could ever muster. 

In this case, I encourage you to look at P J Hamel's excellent post on the King Arthur Flour blog, Flourish.

My only comment would be that the recipe they use is a bit fussy. I used the same procedure, but used this more basic recipe:

3/4 to 1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons butter
1 large egg
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast

1) Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients—by hand, mixer, or bread machine—to make a soft, smooth dough.
2) Cover the dough, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it's doubled in bulk.
3) Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round 1" thick (more or less); flatten to about 3" across. Place the buns on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until very puffy.
4) If desired, brush buns with melted butter. Or brush lightly with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water), and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
5) Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, till golden. Cool on a rack.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Years ago, after having lunch at Biba in Sacramento, our waitress asked me if I would care for dessert. I was stuffed, but I looked over the dessert menu anyway. "No thanks" I said, "Everything looks too rich. It would be nice if you had something tiny to nibble on" I just asked for a cup of coffee.

"I found you something!" she said when she returned a few minutes later. On the saucer next to the coffee were a couple of small biscotti. The were not on the menu, but clearly hand made. They were just very simple cookies with bits of almond and a hint of anise. Perfect.

They were not the big frosted logs that you find at Costco or Starbucks, they were small, just sweet enough to be considered a cookie and a perfect compliment to a cup of coffee.

You very seldom find good biscotti out in the wild, thats why I like to make them at home.
From My Recipe Wall of Fame

One of the tricks of making biscotti is getting the right dimension on the loaf for the first bake. ( They are baked as a loaf, sliced and baked a second time)
From The King Arthur Flour Website...Duh!

This Christmas, I received a biscotti pan from the King Arthur Flour Company. (Actually it was from Debbie, who got it from them.) It may seem silly to have a special pan for biscotti, but it helps make a consistent size cookie. It's a product of USA Pans who make some of the best pans I have used. I have their Pullman loaf pan, and their "New England Style" hot dog bun pan, that I will write about in a few days.

Here's my favorite Biscotti Recipe. It's even better with hazelnuts instead of almonds.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

1/2 cup butter, softened 
1/2 cup white sugar 
1/2 cup dark brown sugar   
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder  
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
2 eggs  
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 cup roasted almonds  
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with a spoon until light and fluffy.Gradually stir in cocoa and baking powder and keep at it for 2 minutes. 
2. Beat in the eggs one at a time, add vanilla. Stir in flour. by hand. Mix in the almonds 
and chocolate chips. 
3. Cover dough, and chill for about 10 minutes. 
4. While dough is chilling, preheat oven to 375F. 
5. Divide dough into two parts, and roll each part into a 9 inch long log. 
Place logs on lightly greased cookie sheet, about 4 inches apart. Flatten slightly. 
6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool for one hour. 
7. Cut each loaf into 1/2 inch wide diagonal slices. 
8. Place slices on an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake at 325F for 9 minutes. 
9.Turn cookies over, and bake for another 7 to 9 minutes. 

10. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Viva Pupusa

This is a simple version of the pupusa, the El Salvadoran cousin to the gordita.

Unlike the classic street food, my version does not include cheese or other fillings cooked into the dough. 

Pupusas are simple to make, requiring much less skill than corn tortillas. The other night I had piles of leftover beans and shredded beef, but not a lot of time or ambition. Pupusas were the ideal way to make leftovers palatable to a houseful of people.

My illustration is an even less traditional application, This was lunch the next day. A leftover pupusa stuffed leftover pork chops and rice. 

There are tons of pupusa recipes out on the web. I adapted mine after reading a half dozen variations.

Here's my version: 

1 cup Corn Masa
2 Tbs fat (shortening, butter, lard)
3/4 cup warm water or chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt

Place Masa in a bowl and add salt and fat. Cut in with a fork until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal.

Stir in liquid until a moist (but not sticky) dough forms.

Knead for a couple of minutes until dough becomes smooth.

Form into four balls, cover and allow to rest for five to ten minutes

Working the dough between your hands form into thin patties.

Cook on an ungreased griddle or skillet,  until dark brown patches form, about 3 minutes per side.

Cool slightly and split with a very sharp knife.

Stuff with cheese, meat, etc.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Chilaquiles - Breakfast of Champions

From last night's leftovers springs a spectacular weekend brunch. One of my favorite dishes...Chilaquiles.

Last night Debbie and I split an order of James Special (Chile verde over rice) From Sal's. We ate almost all of it.

What I had left over:

About 2 or 3 ounces of James Special
3 fresh corn tortillas
some tortilla chips

Late this morning I chopped up the tortillas and tossed them in a skillet with about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.

I fried the tortillas until slightly brown, then added a handfull of the leftover chips.

I then added about a half cup of Trader Joe's Enchilada Sauce ( Handy because it comes in a glass bottle, so you can use a little and keep the rest in the fridge for later). 

While the tortilla mixture simmered and thickened, I scrambled a few eggs. (A fried egg is the preferred topping but in a marriage, you have to compromise) 

I topped the chilaquiles and eggs with the leftover chile verde and rice, JalapeƱos and salsa.

I think of this meal as a reward for restraining myself at last night's dinner.