Tag Archives: Pain de Mie

Bread Illustrated or Bread Porn from America’s Test Kitchen

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Japanese Milk Bread that came out a little wonky. My bad!

Nothing beckons like the aroma of bread. Remember the aroma fingers in cartoons? I spent the past week filling the apartment with enticing bread aroma fingers as I began to cook my way through Bread Illustrated, a must-have from the ATK Empire. Subtitled, “A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Bakery-Quality Results at Home,” Bread Illustrated is the perfect book for the beginner as well as a great reference book for the advanced home bread-baker.  I have been a bit leery of ATK publications since the departure of Christopher Kimball, but this is a winner.  All the recipes I tried work, but are they bakery quality.”?  Well, no. But they work beautifully in a home kitchen with no special equipment.

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Whole-wheat quinoa bread.

Furthermore, in every case, the recipe from Bread Illustrated produced a better loaf than I’ve ever made in the past.  Japanese Milk Bread (Hokkaido), for example, which appears at the top of the page, misshapen, is a great favorite of mine. (Think Challah without the braid.) The fact that it doesn’t have its usual baby-bottom shape here is not a failure of the recipe, but of my having been distracted. The taste and texture are marvelous.

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Japanese Milk (Hokkaido) Bread

Bread Illustrated is a volume in the very best of the ATK tradition:  sober and no-nonsense, and chock full of essential information presented in a straightforward manner with lots and lots of food science background.  And, of course, “Why this recipe works,” is the introduction to each and every recipe.

I began with breads in the chapter entitled,“Starting from scratch: 12 foolproof breads that teach the basics.”  I was impressed by the approach, and found the recipes are interesting, useful, and, in every case, very easy to make successfully.  If you are just starting to bake bread, you will encounter no discouragement, no brick loaf that will send you back to the store never to touch salt, flour and yeast again.

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Brown Soda Bread

Brown Soda Bread was a revelation. This is a bread that I have rarely ever cared for, at least not without mounds of butter and jam. It is normally dry and grainy and lacking any inherent interest. NOT! This one is absolutely delicious.

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Quick Cheese Bread lasted a single afternoon with Mr. Darcy!

I deliberately tried another bread that has never particularly called to me: Quick Cheese Bread. “Quick” and “cheese” as applied to bread will normally turn me off, because quick breads (breads without yeast) are usually too much like cake, and because I like cheese on top of bread, not in it. But this was a very good loaf, and Mr. Darcy loved it. So that’s that!

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New sandwich bread recipes are always welcome, and I tried four of them:

EasySandwich Bread

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Easy Sandwich Bread

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Easy sandwich bread

American Sandwich Bread

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American Sandwich Bread

Whole-Wheat Quinoa Bread

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Whole-Wheat Quinoa Bread

and my personal favorite, Pain de Mie.  “Mie” means “crumb” in French, so Pain de Mie is literally “crumb bread,” and means “soft bread” or “sandwich loaf.” It is named for its soft crumb, and baked in a lidded Pain de Mie or Pullman pan, which creates the shape and all-over crust. Pain de Mie is Wonder Bread perfected. It has both flavor and texture; it doesn’t tear when you spread peanut butter on it. It can be sliced thin or thick, and eaten toasted or un-.  It is one of the most tasty and versatile loaves on the plant, and did I mention easy?

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Pain de Mie, cooling.

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Pain de Mie, so perfect for sandwiches.

And for those of you who have been waiting for Christopher Kimball to reappear in his new incarnation, here he is at last and it was worth the wait:

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From Christopher Kimball, the inaugural issue of Milk Street Magazine.

I’m happy to report that the magazine is exactly what you’d expect from Christopher Kimball, and even carries his signature bow-tie on the cover. There is no advertising, of course. But don’t give up your ATK subscription; there is no danger of overlap.  Milk Street’s mission is to reach around the world for foods, spices, cooking techniques, and culinary traditions that we have always associated with “ethnic” restaurants, not our own homes, and to make them accessible for us in our own homes, using our existing batterie de cuisine.  In fact, I was amused by the article in this charter issue revealing something that I learned in Spain many years ago — that scrambled eggs (and I would add fried eggs as well) taste better cooked in olive oil than in butter.  So there you go! For those of us who don’t live near Boston and can’t go to the brick and mortar Milk Street Kitchen, Milk Street Magazine is about to change all of our home cooking preconceptions:  fasten your seat belts!

Vive la France

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I don’t know the origin of this photo that I downloaded from Richard Bertinet on Facebook.

Why Paris?  (Click on the link for Edith Piaf singing Sous le ciel de Paris.) Because it is beautiful? Because it is a place to feel free? The place to be in love? To be young? To feel young even when you are no longer young? Because it speaks to joy? Because it is all about the great pleasures in life? Pleasures like food, wine, music, art and sex? Because it has been the destination of the creative — artists and writers — for centuries? Because France is our oldest ally? Because it’s there?  Probably all of the above. And more. But make no mistake about it.  There will always be Paris. Fluctuat nec mergitur.

I wasn’t planning to post today, because my computer was at the Apple Store getting a new hard drive this past week.  It’s not completely functional yet, but I had to post something following the tragedy this weekend.  The terrorist attack on an icon of all that is best about western civilization feels very personal and very sad.  So, here it is unedited and pretty raw.

My first trip to Paris was in the 1960s.  My father loved Paris and spent time there after WWII.  I think he saw it as his reward for the Battle of Bulge!  The City of Light, the city of eternal youth, eternal hope and eternal astonishment.  After college, and after about six years of the study of one of the most beautiful languages in the world, I headed there with great anticipation.  And like so many before me, I was absolutely enchanted.  I loved pushing the light button as I went up and down the spiral staircases, I loved the Parisian people who, with only one exception, contrary to their reputation, were the opposite of snobbish.  The one exception was a saleswoman at a perfume counter who, when I attempted to address her in French, drew herself up proudly and said, “Madame, we speak English!”  And can you blame her?

My memories of that trip include a passionate night with a leader of the student revolt (or so he said), another passionate night with an ex-pat photographer for Look Magazine (or so he said), a lovely late afternoon conversation with a charming and ruddy-faced groundskeeper at the Jeu de Paume — who, when I told him I was from America, burst into a huge smile and asked me very excitedly if, by any chance, I know his sister who lives in Buenos Aires. And let me never forget the Ethiopian gangster (or so he said) who took me to the Tour d’ Argent where, in all ignorance, I ordered a Salade Nicoise.  I loved the sound of it; little did I know it was tuna salad. The most delicious tuna salad I’ve ever eaten before or since, but a tuna salad nonetheless. And with a gangster (or so he said) who could have afforded anything! That ignorance was to change very quickly.  I couldn’t believe that ordinary food could taste so good.  Just bread, coffee, cheese, and butter.  Heaven. No wonder my father wanted me to go to Paris.  It was everything he said it was, and more.

My second, and I hope not my last, trip to Paris was some 20 years later.  This time I knew enough to include a trip to Duthilleul & Minart on the Rue de Turbigo (Vêtements professionnels depuis 1850) for the one apron that I still wear today.  Paris was still as exciting, unique, and fabulous as ever, even though there were no lovers, and even though I was there when Klinghoffer was shot. I stayed in a small hotel run by Arabs with whom I spoke French at breakfast.  When some Americans overheard me speak English to another traveler, they were offended.  “Sniff. She’s [just] an American.”  I have always taken a certain pride in being mistaken for French when I am in Spain or Italy, and they can’t  quite place my origins in my imperfect attempt to speak their languages.

Here is my toast to Paris.  Literally, toast.  Pain de Mie from Richard Bertinet’s Dough. (The flag image above is from his Facebook page.) Merci, mon ami.  

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I cannot think of a better tribute.

The Road to Bread Hell is Paved with . . . you know what!

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Vienna Bread — more on this below.

So, it was entirely my fault.  Last week I was so enamored of Richard Bertinet that I couldn’t wait to start.  I just jumped in and I was lucky . . . twice.  First with the Pain de Mie

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and then with some nice little whole wheat dinner rolls.  Not very pretty, but tasty.

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I knew that by not watching the DVD and not focusing on his techniques, I was playing with fire, and sloth was going to come back to bite me.  And it did. Big time!

The plan was to make ciabatta.  I started out well enough, with the aforementioned good intentions. I even went out and bought avocado oil.  I started the biga  24 hours before.  That went very well.

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However, life intervened, and I never took the time to watch the DVD and to read and re-read the introductory material, and so I cheated and used the stand mixer.  And this is what I got.

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Lovely, yes?

OK, I sez to myself, I sez:  It looks like Bosnian dough, so let’s just let it rise, then put it in a loaf pan, and let it rise again,  and then bake it.  So far so good.  It rose nicely.  Against all odds!

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But, then I got the bright idea to use a different loaf pan.  The result:

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Flat as a pancake.

OK, so we’re talking croutons.  That’s OK.  I need them anyway, having just made a huge pot of soup for the week and for the freezer.  Maybe I’ll make croutons with that ridiculously high-priced avocado oil I just bought.  Erp.

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Surprise:  the bread itself is delicious, although it’s hardly a ciabatta.  However, sliced lengthwise, this will be wonderful with the chicken salad that I made for Mr. Darcy’s lunch this week.  Diced chicken, grated carrots, dill, mayo and grapes.  Very nice.  All’s well that ends well? Well, only sort of.  Considering that the thought of concentrating on M. Bertinet got me through a bad week, and then I went and loused it up — What is wrong with me anyway?  When it comes to bread, I am just too easily distracted.  And that’s where the Vienna bread comes in.

Does anyone remember this?  Not to be confused with Wiener Brot or Viennese Bread, which is what the Danes call Danish Pastry!  I saw a passing reference to it over the weekend, and it awakened a long-dormant, but rather indistinct memory.  I remember the bread, but I don’t remember it being called “Vienna/ Viennese Bread.”  I remember it as a very large loaf with a beautiful hard crust and a firm inside.  Here are some crumb shots.

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Look how nice with breakfast, toasted, and soaking up the lovely runny yolks!

IMG_3876 IMG_3877 IMG_3878It wasn’t exactly right, however; and it wasn’t exactly as large a loaf as I recall, so I will try again with another recipe.  This one was from Red Star Yeast.  Of course, this is partly why the ciabatta was such a disaster. I just got carried away.  Sigh.

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This is my “I’m with the band” pie.  A grape pie of my own devising for Mr. Darcy’s chamber music group.  They liked it!

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And speaking of pie, Popeye is doing well. Thanks for asking.  Distinguishing himself and happy as the proverbial pig in . . . pie.  Or should I say π!