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Square Bread: Imposing Your Will on Grandmother Bread

Submitted by: murphala on March 29, 2012
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Square Bread: Imposing Your Will on Grandmother Bread

We’ve all purchased perfectly square bread. We’ve all never given it another thought.

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I remember the square white sliced bread that my mother would never buy…the kind that you could wad up into a ball a fraction of the size of the slice it started out as. …

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We’ve all purchased perfectly square bread. We’ve all never given it another thought.


sideview

I remember the square white sliced bread that my mother would never buy…the kind that you could wad up into a ball a fraction of the size of the slice it started out as. When I could get it (usually at a friend’s house on a sleepover) that was what I did with it. It tasted better wadded up into a ball.

One of my favorite breads I used to buy, when I could find it, was white Texas toast, an undeniably square loaf cut thick for french toast and giant sandwiches. It’s square. Did I notice? No. Did I wonder how that happened? No.

Aside from Texas Toast, perfectly square loaves of bread don’t seem to be so common. Bread companies began to sell more authentic-looking pan-baked loaves with gently rounded tops, reminiscent of the bread Mom used to make. They were still sort of rectangular. But not square.

So one day I was poking around here on CITR and saw a reference to a Pullman pan. I of course immediately thought of the Pullman car on a train. I had never, ever heard of a Pullman loaf pan. Ever. Not even once. You’d think with all the food shows and educational channel shows I watch, I must have come across an episode explaining how people make square bread. If I did, I don’t remember. Or maybe it’s not a fascinating enough topic? Well, now it is to me.

I looked up Pullman pans online. They were incredibly expensive: 30-40 dollars for one pan! Gulp. But they were the real thing: an industrial-strength square pan made of corrugated steel for strength and aluminum for heat conductivity. It would last forever. They had a nifty sliding cover on them to completely enclose the loaf. I was intrigued, but I set the idea of a Pullman loaf pan on the back burner.

Until one day. One day, in a moment of weakness, I did a search and came up with shopping results for Pullman pans. Thanks to (the dratted) Amazon one-click ordering, I quickly became the proud owner of not one, but two Pullman pans of different sizes. I was obviously on my way to baking a loaf of bread in a Pullman pan. So I started researching it.

The consensus on most websites is that the Pullman pan is named after and originated in Pullman car kitchens–square bread took up less room in ovens and small storage areas. This term seems to be interchangeably used with the name pain de mie, which means ‘bread’ and ‘crumb’ (crumb meaning the texture and quality of the bread, not crumbled bread). The pain de mie recipes I found are richer than regular old white bread with just the usual ingredients.

Wikipedia says “pain de mie is sweeter than regular french bread, containing sugar and milk”. Of the two recipes I found, both contain those ingredients, along with butter, in addition to flour, water, yeast and salt. The Grandmother Bread for Pastries is very similar to a pain de mie recipe. The method of assembly is somewhat different–the butter is melted and added to the dough like the other wet ingredients, rather than cut into the flour as you would do for pastry.

I made a loaf. I did not follow a recipe for pain de mie–I used a 2-loaf recipe for Grandmother Bread. This recipe filled the Pullman pan and also a small regular loaf pan.

Here is a shot of the Pullman pan, along with the wad of dough I just finished before its first rise. I sprayed the pan well with cooking spray, including the lid, to prepare for the second rise.

doughandpan

After the first rise, I formed a log the length of my biggest pan, (13? long) and pressed it into the pan. The top of the loaf was sprayed with cooking spray and lightly covered with plastic wrap for the second rise.

logrisepostrise1

I overshot my time and the second rise overstepped its bounds a little, going about half an inch above the top of the pan. You’re supposed to get it at about 1/2 an inch from the top of the pan! I just gently patted it down and slid the lid on and popped it into a 350° F oven for 25 minutes.

slidingonlid

At 25 minutes, out it came to lose its lid. The loaf was already a light golden color and perfectly square! I put it back into the oven for another 30 minutes to continue to bake and brown. I’m aiming for an internal temp of 190°F.

Here we go! It’s gorgeous! I have square bread! I’ve wrestled a load of dough into a geometric shape! People who sell me Texas Toast, eat your hearts out!

wholeloaf

The crumb is beautiful and regular and I can’t wait to have some toast for breakfast or a grilled cheese. An added bonus is that if you don’t like crust, you’ll notice that there isn’t much of one, except on the top.

breadcloseup2

The two Pullman pans, plus an airtight plastic storage bin designed for such loaves cost me about 68 bucks. Happy birthday to me. I’ll get a lot of use out of them though. And they’ll last a long time because they are extremely heavy. Don’t drop one on your foot!

murphala blogs at FlourWaterYeast&Salt.

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Comments

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  1. 3-29
    7:01
    am

    I read about your interest in the Pullman pans in the forum, and followed closely. Then in Paris, I found some pans in an old restaurant supply store. But I didn’t buy them, thinking I’d never use them.
    Yep, kicking myself now.

  2. 3-29
    7:06
    am

    I have had the long Pullman pan for awhile. I haven’t used it as much as I’d like because I have trouble finding recipes that will FIT it. I’ve have good luck with the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, because it makes a ton of dough and I can eye-ball it. There’s also a recipe on the bread-beckers site that works nicely.

    Now I am going to have to try grandmother bread! I love the pan, and my kids love the bread I make in it. Always good to have another recipe option!

  3. 3-29
    7:52
    am

    Oooo…I need to find me a Pullman pan. But you know, at just a little fraction of the cost 😉 I can remember seeing one like that at a garage sale or something and wondering why there would be a sliding lid, that made no sense. NOW I see the sense!

  4. 3-29
    8:11
    am

    Good morning!
    Just an update, I recently used Suzanne’s recipe for Hamburger and Hotdog Buns (and I can’t remember if I doubled it or not but I must have) but the recipe ended up making a large pullman loaf as well as 8 buns (large hamburger). The texture was soft and the taste was perfect! I’ll be using that recipe from now on in those pans. (And btw, THIS was the post those nasty people stole from my blog.) 🙂

  5. 3-29
    8:52
    am

    Julia Child has a show where she makes pain de mie in a Pullman pan. Great episode.

  6. 3-29
    9:32
    am

    Hmmmmm…I’m thinking I need one of those pans. My girls would be thrilled to have bread with very little crust.

  7. 3-29
    10:59
    am

    I want one of these so bad. King Arthur Flour website sells them as well. for the small one it’s $35.00 for the large it’s $40.00.

  8. 3-29
    11:57
    am

    I once had a regular Pullman pan and a collapsible one as well. Beside bread, it made a great longish pate loaf, nice and upscale-market square. (baked pate without using cover)

  9. 3-29
    2:07
    pm

    You can also use a loaf pan with a cookie sheet on top, weighted down with something heavy to experiment a bit.

  10. 3-29
    8:27
    pm

    Whew, what a day! Finally I get back to visit CITR and FBR! If you’re interested in buying one, if you search on Amazon, there are several, but I got the USA pans, which are aluminized steel and will last through nuclear blasts. The big one is about 30 dollars. Alas, I heard the idea about just putting another weighted pan on top of my regular loaf pans slightly too late. 🙂 I’m intrigued by the idea of a pate…something I’ve never made. Considering how much these cost, I am always interested in multiple uses! (meatloaf? giant pound cake?)

  11. 3-30
    4:04
    am

    Or use doubled over aluminum foil to wrap around the entire pan. Perhaps tie it with twine, string or yarn (wool or cotton, no synthetic!) to make sure the foil stays on?

  12. 3-30
    4:16
    am

    Murphala: made several ‘pates’ that were closer to glorified meat loaf. What pushed them to the pate column was the wonderful square shape that you can’t get from regular loaf pans. Same is true for terrines. (Maybe I can rustle up my veggie terrine, looks so cute when served.)

  13. 3-30
    2:20
    pm

    After reading all the hoop-la about pullman pans in the forums I wondered what in the world they were. Now I see what the fuss is about. Nice blogmand beautiful pans. Those are heirloom pans to be I’ll bet.
    ; )

  14. 3-30
    6:45
    pm

    OK, don’t need another pan….BUT, got the Pullman on my Amazon wishlist! I’m thinkin’ I’ll try the weighted sheet pan on top of what I’ve got. Great post! Thanks for the updates too 🙂

  15. 3-30
    9:10
    pm

    Really enjoyed reading this. Like there is any real need for square shapes. Or that it matters what the shape is. BUT, it sure is fun to wonder and experiment! And get something just because, once in a while.

    Can relate because I have a round, glass tube for baking bread. And how many times have I actually used in in the past 20 years – maybe twice? Between your square loaves and this round thing, we could have sandiches from both round and square sandwich fixings! Teehee.

  16. 3-31
    8:25
    am

    Pete: Square and round lunch meat would have homes no matter what! I’d love to see that round glass tube, though. I have never seen that before. “Baking forms” were mentioned on the forum and you can get those in all kinds of shapes!

    bonita, thanks for the ideas on terrines and pate. I have tried in the past to make gyros meat, so maybe I’ll try it one of these!

    Y’all have a great day…I’m off to go bake some square bread! 🙂

  17. 4-7
    10:46
    am

    I bought a pullman bread pan… made grandmother’s bread in it… just wonderful and I really love the loaf shape!! Thank you for sharing this…keep up the good work and keep sharing the wonderful info!!

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