Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pullman Bread

My latest Pullman loaf, minus several slices for "testing."

Years ago, when I first started baking bread, the one I loved to make most was the Pullman loaf, named, perhaps, for the railroad car of the same name.  Baked with a lid on top, this is the perfect sandwich bread--square, mild but tasty, with crusts but not too crusty.  It's baked in a 13" x 4" Pullman loaf pan, which looks like this:
The lid keeps the dough from rising, so the bread has a great consistency for sandwiches.  Unlike a lot of other tasty breads, it doesn't have holes in it from which food drips nor is it soft enough to fall apart after a large bite.

I stopped baking bread for a long time, but when I started up again, this was the first bread I made.  At first I started it in a standing mixer to get the dough up and running.  But after a few times, I simply mixed the batter up as directed, and kneaded it all together by hand.  I proof it in the warming oven in my new kitchen, which makes me smile. 

So if you're so inclined to bake a loaf, here's the recipe:

Pullman loaf

1/4 cup granulated sugar or honey
1 c hot water
1 scant T or packet active dry yeast
5 (or a bit more) King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour
1 small can (5 1/3 oz) evaporated milk
1/4 c vegetable oil, margarine or butter
2-3 t salt

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve 1 T sugar or honey in the water and mix in 1 cup of flour.  Sprinkle yeast over surface and stir in until it is well distributed.  Let this sponge sit for 15-20 minutes until the yeast has dissolved and sponge is beginning to show signs of life.

Stir in evaporated milk, remainder of sugar or honey, vegetable oil and salt.  Add about 4 c of flour and stir until dough begins to behave cohesively.  Mix in enough more flour so it becomes kneadable.

Turn dough out onto a kneading surface and knead for 4-5 minutes.  Give dough a few minutes rest while you clean out and grease your bowl.  Continue kneading for a further 3-4 minutes until it is smooth and bouncy.  Shape dough into a ball, place it headfirst into the bowl and turn it over so top of dough has a thin film of grease on it.  Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise until doubled in bulk.  This will take approx 90 minutes. 

Knock dough down, turn out onto kneading surface and knead out any stray bubbles.  Give dough a short rest while you grease pullman pan.  Shape dough so it fills bottom of the pan and cover with lid.  It will take half as long to rise the second time.

About 15 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 350.  Bake 40-45 minutes.  Remove from oven, slide off lid, loosen bread and tip onto rack to cool. 

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