Thursday, October 12, 2006

Dainty Tea-Sandwich Bread

Have you ever had a watercress sandwich? Well, neither have I, but I always liked the sound of it, when reading storybook descriptions of English tea parties. The crustless, thin-sliced bread, the exotic filling-well, back then, I didn't realize watercress was just fancy lettuce!

The best bread for thin-slicing is called pain de mie, a butter- and milk-rich loaf baked in a special lidded pan. The lid ensures that the baking bread won't expand too much, keeping it very close-grained-and thus totally non-crumbly, and easy to slice. If you love this kind of bread, trust me, the small investment in a pain de mie pan is worth your while-you'll use it all the time. That said, you can make this recipe into 2 dozen tasty sandwich rolls, if you like; it just won't have that signature smooth, fine, pain-de-mie texture.

3/4 cup (6 ounces) milk
1 cup (8 ounces) lukewarm water
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/3 cup (1 3/4 ounces) Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk (the powder, not the granules)
1/3 cup (2 ounces) potato flour or heaping 3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) potato flakes
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cup (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur 100% Organic White Whole Wheat Flour*
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

*Use all-purpose flour exclusively, if you like; but believe me, your family will never notice the substitution of a cup of organic white whole wheat flour for part of the all-purpose.

Combine all of the ingredients, and mix and knead them-by hand, mixer, or bread machine-to form a smooth, supple dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Lightly grease a standard (13" x 4" x 4") lidded pain de mie pan. Transfer the risen dough to a lightly greased work surface, shape it into a log, and fit it into the pan. Flatten the top as much as possible. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise until it's just below the lip of the pain de mie pan, about 45 minutes, depending on the warmth of your kitchen (it may rise more slowly in a cool kitchen; don't worry, this long rise will give it great flavor).

Carefully slip the cover onto the pan, and let it rest an additional 15 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 bread to the oven to bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until it's golden-brown on top and tests done; an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will register 190°F. Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely. For a soft, flavorful crust, brush the loaf with melted butter while warm. Yield: 1 loaf.

To make rolls: Divide risen dough into 24 pieces; roll each piece into a ball. Divide among three lightly greased 9" round cake pans, or one round cake pan and a 9" x 13" pan, cover, and let rise till puffy. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until rolls are golden brown and firm to the touch. Yield: 2 dozen rolls.

©2006 The King Arthur Flour Company, Inc.
All rights reserved.

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