I fear I may have been keeping one of my favorite recipes from you all and I feel somewhat badly that I have not shared this with you sooner. I swear I have not been holding this card close to my vest with malicious intentions, I would never begrudge you the recipe for such a delicious concoction. Actually, I have been planning to share this with you for some time now but my subject has been somewhat of a shy model, receding and even deflating each time she came face to face with Dustin’s lens. So after weeks of baking this and many attempts to get the right images we managed to accumulate a selection of shots that show off the loaf’s full potential for deliciousness.
Like so many of my favorite foods that I have featured here (e.g. my first post on the best cabbage ever) the inspiration for this recipe and the root of my undying obsession with the pan de mie the recipe produces comes courtesy of my good friend Julie Zlogar. Julie perennially serves this up at the supremely amazing “house parties” she graciously hosts at her home. I put that in quotes because these parties, which I rave about every chance I get, are unlike any party you have ever been to. A caterer by trade, Julie has a knack for making dish that are amazingly refined and somehow still rustic, special, and soulful. Unsurprisingly, this truly is the best white bread I have ever eaten and Dustin and I bake a loaf almost every weekend.
The loaf is a simple yeast bread. It can be made in a single day – unlike many high quality bread recipes there is no need for creating a biga or poolish or for aging the dough overnight in the fridge. We bought a special pullmans loaf pan to make this – you can find them on amazon, but there is no real need to buy any special equipment for this recipe. Rather than the pullman’s, which measures 4x4x24 a you can substitute two standard size loaf pans (approx 4x4x9.) The half loaves won’t be as grand looking as the original pictured here, but if you are slicing it to serve for sandwiches or toast as we do the grandiose loaf is really not necessary, and won’t improve the flavor of the already scrumptious slices once single iota. I suspect that the loaves reduced size will affect the cooking time, make sure to check on them periodically, when they are nicely golden and sound slightly hollow when (gently) tapped, they’re done.
The original recipe was for a plain loaf, but as of late Dustin and I have been experimenting with adding herbs to the dough before baking it off. There are endless possibilities for what herbs can be added here. We particularly like rosemary. But there is no reason why you could not substitute thyme, or parsley, for the herbs included in the recipe below. The flour here is measured in ounces, I highly recommend buying a kitchen scale for baking. It will make your baked confections turn out with much greater exactness. Inexpensive scales can be purchased from Target or Walmart. I recommend a digital scale as they are easier to read and leave little margin for error. We personally use a model made by Soehnle – it is flat, easy to clean, and fairly exact. Amazon contains user reviews for most of the kitchen scales widely available on the market, I recommend reading these to search for a scale that will best fit your needs.
Pan de Mie
1 1/3 Cup 2% Milk
3/4 Cup Water
2 1/3 TBSP Sugar
2 Packets Dry Active Yeast
27 ounces of flour
1 1/2 TBSP Coarse Sea Salt
6 TBSP Softened Butter
1 1/5- 2 TBSP Fresh Chopped Rosemary
Add the milk and water together in a medium saucepan and bring up to 100 degrees farenheiht over low/medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugar until dissolved. Add the yeast, stirring to mix, then stand back while the yeast does its thing for about 10 minutes.
Preferably using a standing mixer, add the flour and salt and mix on low speed to combine. Add the yeast mixture when it is good and bubbly and mix on low to combine. Add in half of the rosemary, then the butter a couple tablespoons at a time. Increase the speed to medium for ten minutes of solid kneading. Add in the remaining rosemary about 30 seconds before culminating the kneading.
Once the dough is kneaded-it will be soft and smooth- place it in a large plastic bowl and cover with plastic wrap. After about an hour the dough should have risen to approximately double its size, at which point gently punch down the dough. Elongate the dough to fit a buttered pullman’s loaf pan (traditionally 4″ x 4″ x 9″ although we use a 4″ x 4″ x 24″), and allow to rise another 30-45 minutes in the pan. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the loaf in the oven for about 45 minutes, then remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Lately Dustin and I have been really getting into making bread at home. As we are young, childless, and new to this city, we have a lot of time on our hands during the weekends. Baking bread is a great way to constructively (and inexpensively) fill up our Sunday mornings. But there is more too it than that, making bread by hand is a truly soul satisfying endeavor. Perhaps it is the smell of yeasty bread rising or the feel of elasticy dough but we cannot seem to get enough of it! We have posted a couple of bread recipes on this site before, but these rolls are by far our new favorite – I caution that they may be habit forming!
The breads are based off of a flat bread (as in not so risen – not to be confused with pizza style flat bread) recipe from one of my most recent cookbook purchases, “Bake!”by Nick Malgieri. The dough was one of the oddest and stickiest I have ever worked with but the petite loaves were very simple to make and the relatively short rising time makes this bread easier to pull off in a time crunch than traditional breads which often take 2 (or more) days to create at home.
We topped these little gems with Za’atar - a savory middle eastern spice blend that typically includes Sumac, Thyme, Sesame Seeds, and Salt. It is commonly used in the Middle East as a topping for breads but also makes a great seasoning for hummus and can be used as a rub for poultry. But as the bread does not have an overpowering flavor of its own it would make a great palate for experimentation! Feel free to create a topping of your own. These would taste great with a simple sprinkling of salt, sesame, or poppy seeds and, I imagine, would be fantastic topped with garlic and rosemary as well! Just don’t expect them to stick around too long – these guys have a tendency to disappear quickly!
Flatbreads with Za’atar
3 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 TSP Salt
2 ¼ TSP Active Dry Yeast
1 1/3 Cup Warm Water
2 TBSP Olive Oil
3 TBSP Za’atar
2 TBSP Sesame Seeds
Add the yeast to the water in a large bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, and stir to dissolve yeast. Stir in the olive oil.
Mix the flour and salt together. Slowly add to the water mixture while stirring until smooth. Mix for 3 additional minutes to form the gluten in the dough. Let it rest for about 10 minutes.
Stir another 3 minutes, adding a touch more flour if needed. Dough should be able to form a smooth, elastic, if somewhat sticky ball. Move the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, making sure to coat both the top and bottom of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
Remove the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Stretch the dough into a wide rectangle, then fold in the left and right third in on top of each other. Rotate 90 degrees and repeat stretching and folding. Return to oiled bowl, coating both sides of dough. Let rest for about 30 minutes, until dough has doubled in size.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or sprinkle with cornmeal. Divide the dough into four equal pieces and round them out by pulling the edges up and pressing them down into the center. Flip the rounds over and rest on cookie sheet covered for 5-10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Shape the rounds into 6-inch circles or ovals; allow to puff for 5-10 minutes.
Mix Za’atar and sesame seeds together. Using your finger, gently dimple the loaves at 1-inch intervals. Spray with olive oil or water and dust each loaf with toppings.
Place the loaves in the oven, adding ice cubes to a tray in the bottom for steam if desired. After 5 minutes reduce the heat to 400 degrees. Turn the loaves 180 degrees for even baking after another 5 minutes. Continue baking for another 10 minutes or until the bread is risen and a light golden brown. Place flat breads on a cooling rack and enjoy!