by Heather Harris Brady
Hold on to your seats kids because we’re going to cover a lot of ground today! We’re talking about Pullman bread and the tangzhong method with a dash of history to spice things up. Let’s start with the Pullman pan first.
Pullman pans were not the first of their kind, the first lidded bread pan was probably an adapted steamed pudding mold. When the Pullman Railway Company adopted them for their kitchens they became “Pullman pans” and traveled far and wide in the railcar kitchens. These pans turned out neat, stackable, versatile loaves for toast, canapes, and tea sandwiches for the fancy dining cars. (For an excellent article in the Chicago Tribune on the history of Pullman bread click here.) The pans are readily available online and very sturdy.
I took this idea and applied the tangzhong concept. Tangzhong is basically a roux used the base in many Asian milk-bread recipes. The tangzhong keeps the bread moist and fluffy but still neat and sliceable. Tangzhong is a ratio of one part flour to five parts water, and can be scaled as needed. I tend to make too much, but you can refrigerate it for a short time for a second batch. Because you are gelatinizing the flour and locking in the moisture, this helps your bread stay moist over time.
Sandwich Bread, Makes one large loaf
- 1 T. unbleached all-purpose flour
- 5 T. milk (or half water/half milk)
- 1-1/2 c. milk (or half water/half milk)
- 1 pkg. quick-rise yeast
- 2 T. granulated sugar
- 4 T. butter, softened
- 4-1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 t. salt
Whisk the first two ingredients together over medium heat.
Cook to a soft roux, where the whisk makes lines in the mixture.
Combine the roux with the scalded milk, stir in the butter and sugar.
Cool to lukewarm. Stir in the yeast, flour and salt.
This will give you a shaggy dough. Set it aside to double in bulk.
Take it out of the pan and knead it to a smooth dough, about five minutes. Flatten it out then roll it up like a jelly roll and put into your greased Pullman pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 and let the dough rise 2/3 of the way up the pan.
Grease the underside of the lid and slide it on. Put the pan on a baking sheet (a little dough might escape the top) and slide it into the oven.
Remove the top at 45 minutes and check the loaf. If the center sounds hollow it’s done. If not, return it to the oven for another 10 minutes.
Let it sit in the pan for five minutes, then turn it out on a rack to cool. I rub each side with some butter for a soft crust.
Don’t try slicing it until it’s completely cool. If you can wrap it and let it sit a day so much the better. When you do slice it you can cut them thin, they will stay neat and pretty.
I dolled these up with some butter, soft cream cheese, cucumbers and a sprinkle of salt.