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The softness of sandwich bread

The softness of sandwich bread
You're probably familiar with what's known in France as "pain de mie", a very white, molded and rather soft bread, widely used in cooking, particularly for croque-monsieur.

Let's find out what it's all about.
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Last modified on: September 5th 2023

Keywords for this post:BakeryBreadSandwich breadSoftAdditivesSugarIndustrialCrustCrumb
The softness of sandwich bread
Bread is (or sometimes should be) simply wheat flour, water, salt and very little yeast and/or sourdough. This is the case for baguettes and a large proportion of breads in France.
Of course, many breads start from this base and are then enriched with a whole host of delicious additions such as seeds, fruit, cheese, etc. etc. to give so-called "special" (or "flavored") breads.
pains classiques
Another possibility is to use, in whole or in part, flours other than wheat flour, such as rye, oats, barley, etc.
You can even mix these 2 ways and obtain quite complex breads, sophisticated some would say, but delicious.

What about sandwich bread?

This is a very different matter: we're looking for a "simple" bread, rather white and soft, with very little crust and therefore no crispiness, but plenty of very white crumb.
pains de mie
To achieve this, we modify the basic recipe (flour+water+salt+yeast) in 3 ways:
  • Replace the water with milk
  • Add a little sugar and butter
  • The amount of yeast is significantly increased.
The resulting dough, which is rather rich, can be worked as for a normal loaf, but does not allow for the formation of conventional dough pieces, so the bread is pushed (puffed up) before baking in molds, which are generally square.
pains de mie en pousse

In practice, there are 2 different methods:
- Either the loaf is left to rise in an uncovered mold, which results in a colored loaf on top, with a typical rounded shape on top, due to the fact that the dough is contained on 3 sides, but the top is free.
- Alternatively, the bread can be baked in a closed mold to obtain a very regular loaf, known as a "molded" loaf.
pains de mie moulé ou ouvert
These 2 methods only affect the shape of the bread, not its taste.

Sandwich bread is still bread?

Of course! It's a special kind of bread, quite different from the usual crusty bread, but it's the classic bread of Anglo-Saxon countries, among others.
Most sandwich loaves come from manufacturers, in plastic bags, molded into squares and already sliced.

So of course, whether you like sandwich loaves or not is a matter of taste, and of course that's debatable.
Like many people in France, I'm very attached to the crunchiness of bread, so I can't see myself eating only sandwich bread every day, but from time to time, and especially for a croque-monsieur or a welsh (for example), with pleasure.


But there's a small "but", as much as a sandwich loaf can be very good if it's well made, we unfortunately find some very sad breads from these industrialists.
pains de mie industriel
Their obsession is with softness, and all their advertising and marketing is based on this ad nauseam, to see who can make the softest bread, even going so far as to remove the crust from some of their sandwich loaves.
This obsession with softness leads them to greatly increase the quantities of butter and sugar, and to add a host of chemical additives to ensure longer preservation.
You only have to read a label on an industrial sandwich loaf to realize the incredible list of additives in their products.

What's more, the taste of these industrial sandwich loaves is quite neutral, if not downright insipid, and they seem to be made only for toasting, where they (finally) take on a little taste.

A lost cause?

No, and fortunately there's your baker, who if he's a good craftsman, makes his own sandwich bread, and of a much higher quality than anything you'll find in the supermarket.
Trust him, he's put a lot of his knowledge and skill into his bread, and it would be a shame not to try it.

To sum up: Pain de mie is a variation on classic bread, oriented towards a loaf with very little crust and lots of white crumb. Industrial sandwich loaves are often of mediocre quality, so it's best to trust your baker.

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