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Pain de mie is a type of bread with an extremely thin crust and a dense but very soft inner portion. It is commonly used to make toast and hot and cold sandwiches, and may be baked in the home or bought in a pre-sliced, packaged form. Baking pain de mie requires a specialized baking tin which differs from most bread tins because it has a lid. In addition to typical bread ingredients such as flour, yeast, and water, pain de mie usually contains milk and butter, giving it a higher fat content than many other breads.
The name pain de mie is French, and it translates literally to “bread of crumb.” To make sense of this seemingly unusual name, it should be noted that bakers use the word “crumb” to refer to the inner portion of a loaf of bread. As the crust of this bread is extremely thin, the bulk of the loaf consists of crumb.
Due to the denseness of its crumb, pain de mie holds up well to slicing and toasting, and can also carry toppings without falling apart. It is therefore commonly used to make toast as well as hot and cold sandwiches. In many Western European countries, particularly France, this type of bread can be purchased at supermarkets in a pre-sliced, packaged form. Many people also opt to bake it at home.
Baking pain de mie requires a specialized baking tin called a pain de mie pan. This pan differs from most bread tins in that it has a lid which is made from the same material as the body of the pan. The lid is placed on the pan during the final stage of rising, and is left in place for part or all of the baking process. As a result, the loaf does not develop a hard, thick top crust during baking. Additionally, the lid prevents the loaf’s top from rounding, resulting in a bread which is flat on all sides.
Like most leavened breads, pain de mie contains flour, water, and yeast. In addition, however, the bread usually also contains milk, butter, and, in some cases, milk powder and eggs. The inclusion of these additional ingredients means that this type of bread has a higher fat content than many other varieties. Without this high fat content, however, the bread would lack the soft suppleness that many consider its defining quality.