The Pullman Loaf , also often published under the more generic name, “Sandwich Bread,” is the classic American soft white crustless bread identified with morning toast, diner grilled cheese sandwiches, and school lunches. It became the focus of attention for the more industrial bakers in the first half of the twentieth century, whose industrial take on the bread produced the rapid mix very soft crustless pre-sliced breads that Anglophone contemporary high end food culture has roundly rejected. The British Real Bread Campaign says it all in its title. It speaks to a way of thinking of bread in which some bread is “real” and some bread is not. The pullman loaf is baked in a four sided pan. In America this is sold either as a pullman loaf pan or as a pan for the French pain de mie. The french name says it all — a bread focused on crumb.
The American Pullman or Sandwich Bread finds its direct antecedents in the enriched yeasted French breads in the pain de luxe tradition. These go back hundreds of years. In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England, enriched yeasted breads were known as “French Bread.” Louis Liger, the French 18th century editor and author of the long-running French text, “Le Maison Rustique,” is a good source for the French version of this bread. As of this writing, the Louis Liger entry in the French Wikipedia is poor, but as usual, the Wikipedia page is the best place to start one’s research. An 18th century edition of Liger’s Maison Rustique is available at Google Books.
The following recipe is from “Treatise on Flour, Yeast, Fermentation and Baking” by Julius Emil Wihlfahrt, 1920. The 1.5% sugar will mostly ferment dry. In this quantity it is more of a yeast food and dough conditioner. It helps make the crumb soft. The 18th century version of this bread would have had butter rather than oil, and raw milk in place of the optional milk powder or condensed milk. The sugar and malt extract are both relatively recent additions to American bread recipes. Today, malt is pretty much the only additive that the contemporary artisan bakers add to their dough. The 54% to 56% hydration makes this a stiff dough by modern standards. Use an all unbleached, all purpose flour, not a bread flour.
Pullman Loaf or Sandwich Bread in bakers math: 100% flour, 54-56% water, 1.5% sugar, 1.5% malt extract, 1.5 % oil or other shortening, 1.75% salt, 1.75% yeast, and 1% milk powder or 2% condensed milk (optional).
The final note appended to the recipe that follows states that the bread is also made in some bakeries with just their standard white dough or a Vienna dough baked in the Pullman or pain de mie four-sided baking pan.