Julia Child’s Perfect Sandwich Bread Is the Underrated Recipe Everyone Should Be Making (2024)

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Carmen Keels

Carmen Keels

Carmen Keels is a music teacher in NYC by day, and baker by night. She has been developing as a baker since she made the decision 7 years go (while 8 months pregnant) to only bake the family bread instead of buy it. This lead her to set up a bread subscription service for her Harlem neighborhood that ran for two years. She has been an audition finalist for the Great American Baking Show, and has been featured in Kitchn's series The Way We Eat. Baking is her specialty, but she is always up for any culinary challenge. Lately Carmen has been baking for social justice by working to raise money for various Black Lives Matter organizations, local and national, by having physically distanced bake sales.

published Aug 14, 2021

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Julia Child’s Perfect Sandwich Bread Is the Underrated Recipe Everyone Should Be Making (1)

When your Tony Award-winning friend Nikki M. James asks you to cater her wedding shower because her original caterer bailed, you say yes — a thousand times yes. (Both because you say yes to your friends and because the shower theme was “high tea.”)

I never set out to be a caterer (and I still wouldn’t call myself one despite having done it), but this was in my wheelhouse — I knew I could lay a spread even the royal family would dig. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but I’ve spent a lot of time reading regency romances and Jane Austin. I was energized by Nikki’s faith in me and my skills as we worked together to create the menu.

I found Julia Child’s pullman loaf while researching the best type of bread for finger sandwiches. For this project, Nikki and I decided that the cucumber sandwiches would be made on the white bread, and that the open-faced salmon and crème fraîche sandwich spears (as well as the fig, black pepper, and ricotta rounds) would be made on brown bread. Sounds good, right? I modified Julia’s recipe to add wheat and rye for the brown bread, and baked them all in the same pullman pan for ease of slicing.

The shower was a Saturday afternoon affair, so I started prepping after work on Thursday. I made all the bread and wrapped it tightly until it was ready to slice for assembly. On Friday my oven broke —as in, it stopped working completely.Thank goodness the bread was done. The tartlets, cookies, and lemon drizzle cake had to be baked across Hamilton Heights in various neighbors’ ovens. I made 60 flourless chocolate walnut cookies in my Breville toaster oven. (It took some time, as I could only bake four at once, but the mini oven baked the cookies beautifully). Scones would be baked on-site, so those were chilling in the freezer.

The partygoers — some of Broadway’s elite — floated into the host’s apartment on a scone-scented cloud, and the cucumber sandwiches were gone at day’s end. My dear friend was happy, and I was so proud that I had pulled off my first catering gig. I’ve had a few more since, but these days I generally stick to social justice bake sales.

If You, Too, Make Julia Child’s Pullman Loaf, a Few Tips

I highly encourage you to try this bread out and put it in your rotation. It has great chew, but is also light and fluffy. It also has great structure —it can withstand a fat piece of turkey with lettuce and tomato, and yet is delicate enough to allow for cucumbers to shine in finger sandwiches. Here are a few tips before you start.

  1. Include a bit of starter. This bread is best when made with a starter (also known as a sponge, biga, or poulish), which is simply a small amount of bread flour, water, and yeast that is left to get bubbly over several hours on a cool counter or even overnight. It will seem like a sloppy mess, but it helps make the bread extra flavorful. But if you don’t want to take the time for the poulish, that’s OK — it will still taste wonderful without it.
  2. Skip the bread machine. If you have a bread machine, great! If not, you can use a stand mixer with the dough attachment, like I do. Allow the dough to rise in a lightly oiled bowl on the counter, and cover the bowl in oiled plastic wrap to keep the dough cozy and moist (or use a shower cap from the dollar store).
  3. Bake in whatever pan you’ve got. This dough is very versatile. You can bake a single recipe in a pullman pan, but I’ve also quadrupled the recipe and baked it in giant pullman pans with slide lids. If you don’t want a flat-topped rectangular loaf (or don’t have a pullman pan), it will dome beautifully in a regular loaf pan with a nice, golden exterior.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them.Kitchn Love Lettersis a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.

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