Kitchn Love Letters

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

published Aug 14, 2021
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sliced pullman loaf on table
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

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. 

Credit: Carmen Keels

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. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

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.
Credit: Carmen Keels

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 Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.