This is a post about white bread. The richest, fluffiest, most downy-soft white bread I've ever tasted.
It's a loaf that Japonaise Bakery makes called shoku pan—a traditional Japanese white sandwich bread made with milk. Credit for the discovery actually goes to my America's Test Kitchen colleague and Serious Eats Chip-Faced columnist Dan Souza, who developed a recipe in Cook's Illustrated for Cinnamon-Swirl Bread based on this style of dough. Ever since he brought in a loaf from the bakery during recipe development, I've been hooked.
In the pantheon of white sandwich loaves, this one stands out because it achieves a seemingly impossible textural contrast: a crumb that's light, springy, and sturdy in spite of its high ratio of rich dairy. (Many versions are made with milk; Japonaise makes both a milk and an even more decadent heavy cream version. Guess which one I like best.) As Dan discovered during testing, the key to those competing characteristics is developing tons of gluten, so that the bread can stand strong despite all the structure-weakening fat.
It's terrific eaten straight out of the bag ($4.50 for about eight hearty slices); the crumb has this delicate elasticity that is just fun to tug apart. But it also makes great toast and sturdy bookends for sandwiches (which they serve at the bakery).
1032 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215 (map) 617-738-7200; 1020 Beacon Street, Brookline, MA 02446 (map) 617-566-7730; 1815 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02312 (map) 617-547-5531; japonaisebakery.com
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