What Is a Pullman Loaf?

Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke
Woman baking cookies
Woman baking cookies

A Pullman loaf is a type of bread that is primarily baked in a pan which gives it a completely square appearance and a flat top. The bread’s name is thought to come from its presence in the Pullman railway cars of the 1800s, as the bread’s square shape and flat top made the loaves more easy to stack. Railway workers were able to fit more loaves of bread in a small area compared to other types of bread with rounded tops. Although its official name has historical roots, in modern times the bread is more commonly called sandwich bread or a sandwich loaf.

Yeast and white flour typically form the base of the dough for a Pullman loaf of bread. Other ingredients that are often used in recipes for Pullman loaves include melted butter, sugar, or salt. The ratios of these additional flavoring ingredients usually depend on the level of sweet or savory taste that is preferred for the finished product, but generally only small amounts of the ingredients are used in order to keep the bread’s signature mild flavor and make it versatile for a variety of dishes.

The process of making a Pullman loaf usually begins with combining yeast with warm water and mixing it with white flour and any other preferred ingredients. Once the dough is mixed, it generally requires about one hour of rising time, or enough time for the dough to approximately double in size. After the dough has risen, it may be kneaded and allowed to rise for another hour to give the loaf an even more light and fluffy texture.

A Pullman loaf is generally not shaped by hand into a loaf. Instead, a specialized loaf pan known as a Pullman pan is traditionally used to form the bread’s signature square shape. The loaf pan has a narrow rectangular shape and includes a lid, which helps form the bread’s flat top. Once the bread dough is prepared, it is placed into the loaf pan and baked with the lid on to prevent the top from becoming rounded like traditional breads that are baked without being covered.

The uniform shape of a Pullman loaf often makes it the bread of choice for sandwiches. The square loaf is typically cut into thin slices before being used for sweet or savory sandwiches. Due to the use of white flour as its primary base, the bread has a light and fluffy texture that may make it more suitable for sandwiches or other dishes where crustiness is not preferred. Since the bread does not contain many flavoring ingredients, it tends to have a mild taste that makes it versatile and able to pair with a variety of accompaniments.

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