I love bread. But it has to be really good bread. Growing up with my dad making homemade bread, I have been pretty spoiled from the get-go. I'm still trying to perfect the art myself with some success (and some failures) along the way. When I found the recipe for sandwich bread written by the editors of Cook's Illustrated, I had to try it. And, not surprisingly, it did not disappoint.
The loaf rose beautifully and made a super soft, delicious sandwich bread. It also makes one HUGE loaf. There's no hard crust (which I kind of missed) but it was incredibly light and fluffy on the inside. About half the flour I used was white whole wheat flour and I couldn't taste it at all. I'm excited to play around a little with other flour options for future loaves (spelt, whole wheat, etc) and see if I can continue to decrease the all-purpose flour used. One secret that my dad taught me is to use vital wheat gluten (I use the Hodgson Mill brand) to breads where you substitute non-all-purpose flours (especially low-protein flours like whole wheat). This helps to keep the bread light and airy as well as give it a nice rise -- and it certainly worked this time! (If you're interested, here's a short article from The Kitchn on vital wheat gluten.)
I immediately had 1 (or 2) slices of this sandwich bread (isn't warm, fresh-baked bread the best?) and then it made great French toast the next morning. And, when I'm not scarfing it down as a snack, this will definitely be used for sandwiches - I'm thinking of making croque monsieurs with it!
American Sandwich Bread
Taken from: Smells Like Home
Makes 1 loaf
- 3 1/2 - 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface (I used 2 cups of white whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose)
- Optional: if using wheat or other flours, it is recommended to add 4 teaspoons of vital wheat gluten
- 2 tsp table salt
- 1 cup milk, warm (about 110 degrees F)
- 1/3 cup water, warm (about 110 degrees F)
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tbsp honey
- 1 package or 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- Adjust oven rack to low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain heat 10 minutes, then turn off oven heat. I use the proof setting on my oven which maintains the heat at 85 degrees F so if your kitchen is warm enough, there is no need to use the oven for proofing – just keep the bowl in a draft-free area of the kitchen.
- Mix 3 1/2 cups of the flour, salt and vital wheat gluten (if using) in a bowl of standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix milk, water, butter, honey, and yeast in 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Turn mixer to low and slowly add liquid. When dough comes together, remove the paddle attachment and switch to the dough hook – the dough will be very sticky at this point. Increase speed to medium (setting number 4 on a KitchenAid mixer) and mix until dough is smooth and satiny, stopping machine two or three times to scrape dough from hook if necessary, about 10 minutes. If, after 5 minutes the dough still sticks to the side of the bowl, add another 1/4 cup of flour to the dough, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.
- Place dough in very lightly oiled bowl, rubbing dough around bowl to lightly coat. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap; place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.
- Form dough into loaf by gently pressing the dough into a rectangle, 1-inch thick and no wider than 9 inches long, with the long side closest to you. Next, starting with the long side, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pinching the seam with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn dough seam side up and pinch it closed. Place dough in greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan and press gently so dough touches all four sides of pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap; set aside in warm spot (not in the oven) until dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees F and adjust the racks to the center and bottom positions. Place an empty baking pan on the bottom rack. Bring 2 cups water to boil.
- Remove plastic wrap from loaf pan. Place pan in oven and immediately pour heated water into empty baking pan; close oven door. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted at angle from short end just above pan rim into center of loaf reads 195 degrees F, about 30 to 50 minutes. Remove bread from pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.