Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More Basics - Searching for the Perfect Sandwich Loaf

I like some of the fancier breads as much as anyone, but sometimes what you really want is a simple sandwich bread. Something simple and sturdy but still tasty and substantial enough to hold your peanut butter, or corned beef or crispy veggies. A bread that won't turn soggy with mayo or other condiments and completely disintegrate but still be soft enough to hold onto in one hand. In short, the perfect sandwich bread.

And I think I have found one!!

In truth, I have been tweaking this recipe for a while. I mean, we all eat sandwiches, right? I started by adapting a recipe from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum. Then added a few additional tweaks of my own.

The thinking is this... Time is your friend when baking bread. If you are patient and if you have the time, you can coax incredible flavors and textures out of bread flour. By mixing in a few 'extras', you can make it even tastier. So, in this post, I am actually going to show you two loaves of bread. Both great, but the second is, IMHO, even better because of the tweaking. Either way, you will have an incredible sandwich experience.

Here's What You'll Need:
for the starter:
1 3/4 cups (240g) AP flour
1 1/8 cups warm water
1/8 cup honey
1/2 tsp. yeast

Combine all the starter ingredients, whisking them to incorporate air. The result is a thick batter-like dough. Cover this with plastic wrap and let is sit for at least an hour (more is better) at room temperature. For an incredible bread, after an hour place it in the refrigerator overnight. Just don't forget to remove it an hour or so before using it tomorrow so it comes back to room temperature.

now for the dough:
1 1/2 cups (220g) AP flour
1/8 cup dry milk powder (I sometimes use non-dairy baby formula powder!)
1/2 tsp. yeast
3/8 cup unsalted butter or margarine softened to room temperature
1 1/8 tsp. salt

Mix together the flour, milk powder and yeast. Then pour it over the starter mixture to cover it like a blanket.
Do not mix it in yet! Let it sit, covered for another hour or more. You will see the starter mixture begin to bubble up in cracks in the flour 'blanket'. That is fine. In fact, it's great! After an hour or so (as much as 4 hours if you have the time) add the softened butter or margarine, and the salt. Then mix it all together to make a rough dough. Cover this and let it rest for 20 minutes. Then knead it on a lightly-floured surface for about 10 minutes until you have a smooth but slightly sticky dough. You may need to add a bit of flour to bring it together or spray with a little water to get the right consistency. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, covered, to rise until doubled. This will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Finally shape the dough into a loaf shape, trying not to remove too many bubbles.
 Place the shaped dough in a prepared loaf pan,
covered, just until it rises about 1 inch (2 1/2cm) above the rim of the pan.
Bake at 350 F (175 C) for about 40 to 50 minutes until deep brown. Cool on a rack for an hour before slicing!

* You can greatly enhance the wheaty flavor by substituting 1/3 cup whole wheat flour for the regular flour. This will require slight adjustments to the water requirements since whole wheat flour absorbs more water. The difference is amazing for such a small change. Look at these photos of the same bread but with whole wheat added - wow!


  1. Yes, I can see what you mean. The second loaf seems firmer and the color is more even. Imagine, all these because of 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour.
    Double thank you for double breads.

  2. I actually like the taste and texture of the 'whole wheat version' better!