Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Search for the perfect Sandwich Bread - #1

Freshly baked loaf of American Sandwich Bread
I absolutely delight in making all of our bread from scratch. I love the 'whirring' of my yellow mixer, the feel of soft warm dough in my hands, and the aroma of yeast rising and baking in the oven. There is truly nothing better than fresh baked bread. My dedication to dough has led me to try numerous recipes. After much trial and error I have found my go-to-recipes for bunsbanana bread, and flour tortillas; the three types of bread I make most often. However, I'm going back to school soon and sandwiches are going to become a frequent entry on our weekday menu. In all my baking I have yet to find a sandwich bread that I am truly satisfied with. They are either too light, too dense, too sweet, too crusty, or the crumb is just off. My ideal sandwich bread has a soft delicate crumb, with a thin easy to munch crust. It should have just that right amount of chew so that the bread can hold up to toppings and spreads without falling apart. And it should be yummy!

I discovered this recipe online and decided that it would be perfect for my first attempt. The title, American Sandwich Bread, conjured up images of PB&J with sliced bananas, and golden buttery grilled cheese, all made with soft, white, slightly sweet bread.

Slices of American Sandwich Bread

The recipe turned out very well. It had a great crust that was soft and chewy, and the bread had just the right balance of sweetness. My only complaint was that it was a little bit dense, which was most likely my fault. I used whole wheat flour and perhaps sliced the loaf a little bit too thick. My boyfriend likes his PB&J sandwiches opened faced, so he loved it. For me, the thickness can be easily counteracted by adding an extra piece of meat, thicker slice of cheese or extra scoop of tuna salad. Yum!

American Sandwich Bread
(from Annies Eats)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat; half WW and half AP works too)
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm whole milk (I used plain soy milk)
1/3 cup warm water
2 tbsp melted butter or margarine
3 tbsp honey (sugar or agave will also work)
2 1/4 tsp yeast

This recipe involves about 10 minutes of kneading so I recommend a mixer if you have one. 

Mix the flour and the salt into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix the remaining ingredients into a small bowl or measuring cup.

Turn the mixer on low and slowly add the milk and yeast mixture to the flour. Help the dough come together by frequently scraping the sides of the bowl. 

Once the dough comes together, turn the speed up to medium or 3-4 depending on your model and continue to let the mixer knead the dough until it is smooth (10 minutes). Part way through this process check the dough. If it is too sticky add flour to it, 1 tbsp at a time. During this kneading process scrape the hook a few times and continue to check the texture of the dough.

After 10 minutes remove the dough and form it into a ball. Place it in a large greased bowl and flip the dough once to coat it. Cover it with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot to double in size (about 45 mins to 1 hour).

Once doubled, deflate the dough and knead it for a few seconds. Form it into a loaf, using your preferred technique. I like to roll it out into a square. Fold the sides to the middle and pinch the seams. Then fold the ends again and pinch the seam to form a log. 

Place formed loaf into a greased loaf pan (9x5 inch), cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rest for approximately another 30 mins.

When the loaf is nearly doubled then place it in the center of an oven preheated to 350F and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden and the loaf sound hollow when the bottom is tapped. (Cooking time may be longer depending on humidity and your oven. The original recipe states 40-50 minutes)

Cool completely. Slice and serve.

*Update* -courtesy of fellow baker and friend Christy Gage
  • Directions for those without a mixer:  Whisk all your dry ingredients first (including the yeast but only half the flour), then add the wet, then add the remaining flour as you knead .  
  • You may also substitute the 1/3 C water for an egg.