Sunday, January 10, 2010

American Sandwich Bread

Normally I’m a whole wheat, whole grain kind of girl. At least when it comes to bread. I’m still on the fence with pasta. I eat it, but sometimes I have to convince myself I like it as much as white pasta. With my bread though, I like it brown and healthy. I can’t remember the last time I had plain ol’ white American-style sandwich bread sitting in my kitchen.

Normally I find white sandwich bread to be fairly flat in flavor and lacking in the texture I like for my sandwiches. Now, we’re talking grocery store white bread here. Way back in the day I worked at a bread store, so I know there is good white sandwich bread to be had. You just have to buy it from a bakery… or make it yourself. So I did. And let me tell you, it wasn’t lacking a thing, except maybe those pesky whole grains we’re all supposed to be eating more of.

This bread is light in color and texture, slightly sweet, and pretty much perfect for toast, PB&J, or your favorite sandwich fixings. So forget what you thought you knew about white bread and give this recipe a try. Just throw some extra veggies on your sandwich if, like me, you feel a little guilty about ditching the whole wheat stuff.

American Sandwich Bread
Adapted from Annie Eats

3 1/2 – 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 cup warm whole milk (about 110 degrees)
1/3 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 T. unsalted butter, melted
3 T. honey
1 package instant yeast, about 2 1/4 tsp. (Also called Rapid Rise or bread machine yeast)

** Don’t be intimidated by the number of steps involved in making this bread. They are all easy, so just relax and take your time. You will be so glad you did.

Adjust your oven racks so that there is only one rack in the oven in the lowest position. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Once the oven has reached 200 degrees, leave it on for 10 minutes, then turn the oven off.

While oven is heating, add 3 1/2 cups flour and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.

In another bowl, mix the milk, water, butter, honey, and yeast.

Slowly add the liquids to the flour and salt.

Turn the machine to low (on my KitchenAid I use speed 2), and mix until the dough comes together and looks smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. After the first 5 minutes, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough stops sticking. (I only needed to add 1 tablespoon to my dough.)

When dough is ready, place on a lightly floured work surface and knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.

Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl. Turn the dough to coat evenly with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warm oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until about doubled in size.

Return the dough to the floured work surface and gently press into a rectangle shape that is about 1 inch thick and no more than 9 inches long. (Pay attention to the length of your rectangle. If it is longer than 9 inches, it will not fit in the pan.)

Tightly roll the dough into a long cylinder. Turn seam-side up and pinch closed. Place the dough seam-side down in a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan, making sure the dough touches all four sides of the pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes, or until almost doubled in size.

While dough is rising, arrange oven racks so one is in the middle of the oven and one is in the lowest position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a large baking sheet, roasting pan, or other baking dish on the lowest rack. In a medium pot, boil about 4 to 6 cups of water. Pour boiling water into the baking dish in the oven. (You will get a lot of steam. This is good.)

Place loaf pan on middle rack and bake 40 to 50 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 195 degrees, when inserted from the short end to the middle of the loaf. (I don’t have a thermometer, so I just had to guess. If you’re guessing too, look for a golden brown top on your loaf.)

Remove the bread from the pan and place on a cooling rack. When cooled to room temperature, slice and serve.

** Note: If your bread is fully cooked but not as dark as you would like it to be, you can remove it from the loaf pan and place it directly on the oven rack for a couple of minutes. This will darken up the crust quickly without drying out the bread.

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