This is once again a Rose Levy Beranbaum recipe from The Bread Bible. During the winter I often find myself baking a lot of bread. In fact, I bake more bread than Craig and I are capable (or should attempt) of eating prior to it going bad. Luckily I manage to have pretty good luck in freezing my loafs, and when we don’t have great sandwich bread to fall back on, I find myself disappointed and get down on myself for not just baking off a few loaves of bread every now and again to prevent us from eating something with 11ty different ingredients from the supermarket. This bread also makes incredible hamburger buns if you decide to shape it into small rounds. This recipe has a permanent bookmark on it.
This bread requires a preferment. That is a small batch of saltless dough that is usually pretty low on flour that spends time allowing the yeast and other microbes in the flour to start developing flavor and interesting. These are especially important in hearth style breads, but almost all breads can benefit from a little bit of preferment. Depending on the culture that the style is from, the preferments will have different names. Italian breads have a biga, French breads have pate fermentee, and American style recipes just have a preferment or a sponge.
Since I only ever use my stand mixer to make bread, my instructions call for the use of the mixer. If you prefer to make this by hand, please do so, but consider that hand kneading tends to take longer than using a mixer. I also urge you to cook by weight. This makes bread baking so much easier. And note that instant or bread machine yeast is not the same thing as active dry (which is less fervent than instant)
Basic Soft White Sandwich Loaf – Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum
Makes 2 small loaves or 1 large loaf
- 2.25 C + 2 T unbleached all purpose flour (341 grams)
- 1.75 C room temp water (405 grams)
- 2 T + 1 tsp honey (45 grams)
- .75 tsp instant (bread machine) yeast (2.4 grams)
- Make your sponge – In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the ingredients for your preferment
- Whisk (either by hand or using your mixer) for 2 minutes to incorporate air and ensure that the mixture is smooth. It’ll be thin like a pancake batter.
- Mix your dry ingredients in another bowl and gently spoon over the top of the preferment, completely covering it. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside and allow to set out for at least 2 hours at room temp (or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator). If the preferment bubbles through the flour blanket during this time, it’s fine.
- 2.25 C unbleached all purpose flour (311 grams)
- .25 C dry milk (40 grams)
- .75 tsp instant yeast (2.4 grams)
- 1 stick unsalted butter (113 grams)
- 2.25 tsp salt (15 grams)
- Add the butter to the bowl and mix with the dough hook on low speed (#2 on a Kitchenaid mixer) for 1 minute, or until it has formed a rough dough. Scrape down the sides and cover. Let rest for 20 minutes
- After 20 minutes has elapsed, sprinkle on the salt and use the dough hook to knead the dough on #4 speed (medium low) for 7 minutes. Watch your mixer! Mine likes to “walk” during kneading like this and has almost made it off the counter a couple of times.
- The dough will be sticky and messy and will only start to pull away from the bowl in the last minute or so of kneading. If it hasn’t become smooth and shiny, allow to beat for up to 3 more minutes. If it is not stiff, add in a little extra flour a teaspoon at a time, if it is too stiff, mist it with a little water.
Let the Dough Rise
- Scrape the dough into a 4 quart container or bowl (I like using narrow tall containers as it’s easier to gauge exactly how much dough you have) that has been lightly oiled with cooking spray or oil. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. Mark or mentally note where double the volume will be. If the container isn’t marked already, I like using a dry erase marker.
- Allow the dough to rise until doubled. In my cold house, I set up a heating pad and set my containers on it, covering them with a towel to hold in the heat. This usually takes a couple of hours in my house.
- Turn the dough out onto an floured counter and gently pat/stretch it out to form a rough rectangle. Try to maintain as much air in the dough as possible. Fold the dough into thirds(like a letter), turn 90 degrees, stretch/pat it out again, and then fold it over again. This step will help keep you from getting too many big weird holes in your loaf of bread. Place your dough back into the oiled container and create a new mark at double the height. It should take up more space this time, there’s air in the dough now.
- Once your dough has hit your “doubled” mark, turn it out onto a lightly floured counter. If you are making 2 smallish loaves (this is the size of my old timey pyrex loaf pan), cut it in half, if you are making a big loaf, don’t cut it in half (my large loaf pan is pictured). Press/stretch the dough into a large rectangle, dimple it to pop any large bubbles, and fold it into thirds again (just once this time). Now roll the dough tightly starting on a short side. Pull all of the “unfinished” edges in and pinch them together to ensure you have a tight skin. Place your loaf(loaves?) into a ungreased loaf pan(s?)
- Spray some cooking spray onto plastic wrap and cover your dough with it. Allow the dough to rise, once again, until roughly double it’s size.
- Once the dough has been set aside to rise, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. If you have a baking stone or steel, make sure it’s in there. Preheat the oven at least an hour in advance. Place an empty sheet pan or cast iron skillet on the floor of then oven (if you don’t have an exposed element – if you do, put one oven rack at the bottom position and put your pan on that).
- When the bread is ready to go, grab a handful of ice cubes and put them in a container. Remove the plastic wrap gently and use a razor or very sharp knife and a confident hand to make a deep slice down the center of the loaf.
- Gently place your bread in the oven and dump your ice cubes into the preheated empty pan and close the door. Keep the door closed. The steam that this ice will generate will allow your bread to rise before the crust sets, and gelatinize the starch on the outside, generating a more robust crust.
- Bake for at least 50 minutes, turning after 30. A skewer inserted in the middle will come out clean, or an instant read thermometer will read 205-210 degrees. One large loaf may take up to 20 additional minutes.
- When the bread is cooked through, remove it from the oven and immediately turn it out of the pan onto a wire rack to cool.
- As good as it smells, do not cut into the bread until it has completely cooled, otherwise you’ll smush it and it’ll be gross.
- This makes phenomenal sandwiches, grilled cheese, toast, or anything you’d use something like wonderbread for but you know, you want it to be good. With my big loaf pan, the slices only fit in my toaster sideways, but maybe you have a toaster that isn’t 12 years old and tiny.