Weekly Sandwich Bread


Continuing along the lines of items to make that most people can't understand why you'd make them when you can buy them, I present to you homemade bread.  I grant you that it is tough to find the time to make your own bread when you work full time and have a social life outside of work, but it's worth finding the time to do it!  Storebought bread has odd ingredients added to improve shelf life; homemade bread does not.  You know exactly what goes into your bread, and you can vary a recipe to suit your own liking.  Homemade bread costs way less than a bakery loaf, and it even costs less than a pre-sliced, bagged loaf you can buy in the grocery store.  In looking up recipes online, I have learned that bread baking has a certain odd stigma about it.  People think that working with yeast is like working with a wild animal, and that any moment it could turn on you and attack.  So far, I have come out unscathed. 

Once you get into bread baking, you will find it hard to ever go back to store bought again.  When I first started baking bread, I followed a recipe for light whole wheat bread I got from Smitten Kitchen a year or so ago.  That recipe is good, but I always found it a little tough and dry for my personal tastes.  I started searching more, and landed on the King Arthur Flour website.  It's a great place for anyone who loves baking!

One of the recipes on the KAF website that is great for anyone who likes a soft sandwich loaf and the versatility to play around with the flour combinations is the one I'm posting about today.  It's good for beginners in that there aren't a lot of very complicated steps, and every loaf I've made has turned out delicious!  I use my trusty Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer to do the work for me, so all I have to do is measure ingredients and let it go. 

My Weekly Sandwich Bread
from King Arthur Flour

1 cup (8 ounces) milk

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick, 1 ounce) butter or margarine
2 teaspoons instant yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*
*For added whole-grain goodness, substitute great-tasting King Arthur whole wheat flour (traditional or white whole wheat) for up to half of the all-purpose flour in this recipe.

Mixing: Heat the milk to a simmer, and pour over the butter in a large mixing bowl. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm, then add yeast (if using active dry; if using instant yeast you can add it with the flour) and sugar. Once the yeast softens and begins to bubble, add the remaining ingredients and stir till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it begins to become smooth and supple. (You may also knead this dough in an electric mixer or food processor, or in a bread machine set to the dough or manual cycle). Add a bit of additional milk or flour if needed— the dough should be soft, but not sticky.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover, and allow it to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 1 hour, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Shaping: Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into an 8-inch log. Place the log in the lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan, cover loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 60 minutes, until it’s domed about 1 inch above the edge of the pan. A finger pressed into the dough should leave a mark that rebounds slowly.

Baking: Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s light golden brown.Test it for doneness by removing it from the pan and thumping it on the bottom (it should sound hollow), or by measuring its interior temperature with an instant-read thermometer (it should register 190°F at the center of the loaf). Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on rack before slicing. Store the bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.

Yield: 1 loaf.

My Notes
  • I do have a kitchen scale, and recommend that with baking, you use weight measurement as opposed to volume measurement, but this recipe has worked very well with both
  • You can substitute an equal amount of honey, maple syrup, or molasses for the sugar.  I have done this as well, and it turns out great
  • I have always substituted 1/3 of the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour, because that's how we roll.
  • Some days are different from others, and you may have to add up to 1/4 c. more milk or more flour.  Just get to a place where your loaf isn't dry, but not sticking to the bowl it's so sticky.
  • I always knead the dough, using the bread hook in my Kitchen Aid, for about 10 minutes.  Gluten development is important for a good rise.
  • I use instant yeast and skip the proofing stage.  Just pour it in with the rest of the ingredients.  It's much heartier than active dry, and is usually labeled "rapid rise" or instant.  You can buy it in bulk and save!
  • My rises take much longer than an hour.  Slow rises are good for flavor development, so that's not a bad thing, but if you want it done ASAP, you can put the dough in your cold oven and boil water in a pot on the stove.  When the water starts to boil, place it either in a dish or just transfer the pot into the oven.  The steam and heat will help it to rise more quickly. 

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