Ok. Backstory. I have been searching for a good, no, great sandwich bread for years. YEARS. I have researched about 15 or more books, Pinterest recipes, and reputable articles. I have tried about 10 different flours (bread flours, all-purpose flours, why one is better than the other), and changed up methods about 50 different ways. I was obsessed with finding the best sandwich bread recipe. The kind that was soft, and spongy just like store bought bread. The kind that made the PB&J’s from our childhood, just minus all the additives. Have you read some of the ingredients on labels? News flash, when it saws “fiber” its more than likely sawdust. The FDA doesn’t have a cap on how much a manufacturer can add in. (If they have put a cap on it since the last I heard, it’s still pretty high…) I’m guessing they view it as “natural”. *insert eyeroll* And don’t even get me started on high fructose corn syrups, and hydrogenated oils.
I could tangent on about everything wrong with store bought bread. But that’s maybe for a different post maybe. Lets get to the good and happy part.
THIS BREAD YA’LL!! I can’t even…
The Chef surprised me Christmas morning with a book suggestion that I had sent to him a while back. “Bread Illustrated” by America’s Test Kitchen. I geeked out big time. America’s Test Kitchen has produced some of the most fail proof recipes I’ve ever come across. Want to know why? They test it. They test it until it’s perfect. Then, they explain why it worked. They have a section of some of the most frequent problems and how to fix it if your’s is different from theirs. It goes into the science behind the process. What we can’t see happening. Needless to say, I love America’s Test Kitchen, and anything done by them is going to be worth a try, and you can feel confident while making it.
When I saw they had an “American Sandwich Bread” I instantly wanted to try it. When I finally did make it, even at the dough stage, before it had proofed, it just felt right. If you’re a frequent bread maker, you know what I’m talking about. Different doughs have a different feel to them. Some are stiffer, some are sticky, and some are soft. This one was pillowy soft. I got excited. Then after first rise, I got even more excited. The dough was as plush as a brioche dough, but without any of the extra richness added in. Oh man. Man oh man oh man.
Is it weird that I get this excited about bread?
Don’t answer that.
When I baked it, it looked exactly how I’ve wanted ever loaf of sandwich bread I’ve ever made to look. When it cooled slightly, the crust was soooooft. Usually with my breads, the crust hardens a little, and then softens after its in the bag. Not this one. It was soft from the get go. When I sliced it, it was perfectly risen, baked evenly, and smelled heavenly. I put my usual butter and honey on it (how I test all breads so it’s all equal) and bit into it. TEARS! I HAD FOUND IT! MY SANDWICH BREAD! And without having to put in a load of butter and egg yolks! (Ok, I’m not sure I had actual tears, but metaphorical tears…)
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour (very important)
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup whole milk (room temp)
- 1/3 cup water (room temp)
- 2 Tbsp butter (melted) (I used salted butter because I use it for everything, but they call for unsalted. My salted worked just fine, so either one would work)
- 2 Tbsp honey
- Combine flour, yeast, and salt together in kitchen aid mixer bowl. Whisk together.
- Combine milk water, melted butter and honey in another bowl (they said to use a 4-cup liquid measuring cup, and I did and it was great. Less dishes too.)
- With the dough hook attached to the kitchen aid, and on low speed, add in wet mixture to dry gradually and mix until the dough starts to come together and the flour is not longer visible. About 2 min. Scrap down bowl and increase speed to medium-low for about 8 min. The dough will be smooth, and stretchy, and won't stick to the sides.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead dough by hand for about 30 seconds, into a smooth round ball. (I grabbed the edge and brought it to the middle and kneaded down, turning the dough ball as I went. When all the side were in and a tighter ball had formed, I grabbed the middle with my left hand and with my right hand I started turning the dough, in my hand, to seal the seams even closer together.) Place dough seam-side down in a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise for 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until doubled in size. I put my dough in the oven with just the oven light on. This is a great place for rising. The temp is consistent, and the light gives it just enough heat for it to give it an extra boost. It also locks in moisture, to help with rising.
- Grease a 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 in loaf pan.
- Again on a lightly floured surface, turn dough out with the seam-side facing up. Gently press and stretch the dough out into an 8 by 6 inch rectangle, with the long side facing you.
- Carefully, but firmly roll the dough upwards, away from you, into a "firm cylinder", pulling the dough back slightly as you go to ensure tautness (envision rolling up a sleeping bag, tightly). Pinch seam down and put the dough in the pan seam-side down, and tucking the ends under itself.
- Lightly grease plastic wrap and loosely cover the pan. Let it rise until the loaf is about an inch above the top of the panned dough springs back a little if you press it (gently). 1 - 1/2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350˚F (make sure your loaf is not in the oven any more if you're proofing (rising) in the oven). "Mist loaf with water" (I accidentally skipped this part, and it still worked, but I will be trying it for the future to see the difference. So don't freak out if you skipped it. It should still work.)
- Place it on the middle rack with plenty of clearance from the top, or another rack.
- Bake for 35-40 min or until deep golden brown. "and the loaf registers 205-210˚F internally" (I also didn't do this step. I knocked on the top of the loaf to hear if it was hollow. Using a thermometer takes out the guessing if your loaf is done, so if you got one and you feel inclined, use it!) Rotate pan halfway through baking.
- Let it cool for a few minutes (10-15 min) and gently remove the loaf from the pan, and onto a cooling rack. Wait until it's room temp before cutting into it! (they called for 3 hours, but I don't think I waited that long... Room temp should be fine. Cutting it too warm just makes it a little gummy.)
If you have any problems, shoot me a comment! I will try to answer to the best of my ability! Or, you can try looking up America’s Test Kitchen and see if their FAQ’s have any help. I believe they might have a helpline/email to contact as well. They’re the best. Go out and buy the book if you love bread. Bread Illustrated by America’s Test Kitchen.
Love you all!! As much as yummy yummy bread 🙂