You’ve undoubtedly heard people say that one thing or another is “the best thing since sliced bread.” And while I understand the appeal of prepackaged, sliced bread, I don’t think people really know what they’re saying. Have those people had homemade sandwich bread? It’s infinitely better. This recipe makes chewy, soft-yet-sturdy wheat bread that you have to try to believe.
See, a long time ago, my (then) step-dad taught me something that was, at the time, a revelation: some people think of bread as just something to hold the insides of a sandwich. That completely explained why he ate sawdust-like bread with no substance or flavor. But my mom and I always went for wheat breads studded with nuts and seeds because we both figured, I’m eating this…it should taste good and have a great texture and be worth eating in the first place. Luckily for me, Deb from smittenkitchen completely agrees.
Thanks to her, I have this amazing loaf of bread in my freezer. She got it from the Bread Baker’s Apprentice which is on my cookbook wishlist.
There are a lot of books on my cookbook wishlist.
2 1/2 cups bread flour*
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons powdered milk
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups water (room temperature)
I think the best way to do this (and most economical) is to buy the high-gluten additive and add a tablespoon for every cup of all-purpose flour. Of course, you don’t want to end up with extra flour, so I add a tablespoon of this to a one-cup measure and then top off the rest with the all-purpose flour. Or you can have a big ole bag of bread flour. Maybe you want to make bread a lot!
Mix the flours, salt, powdered milk, and yeast in a large bowl. Add the butter, honey, and water and stir. You can do this in a stand mixer but even though I have one, I prefer doing this by hand so I can be sure of an even consistency. Stir all ingredients together until the dough is soft and a bit sticky. Flour a counter or board (I use the whole wheat flour for this) and knead for about 10 minutes. When the dough is ready, it will be pliable and stretchy. You should be able to take a ping-pong sized ball and press and stretch it until it is translucent. When kneaded to that stage, lightly oil a bowl (you can wash and oil the same bowl as before if you want) and plop the dough in it. This needs to rise, covered with plastic wrap, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours in a warm place.
After the dough rises to double in bulk, flour the counter again and press/roll the dough into a rectangle that is as wide as your loaf pan and slightly longer than your loaf pan (mine was 11 by 7 inches because my loaf pan is 7 inches long and 4 1/2 inches wide). Roll the dough from one of the short ends, pinching with each rotation so that the inside of the bread will remain fused together during baking. Be sure to pinch the outside edge very well. Place the dough in a lightly buttered loaf pan and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough rise again (I know!) for 60-90 minutes in a warm place. I needed the whole 90 minutes but you might only need 60. Definitely check it. About midway through the rising time, start preheating your oven to 350. When the dough has risen above the top of the loaf pan, bake at 350 for 45 minutes to 1 hour. I only needed 45 minutes. Obviously there a bunch of factors here.
See that perfectly browned, stiff crust? So delicious and sturdy enough to keep the insides of your sandwiches in place. The inside is chewy and soft but still strong enough for a turkey and roast beef or a pastrami and corned beef sandwich (St. Patrick’s Day!). I keep toasting pieces and making half-size peanut butter sandwiches. I’m also a huge fan of smothering the toast with Chad’s mom’s homemade blackberry jam (my all-time favorite). This freezes well which is good because it goes stale quickly. That might sound like a negative thing, but it’s because there are no preservatives and you don’t want those anyway.
Sorry for the big delay in posting. It’s been a rough week. I found out my computer display is ruined, then was told that my computer did qualify for a free fix by apple (due to packaging defect). Then I found out today that when my ex-roommate spilled a Dr. Pepper on a fancy dress I was making, a bit must have got on my keyboard and into my machine because it’s dried on there and stuck things together. Now it’s not eligible for a fix and I would have to pay $1425 to get it replaced. Better to just buy a new laptop (haha like I can afford that). Chad’s letting me commandeer his toshiba while I sulk and try to adjust to picasa. I’m trying not to be down about it. Chad and I went to play with pound puppies this afternoon and as I type this he’s hiding behind chairs and peeking out to try to make me laugh. It’s working. =)