Monday, February 7, 2011

Sandwich Loaf

While I love me an authentic crusty baguette, most weeks a sandwich loaf is in order. It's obviously great for sandwiches, but also makes damn delicious toast with butter and jam.

My recipe is simple and doesn't require a stand mixer but if you have one and want to use it, I won't begrudge you the convenience and the recipe will turn out just fine. I happen to like kneading dough by hand. It doesn't take much longer than if you did it in a mixer, and I feel....I don't know...a little more connected to the bread. I also find it rather soothing.

After it's risen in the loaf pan, right before it goes into the oven, I like to brush it with whole milk and sprinkle it with something, here I did sesame seeds.

Sandwich loaf ready for the oven 
Don't be tempted to slice it before it's totally cooled or it will dry out quickly
Everyday White Sandwich Loaf

3 c. all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. sugar
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

1/2 c. cold whole milk
2/3 c. hot water
4 Tbsp. melted butter
2 tsp. Kosher salt
non-stick cooking spray
milk for brushing the top of the loaf
seeds for the top of the loaf (optional)

8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan
Flexible dough scraper (recommended)
bread knife (recommended)
big flat surface for kneading, like a granite counter or slab of heavy wood or marble

Mix the flour and sugar together. 

Make a little well in the flour mixture and add the yeast, rubbing it into the flour mixture with your fingers, until the yeast has "disappeared." 

Add the cold milk, hot water and warm melted butter and mix with a spatula or, ideally, a flexible dough scraper, until the ingredients are incorporated. 

Turn the dough onto your kneading surface and knead the dough without beating the crap out of it. Incorporate air, turn, fold, but don't punch or smash. 

After a minute of kneading, add the salt and knead to incorporate. The dough will be sticky at first, but will come together into a supple dough after about 8-10 minutes of kneading. 

Form the dough into a ball and put it into a clean bowl that's been greased with non-stick spray, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour or two in a draft-free place in your kitchen, until it's almost doubled in size. 

Use your dough scraper to encourage the dough out onto your kneading surface and press the dough out with your fingertips, roughly into a 7"-8" long rectangle. 

Fold the dough down it's length and press the seam closed with your fingertips. Do this again, so you've got an 8" long log of dough. Roll the log so the seam side is facing up, then press the seam down toward your kneading surface.  All this folding and pressing gives structure to the way the dough rises, and will ensure your bread will have an even, orderly crumb. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the log into a greased pan and cover lightly with a greased piece of plastic wrap (give it room to rise up out of the pan) and allow to rise for another hour until it's up out of the pan. 

Remove the plastic, brush with milk, and if you'd like to sprinkle on seeds, now's the time. 

Bake for 35 minutes, until it looks and acts like bread. Be sure to let it cool before you slice into it- it will dry out more quickly if you cut it while it's still warm. Store at room temp in a big ziploc, remembering that it's going to get stale more quickly than store bought bread with all those creepy preservatives in it, so EAT IT!

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