Classic White Bread

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Bread making is not something that I have dabbled in on too many occasions.

However, when a girl gets a hankering for some homemade bread, nothing can satiate that craving besides digging your hands in some flour and creating a loaf from scratch. Bread can be an intimidating thing to make for the amateur baker due to the amount of time usually required for the dough to rise, and the sensitivity of yeast. I am admittedly primarily a spontaneous baker and therefore infrequently plan to conquer a recipe that may take all day, unless of course I have designated an entire day for baking. However, the recipe that I chose to utilize took no longer than 2 hours 30 minutes from start to finish, and was simple enough for even a novice like me to replicate with some success!

I originally came upon this recipe from a blog called, Brown Eyed Baker from a post called American Sandwich Bread from 2008,(http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2008/07/20/american-sandwich-bread/)which was a replica of  the recipe from the book, Baking Illustrated (2004, p. 74-75)

American Sandwich Bread

Yield: One 9-inch loaf

Prep: 1 hour 45 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

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  • 3¾ cups (18¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup warm whole milk (about 110 degrees)
  • 1/3 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 envelope (about 2¼ teaspoons) instant yeast

Directions

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Once the oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain the heat for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven.
  2. Mix 3½ cups of the flour and the salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix the milk, water, butter, honey, and yeast in a 4-cup liquid measuring cup*. Turn the machine to low and slowly add the liquid. When the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and satiny, stopping the machine two or three times to scrape dough from hook if necessary, about 10 minutes. (After 5 minutes of kneading, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time and up to ¼ cup total, untilthe dough is no longer sticky.) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.
  3. Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl, rubbing the dough around the bowl to coat lightly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven until the dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.
  4. Gently press the dough into a rectangle 1 inch thick and no longer than 9 inches. WIth a long side facing you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed. Place the dough seam-side down in a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in a warm spot until the dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes**.
  5. Keep one oven rack at the lowest position and place the other at the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place an empty baking pan on the bottom rack. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the boiling water into the empty pan on the bottom rack at set the loaf onto the middle rack. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted at an angle from the short end just above the pan rim into the center of the loaf read 195 degrees, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.

Note: This recipe uses a standing electric mixer. You can hand-knead the dough, but we found it’s easy to add too much flour during this stage, resulting in a somewhat tougher loaf. To promote a crisp crust,we found it best to place a loaf pan filled with boiling water in the oven as the bread bakes.

* I heated the milk and water together in a small saucepan, careful to not let the temperature exceed 115 degrees, then added the honey and melted butter. Last I stirred in the yeast. It is important to have the milk and water reach about 110 degrees to activate the yeast and no more than 140 degrees as this temperature will kill the yeast.
** Let the bread continue to rise until it is about 1 inch higher than the loaf pan. Also, I used a glass loaf pan, though other bakers highly recommend utilizing a stone loaf pan for best results.

I recommend staying quite close to your electric mixer while it is in operation as mine started hopping around from the weight and density of the dough!

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This bread turned out beautifully! I was excited to see my dough actually rising! And it rose to the height described! However, I will be anxious to try this recipe out again as I substituted 1% lowfat milk for whole milk (it was what I had in the refrigerator), and my yeast had an expiration date of Jan 2013 making its value questionable. Obviously the yeast worked, but I will be interested to see the difference a fresher yeast may make on the height of the loaf and the difference whole milk may make to the taste of the bread.

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This is a very versatile bread as it can be used for sandwiches, toasted, or consumed on its own with butter, jam, peanut butter, Nutella, or my favorite combination- butter and honey. Everyone loved this loaf, this recipe is definitely a keeper!

Enjoy!

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