White Sandwich Bread

Today, I’m making a plain, white sandwich loaf of bread. This goes against what I personally like in a bread, but my family LOVES it for sandwiches.

For the past 10 years, I have been searching – looking for the best recipe that works for me in my kitchen. I cannot overstate how many I have tried, all from reputable sources. And not only do I try these just once. I have this strange obsession and think the problems are “just me”. Well, I am here to tell you, my friends, that bread is fickle! No matter what I have tried to fine-tune with the recipes of past, they NEVER have come out how I would like. Too firm, not enough rise, too crusty, not enough crust. You get the picture. Which brings me to the recipe that I have found that works great for me.

We live at 6500 feet so things in my kitchen are potentially different that what goes on in yours. Our climate, though we get snow, is excruciating low-humidity. All these things combined to form a need for me to perfect that simple loaf of bread.

Some words on ingredients….

Flour. Again, I have tried everything on the market and have even considered milling my own. I have tried organic, unbleached, bleached, whole wheat, etc. For this recipe, I use a brand found – I think – only in the southwestern states, but I’m certain you could find something similar. It is a Hard Wheat, so it is higher protein than other flours. The name is Hungarian High Altitude Unbleached Flour. Not named because you use it at high altitudes, but rather because it was grown at high altitudes. This flour, for whatever reason, works well. Maybe because the high protein closer resembles bread flour. Either way, it works. The finished product is not the color of store-bought breads. It is more yellow. With this recipe, it does require butter, so that also imparts – you guessed it – a more yellow product.

Water. “Hot” water is subjective, right? What is hot to you, may not be hot to me. So, I have come up with a way in which I think most everyone can agree upon. A hot-tub or bath. When you get in a bath or hot-tub, it kinda stings, but then feels really good. That is usually between 102-104 degrees. At least it is for commercial purposes. Most hotels or other areas that have hot-tubs run by this suggestion. So, when you’re wondering how hot the water should be for your bread, this is a near-perfect idea. The water for the recipe should be what you feel at first is slightly too hot, but then feels GOOD.

As for the other ingredients, it doesn’t matter too much. Milk, butter, sugar, you know. The usual suspects for a white loaf do no require anything specific, but I will tell you that I use 1% Organic Milk. It’s what we have in the fridge. Could the fat content make a difference? Probably, but hey, I’m not a professional bread baker so I never took the bread class at Patisserie school.

I do feel the yeast does make a difference. If I could get my hands on real, fresh yeast that is sold in the refrigerator section, I would. However, in our town, nobody (to my knowledge) carries it. Unfortunate, but I have made the most from my lack and found that the nearly-always available packets, or jarred yeast works great.

A word on pan size. This is important to rise and how high you want your loaf. Though you can use any size loaf pan you have, I have found that my 9×5 pan works the best. Anything smaller than that, and the dough will overflow during the second rise and baking.

Oh, and a “Stand-Mixer”. You don’t know what these wizards are? They are the large, often colorful mixers found on a lot of home-cooks countertops. I swear by mine, even though it has been abused over the years and the gears don’t sound great. Mine was given to me 13 years ago from my beautiful friend Niki, who claimed she never used it and was a gift to her from one of her other friends. I have been grateful since. These are not inexpensive and I use mine at least once a week. I’ve included a photo since if you decide to bake ANYTHING, especially bread, this will save you so much time, it’s silly. But again, they are expensive. A definite deterrent for many.

So, here we go! Below are the ingredients and then the directions.

Don’t be afraid. Breathe deep. What’s the worst that could go wrong? You end up with a brick or a big pile of goop. This is not the end of the world and nothing to stress about.

3 Cups Hungarian High-Altitude Unbleached Flour – if available, or regular old All Purpose Flour (or APF to you foodies out there). ½ Milk – again, I use 1% 4 TBL melted butter or oil of choice 1 tsp Salt 2 TBL Sugar 1 packet or 2 tsp Active Dry Yeast ½ Cup Hottish Water (see above note on Water)

“Proof” your oven by making a nice little environment where the yeast want to perform their best work. A warm, but not hot oven is what I have found to work best. Before you begin, turn the light on in your oven. This will warm it up considerably and be a great, non-drafty environment for the yeast to flourish.

Lightly oil (I use olive oil) a large bowl that will be used for rising the bread.
Using a Stand-Mixer bowl with the dough hook, or stand-alone bowl (not the same bowl you have already oiled and will use for rising), add the four and salt., whisk together. In a measuring cup, add the yeast, sugar, then the water Pour the water mixture into the bowl and if using stand mixer, use low setting to begin mixing. If mixing by hand, I prefer a wooden spoon to mix. Add the melted butter Add the milk If using stand-mixer, once the dough has come together, set the mixer on low for 8 minutes and the *Spring-back test works (see below). If using hands, mix together ingredients, then turn the dough out on a lightly floured floured surface (I use my VERY clean countertop) and knead for 10 minutes, or until the *Spring-back test works (see below). Don’t know how to knead? No problem! You have to learn somewhere and where better than to look to YouTube. I have searched and there are a number of great videos. Simply look up, How to Knead Bread Dough
*Spring-back test. Press a finger into the dough and it springs back. You should not be able to see the fingerprint. If you do, knead some more, giving it the spring-back test every minute, or so.

Once your dough has been kneaded to proper consistency and springs back, scrape the bowl to release it into the oiled bowl for rising. Once the dough is in the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the proofed oven for 2 hours.

Prep a 9×5 loaf pan before the first rise is complete by simply spraying it, oiling it, etc. I use the “baking” non-stick food spray, but use whatever you have. You do not want the loaf to stick.

Once the first rise is complete, using whatever tool you have in your kitchen that you think will work best – I use a rice spoon – scrape the sides of the bowl to gently deflate the dough and attempt to “pour” the dough into the prepped pan. I have not found an easy way to do this. It generally ends up being messy. Once the dough is in the pan, oil the plastic wrap and loosely cover the pan.

Send the dough in the loaf pan back into the proofed oven for 60 minutes. If you are lucky enough to have 2 ovens, keep the loaf in the proofed oven and preheat your other oven to *350. If you do not have 2 ovens (few do), pull the loaf out of the oven 50 minutes into the rise, set your oven to *350 and set the loaf in a relatively warm space in your kitchen until the oven preheats.

Bake at *350 for 30-35 minutes. The top should be golden brown.

Turn out bread onto a cooling rack and cool completely prior to slicing, or it will be crumbly.

My position on $ from sponsors has not changed. I’m not receiving any “kick-back” or any money for the brands I speak of. These are simply favorites that I use.