Thursday, June 27, 2013

The new and improved perfect wheat sandwich bread

I am dusting off this blog for the sole purpose of posting this recipe, which I had a half dozen requests for today.  When I fell off the blogging wagon a couple years ago, I found that I was taking good pictures on my real camera...then never getting around to posting I present to you a lousy cell phone picture of a very tasty loaf of bread that I took 10 minutes ago and am posting before I forget.  I have tinkered with my original whole wheat recipe many times, and honestly I'm to the point that I don't measure much anymore so it actually comes out slightly different each time, but overall, this is a truly excellent loaf.  The crumb is even, soft and moist, but holds together perfectly for sandwiches.  It is lightly sweet with a nice crust.  It's my go-to recipe.  It's even forgiving enough that if you happen to form the loaves, walk away for an hour and a half, find them exploding over the sides of the pans with a dry-ish crust on top, reform the loaves and put 'em back in the pan, they still turn out nicely.  Not that I'd ever do that.  Except last night.

A few hints for success right off the bat:

-Use good ingredients.  Freshly ground winter white wheat is my favorite.  If you don't have a wheat grinder, bug a neighbor.  If you know me, come on over and visit, and we'll chat in another room while the mill does it's (loud) magic.  I grind about a week's worth at a time.  If you grind more than that, it's best to keep it in the freezer to keep it fresh longer.

-UN-bleached all purpose flour, people.  Once you switch, you'll never go back.  I can taste the chemicals in baked goods people make with the bleached kind.  I am partial to Lehi Roller Mills brand, and am fortunate enough to live near enough to the mill that when Costco doesn't have it in stock, I can still get my fix.

-Good quality yeast.  I typically use active dry yeast.  Here's a link to a tutorial on the different types. Be patient.  Sometimes yeast is really feisty, sometimes it's sluggish.  Make sure you let it bloom in warm water before adding the rest of the ingredients.  I also have learned to appreciate less yeast and a long rise time for better bread texture. Bread that rises really quickly will have larger holes, less uniform texture, and tends to spring so quickly in the oven that you get a torn ridge along the sides of your loaves.  Also, allow yourself plenty of time to be home the first time you make bread so you can get the hang of how long it takes start to finish.  Nothing worse than getting your loaves half risen and needing to leave.

-Use a mixer if at all possible.  I made bread by hand for years.  It's tiring to knead for long enough to get the gluten to form.  If you don't have a stand mixer of some sort, my mom has had great success lately mixing the dough with about half the flour in it as well as all of the other ingredients with a cheap hand mixer for 7-8 minutes to encourage the gluten to form.  Once it gets a little springier and stringier, stir in the rest of the flour with a stiff spatula, then finish kneading by hand, adding little bits of flour as necessary.  If you're using a mixer, let it knead for 8 minutes on medium speed.  You can tell if you have enough flour when the dough sticks to the bottom, but pulls away from the side.  I also will stop the mixer and touch the dough.  It should still be a little sticky, and stretch when I pull my finger away.

-When shaping the loaves, stretching the dough a bit to get some surface tension goes a long way to making a beautiful loaf.

Without further ado, the recipe.

Wheat Sandwich Bread

In the bowl of your mixer, or a large mixing bowl combine:

4 cups warm water
1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup molasses

Allow to rest for about 5 minutes until the yeast blooms to the top.  Then stir in:

1/2 cup canola oil or 1 stick of butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/3 cup buttermilk powder (I suspect you could use dry milk powder as well with good results)
1 T. kosher salt
4 cups whole white wheat flour

Once ingredients are well combined, allow to rest for about 15 minutes, until mixture begins to rise. Then turn on the mixer and add:

5-6 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (may need more)

Add this flour one cup at a time, and as the dough comes together, a 1/4 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides but still sticks to the bottom.   Keep the mixer running for 8 minutes.  Meanwhile, lightly coat a large bowl in canola oil.  Scrape the finished dough into the oiled bowl, then turn to coat.  Drape a cloth over the bowl and allow to rest in a warm place until dough has doubled, 40-60 minutes on average.  (This time may lengthen if your kitchen is cold.)

Turn the risen dough out on to a clean work surface and divide into 3 equal portions.  Form your loaves like this video shows, and place into bread pans that have been misted with cooking spray.  Allow to rise until almost double.  Sometimes this is 15 minutes, sometimes closer to 45 - depends on the temperature of my kitchen and how well the yeast is behaving.  It will spring up a bit more in the oven.  If you want to get all fancy, you can brush the tops with a beaten egg just before you put them in the oven.  It'll make the crust all shiny and pretty.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.  The loaves should be golden brown and the crust should feel firm.  Immediately remove the loaves from the pans and allow to cool on a rack.  As with any bread, while the aroma compels you to tear into the hot loaf like a rabid wolf, wait at least 30 minutes or so before cutting in to it to allow the innards to set up.  An hour is even better.  Still warm, but perfect texture.

Bread should be frozen if you won't be eating it within 3-4 days, or kept at room temperature in a sealed plastic bag for immediate eating.


Sherry said...

I've been pretty consistently making my own bread this year, but I have yet to get a recipe that works well for sandwiches. I'm eager to give this one a go.

Harriet Bowden said...

Heidi, at what point (if at all) do you use a dough hook?

Nurse Heidi said...

I use the dough hook the whole time, Harriet. Alternatively, my mom developed a technique for people who don't have a stand mixer when she was on a church mission recently and away from her usual kitchen tools. She used a hand mixer with about 1/2-3/4 of the flour in the dough, a thick batter, and beat that for 8 minutes, then stirred in the remaining flour with a spatula and kneaded a few more turns by hand. The time is necessary to allow the gluten strands to form, which is what gives the loaves their structure.

Anonymous said...

Two easy tricks- to cut down on your raise time, add 1 egg (room temp) and 1 Tablespoon gluetin to the yeast after your yeast has dissolved and risen. Also, for that yummy soft crust; immediately after your bread comes out of the oven, rub it down really well with butter, then wrap the loave(s) in a dish towel(s) being sure to cover it completely. The bread continues to cook as it cools down and the towels trap in the moisture. As for the butter,it keeps the crust softer for a few days.

Anonymous said...

If you don't have buttermilk use the old fashioned cheat 1Tbl vinegar to 1cup milk and let it curdle on the counter while your yeast rises. Whole milk works best, but it still works with non-fat milk (room temp) and melted (snd cooled to room temp) butter. What you're trying to achieve is curdled butter fat. * Thank you, Alton Brown!