White Sandwich Bread

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Nothing beats coming home to the smell of homemade bread! A good tasting bread recipe is easy to come by…one that is not dense, yet light and fluffy is another story. Just like you, I’ve scoured the internet and tried countless recipes, searching for a light and airy sandwich bread, yet none prevailed. Over the years, I’ve read what seems like hundreds of forums, and researched many sites, and this year I think I finally came up with a recipe that I hope will do homemade bread some justice. :)

Baking bread is definitely an art form in itself because a lot of things factor into how your bread will turn out, like humidity. If you’ve ever come across a recipe that says “about” 5-6 cups or so, it’s because flour reacts differently in their ability to absorb moisture. That’s why I like to use the food processor(although I’m sure some professional bakers would disagree) because it allows my recipe to stay pretty consistent. When kneading by hand or with a stand mixer, I always feel the need to add more flour because of the “tackiness” of the dough but in my years of bread making, slightly tacky and wetter dough will result in a softer/lighter loaf of bread.

Why don’t I use bread flour? Although bread flour is awesome to use because of it’s high protein content(which results in a beautiful rise) it will also yield a more chewier loaf so that’s why I use all purpose flour. It’s very important to add the vital wheat gluten which gives the overall loaf great structure and helps it stay risen.

Oh, and fyi if you were trying to find a homemade bread recipe that stays soft for days, well let me tell you, that YOU AREN’T GOING TO FIND IT! That’s the beauty of making it yourself–you know EXACTLY what’s going in it! Grocery store bread and such use additives and enzymes to their dough to increase shelf life. I use diastatic malt powder only to add softness to the overall texture of the loaf.

Ingredients:
1 cup of warm water(95-110 degrees F)
2 tsp of active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 T of potato flour(NOT POTATO STARCH OR POTATO STARCH FLOUR)
*3 T of baker’s special dry milk powder
1 T of vital wheat gluten
*1 tsp of diastatic malt powder or dough enhancer
1 and 1/4 tsp of salt
2 T of sugar
2 T of softened unsalted butter
* For the dry milk powder, I recommend that you purchase it from King Arthur’s website! It’s called Baker’s Special Dry Milk Powder and it’s nothing like the ones sold at your local grocery store. For starters, it’s a lot smoother and finer in texture and not gritty. I don’t know what’s in that stuff but it makes the bread waaay softer and lighter!

* I purchased the Diastatic Malt Powder and Potato Flour from the King Arthur website. Both of these items are crucial in this recipe because they make the bread lighter/fluffier and not dense like most recipes! Try not to leave these things out! I will post a link below that will take you directly to their website!

Start off by sprinkling your yeast into your warm water. Make sure it isn’t too hot-you don’t want to kill your yeast. Give it a little stir and then add in your sugar and stir one more time. Allow to sit until mixture becomes creamy or when you can see the yeast kind of “sprouting” on the top of the surface(at least 5 min or so). Now, you know that your yeast is “alive”.

While you’re waiting for your yeast to wake up, add your all purpose flour, diastatic malt powder, potato flour, and vital wheat gluten into a large mixing bowl. Mix to combine.

When your dough is activated, give it a quick stir to loosen up the sugar that has fallen to the bottom of the bowl, and pour it into your dry mixture. Using a wooden spoon, mix until well combined. Add in your salt last(yeast doesn’t like salt but adds flavor)give it a another quick mix, and then add your dough into the food processor.

Pulse for 1 minute. Turn off food processor and slightly flatten out the dough and then slather on your softened butter. Take your hand or butter knife and bring some dough over the butter. Pulse for 30 more seconds. It’s easy to over knead dough in the food processor so stay close.

Place dough onto a clean work surface and working with very fast hands, form it into a nice smooth ball. Don’t overdo it. I recommend NOT adding any additional flour to your work surface unless you absolutely HAVE TO! When you begin to work with the dough, you will notice that the stickiness of the dough will start to smooth itself out.

Place dough into a bowl and add a small amount of vegetable oil. Place your dough in the bowl and toss to coat. This will prevent a crust from forming at the top of the dough. Cover with saran wrap and allow to double in size. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to over an hr depending on your weather conditions. A warm and draft free place is recommended.

Once doubled in size, take two fingers, lightly press them into some flour, and then poke the top of the dough–if your indentations stay, then your dough if ready to be rolled out.

Take dough and place on clean work surface and punch it down the middle. Sometimes I give it a few small punches to release some of the large air pockets that have formed within the dough. Using a rolling pin, gently roll it out and then shape it into a log(if you notice your dough sticking, lightly flour your rolling pin to get the flow going). Pinch the seam together and roll it over itself with the seam side down. Pinch and seal the two ends as well.

Take some vegetable oil and lightly coat your bread pan but don’t overdo it. Get in there with your hands and make sure that the sides are well coated as well. Take a piece of saran wrap sprayed w/ some baking spray and cover your dough. Allow to rise one more time until it has risen to at least half an inch to an inch high above the sides of the pan. There is such thing as letting it rise too long. If you over did it, the dough will collapse and you will end up with a brick!

Place a cast iron skillet on the bottom of your oven. Turn your oven to 350 degrees. Once done preheating, remove saran wrap from loaf and gently slide it into the oven. Take about 5 ice cubes and add those into the cast iron skillet and close the oven door. Don’t slam it, you don’t want to disturb your dough. That steam from the ice cubes will give your bread a nice rounded “dome” like shape and a beautiful brown crust. After about 15 minutes, remove your cast iron skillet cause it won’t do any good in there at that point.

Bake for 25-30 minutes(tap the bottom of the pan-if it sounds hollow it’s done). If the tops get too brown for your liking, you may tent it with some foil for the last 10 minutes. I like it when the crust is really brown so I never tent it. Remove from oven and immediately place onto wire racks to cool completely. Brush the tops with melted butter and allow to cool for one hour before slicing. If you slice into them too soon the texture of the bread will be sort of “gummy” in texture.

Slice and enjoy!! If you’re starting to bake more often I would highly recommend purchasing a electrical knife for nice and even slicing. I have one by Black and Decker that I am in love with! No more sloppy pieces of uneven bread! Also the bread will stay soft for up to two days on the counter. One loaf for my house lasts only for a day so it works out perfectly in my favor. Keep it stored in a tight paper bag and away from sunlight and only cut what you need.