This is home. To smell this bread baking is to realize that everything is going to be alright. One of the blessings of being married to The Bread Man is that he bakes stuff like this. He started baking this bread a few months ago. The recipe makes two loaves at a time and we can blaze through both in a week. Perhaps we shouldn’t and in a better world, I’d give a loaf away. But it makes the perfect toast in the morning, the perfect grilled cheese sandwich at lunch, the perfect cinnamon toast for a snack in the afternoon and the perfect toast with jam for dessert after dinner. No, we don’t do all those things in one day. I’m just telling you that you will NEVER tire of this bread. It stays fresh for so long AND, unlike most homemade breads, this stuff doesn’t get mold for more than a week – on the counter! It’s perfect. Sweet, smooth, silky inner texture and a perfectly crisp crust when toasted – not too thick, not too thin. Your kids won’t even tear off the crust.
You can see my lack of restraint that in the thirty seconds it took me to cut the slice to put the slices in the toaster, I bit the corner of that cinnamon/sugar slice. I could NOT help it. You’ll see why. This bread is what’s good about being a kid, again. This bread sings of wholesome goodness and peace and harmony.
I may be going too far. Just try it out. And start it the night before you want it because I don’t want you to get all fussy when you see that it has to rise in your fridge for 8 hours. Suck it up – it’s worth it.
Homemade Sandwich Bread*
makes two, 8″ loaves
9 grams (1 tbs) instant yeast
425 grams (1 3/4 cups, plus 2 tbs) lukewarm whole milk
794 grams (6 1/4 cups) unbleached bread flour
14 grams (2 tsp) salt
78 grams (5 1/2 tbs) sugar
85 grams (6 tbs) vegetable oil or melted, unsalted butter
1 egg (50 grams)
Whisk the yeast into the lukewarm milk until dissolved. Set aside for 1 to 5 minutes. Combine the flour, salt, sugar, oil, and egg in a mixing bowl, then pour in the milk mixture. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 2 minutes. If mixing by hand (go you) use a large spoon and stir for about 2 minutes. The dough should be coarse and slightly sticky.
Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface for 4 to 5 minutes, until the dough is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky.
Whichever mixing method you use, knead the dough by hand for 1 minute, then form it into a ball. Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days. (You can bake the dough in batches over different days if you want and portion the dough into two or more oiled bowls at this stage.)
On Baking Day:
Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 1/2 hours before you plan to bake and divide it in half; each piece should weigh about 25 ounces (709 g) which is perfect for 4 1/2 x 8 inch loaf pans. For a 5 x 9 inch pan, use 28 to 32 ounces of dough. Shape into sandwich loaves (read method below), then place them in greased loaf pans to rise. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap or a towel; then let the dough rise at room temperature for about 2 1/2 hours or longer, until it domes about 1 inch above the rims of the pans.
About 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350F.
Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pans and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes. The bread is done when the top is a rich, golden brown, the sides are firm and the loaf sounds hollow if tapped on the bottom and the internal temperature is at least 185F in the center.
Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving. I DID exercise restraint, here. If you cut into them too early, you’ll have gummy bread. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
* from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day – we love him
Shaping the Sandwich Loaves for baking:
To shape a sandwich loaf, flatten the dough into a 5 by 8 inch rectangle. Working from the 5 inch side of the dough, roll up the length of the dough (like a fat cinnamon roll). Pinch the final seam closed using your fingertips or the back edge of your hand. Gently rock the loaf to even it out. Don’t taper the ends; keep the top surface of the loaf even. Place the loaf in a greased pan, seam side down, cover, and proof.