Tuesday, March 22, 2011

American Sandwich Bread

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I absolutely love the smell of homemade bread baking. It certainly adds a warmth to my kitchen that wafts through the rest of the home. It's been awhile since I've made some homemade bread and I've found that once I start, I end up baking a few different loaves just to keep that delicious bread baking aroma in the kitchen. A bread I like making is an American Sandwich Bread which is a staple in our house. It's easy to make, quick to prepare and a bread that will encourage you to bake bread more often!...

Baking with yeast was once a major kitchen fear of mine. I bit the bullet one day and just went for it... only to realize I feared yeast for far too long. Working with yeast is much easier than I thought. In fact, after letting my stand mixer do all the work, the only hard part about it all was just finding the patience to allow the dough to proof and rise. This recipe is a great way to tackle any yeast fears head on. It's all a matter of combining the ingredients in a stand mixer, letting the dough hook attachment mix and knead the dough for you, and allowing the dough to rest and proof before you shape and bake it in the oven. Really, the end result is so worth it!

This bread has a nice slightly dense crumb and can hold up to the biggest and messiest sandwiches. I like to slice a whole loaf once cooled and then wrap and freeze since it doesn't have a very long shelf life. By slicing and freezing, I can take out the pieces I need for sandwiches, french toast , etc. I also think this recipe is a great base to incorporate fresh herbs, cheeses and seasonings. So if you haven't had that fresh homemade baked bread smell going on in your kitchen lately, here's the perfect chance to enjoy it!...

American Sandwich Bread
recipe from The New Best Recipe

3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
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 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast (also called rapid rise)

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.

Mix 3 1/2 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 2-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 the hook, if necessary, about ten minutes. (After five minutes of kneading, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time and up to 1/4 cup total, until the dough is no longer sticky.) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.

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.

Gently press the dough into an 8-inch square that measures 1 inch thick. Starting with the side farthest away from 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.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil 2 cups of water and pour into a baking pan, and place it on the bottom rack. If possible, put the loaf on a rack above the baking pan of water (my oven is much too small to have a loaf of bread on anything but the bottom rack) otherwise put the two pans side by side. 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 reads 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. (We like it served fresh and warm with a garlic & herb compound butter.)

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