When I got more into cooking, one of the things that fascinated me a lot was bread. So few ingredients come together to make something so delicious. You would think more people would make it at home but that’s not the case. Most people are either afraid of using yeast or have had a bad experience working with dough. I’ve had my share of bread debacles but each time I’ve made a recipe that called for some type of dough, yeast or not, I’ve learned more about how to work with dough and make the end result successful. I’ve definitely had some failures along the way; all have been edible so far even though they didn’t come out just right. 🙂
The more I started making bread, the more I enjoyed making it and decided to make a loose commitment to stop buying bread at the store as much as possible and make homemade bread in its place. I also have been trying to eat less processed food and food with less preservatives so making homemade bread seemed like a no brainer. One of the recipes I needed to find to for my bread making arsenal was a good sandwich bread recipe. In my quest to find a good sandwich recipe, I tried several different recipes with some being whole wheat and some that were artisan style no-knead recipes. The recipe I ended up liking the most was a pretty simple and classic recipe. The end result produces a very moist and soft but absolutely delicious bread. The recipe doesn’t require extremely long rising times either which is also a plus.
There’s some wisdom I’ve learned when making bread and I intend to pass as much of that along as I can. One thing I think that makes making bread easier is using instant dry yeast. Active dry yeast has to be activated in warm water first before it can be used. However, instant dry yeast can be mixed directly into your dry ingredients which makes it much easier to use. Also instant dry yeast can typically be used in place of active dry yeast in recipes so it makes it a good universal yeast to have. I get a huge box from the grocery store and keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Light, air, and heat are not friends of yeast so that’s why the refrigerator is a good place. Yeast that has been improperly stored will not rise correctly in recipes so proper storage is really important.
You should also be careful about the butter you use in bread recipes. Salt takes an important role in making bread as it provides flavor. However salt works against yeast activity as well so having too much salt can hamper the yeast. This is why you should always use unsalted butter when a recipe calls for butter. This goes the same for a lot of other cooking applications as well for other reasons. I almost always use unsalted butter over the latter because you can always add salt later but you can’t take it out once you’ve added it. I learned this from the Pioneer Woman: http://thepioneerwoman.com/
Bread making is also a lot easier if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook. Without this you have to do all the kneading by hand. At first it may not seem like a big deal to knead by hand but working with dough before it has been fully kneaded can be daunting because it can be pretty sticky. Also for bigger recipes like this, the dough mass can be pretty large and trying to knead dough this large sufficiently can be pretty tiring. If you like working with dough, you’ll have plenty of opportunity as you are assembling the loafs. 🙂
While we are on the topic of assembling the loafs, make sure to use a lot of flour on your work surface when you are working with the dough. I cannot stress this enough because working with dough that sticks to things is extremely frustrating and can make it a lot harder to get things done. Before you start working with the dough, rub some flour onto your hands and rub some around the surface of the dough. As you start rolling out the dough, it may become sticky so rubbing some extra flour on it can make it easier to work with. As long as you are careful to use light applications of flour and not leave mounds of dry flour on the surface of the dough, the extra flour will only help you and won’t affect the final product.
The main ingredient in bread is flour, obviously, which makes it very important to have the correct amount. One thing that is tricky about flour is that one cup of flour can be a significantly different amount depending on how compacted it is. It can range in weight from 4 – 5 ounces which could make a pretty big difference when a recipe calls for several cups of flour like bread. The moral of this is that flour should be weighed if at all possible to establish a consistent measure. However if you can’t weigh the flour, you should spoon it into a cup one spoonful at a time and use a knife to skim any excess off the top. This method has proven consistent and helps decompact the flour since it is moved a spoonful at a time.
One last thing that’s worth mentioning is I don’t really recommend using silicon bread pans. While I love silicon tools in the kitchen like scrapers and spatulas, they aren’t as effective for baking especially with bread. When the bread tries to rise in a silicone bread pan, the bread makes the pan push out excessively and this makes the bread rise wider in the center and not as tall as you want it to. I would suggest investing in some decent non-stick bread pans. If you buy bread pans, I would recommend buying at least two at a time so you have the same pans when you are making two loaves at a time.
Those are some of my most useful bread making tips. There are plenty more but I don’t want to bore you too much. I’ve included my Simple Sandwich Bread recipe below. Enjoy!
Simple Sandwich Bread
Yields two loafs of bread. Recipe can easily be halved or doubled for desired output.
- 7 cups bread flour (29 3/4 ounces)
- 3 Tablespoons demerara sugar (you can substitute regular sugar if needed)
- 1 heaping Tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons instant dry yeast (2 envelopes)
- 2 cups warm water (around 100 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Non-stick cooking spray
- Add 4 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt to the mixing bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment and mix well. Add the instant yeast and mix well again.
- Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and pour the warm water, milk, and melted butter into the hole and mix until well combined. The mixture should be wet and shaggy.
- Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time allowing each addition to just barely incorporate. Do not over mix as this can stress your mixer with the paddle attachment.
- Stop the mixer at this time and remove the paddle attachment wiping off any dough back into the mixture. Attach the dough hook to your mixer and knead at lowest speed for 10 – 15 minutes.
- Stop the mixer every few minutes to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary; this will also give your mixer a rest. The dough should start pulling away from the side of the mixer while kneading. However, this is a sticky dough and is a pretty large mass so it will not pull away from the sides completely. If the dough doesn’t pull away around half way into the kneading, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup additional flour and continue kneading. At the end, the dough should be sticky but not stick to your fingers.
- Coat a huge bowl with cooking spray and transfer the dough into this bowl. Put a towel over the the bowl and put it somewhere warm for about an hour or until roughly doubled in size. I let the dough proof on the warming element of my stove as this provides a consistent proofing temperature year round.
- Coat two 9 1/4 by 5 1/4 bread pans with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
- Remove the towel and deflate the dough by pushing down on it gently with your hands. Transfer the dough to a well floured surface. Rub flour on the outside of the dough to prevent it from sticking. Divide the dough in half.
- Working with one half of the dough at a time, roll the dough out into a large rectangle. You can use a rolling pin or you can do it gently with your hands. The short end of the rectangle should be roughly 9 1/4 inches (the length of your bread pan).
- With the short end facing you, roll the rectangle away from you so the roll will stay roughly the length of your bread pan. With the seam of the roll facing down, tuck both ends under the roll into the seam.
- Transfer the dough seam side down into the greased bread pan and repeat the previous steps with the other half of dough. Cover both loaf pans with the towel and put back somewhere warm for about an hour until roughly doubled again.
- About halfway through this rising process, go ahead and preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- When the dough is done rising, it should be popping above the surface of the loaf pan. Transfer the pans into the oven in the center rack and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown throughout the surface.
- When you remove from the oven, transfer to a cooling rack immediately. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing as the center is still cooking at this time.
This recipe was adapted from the first link. The other links were sources I used in this article and recipe.