One of my goals after finishing the BBA Challenge was to stop buying bread and bake it instead. This isn’t a particularly hard goal, since we don’t eat all that much bread. One loaf a week in most cases works fine. And sometimes I make more and freeze it in case I can’t make it. I think we have only resorted to buying bread a few times over the past two years.
One of my favorite breads to make is Baking Illustrated‘s American Sandwich Bread. It is a plain, white sandwich loaf, but it is on the sturdy side, meaning it is easier to slice and not too soft. I make the buttermilk version, which has an excellent flavor.
The recipe is engineered to produce a plain loaf of bread quickly, and the instructions have you rise the bread in a pre-heated oven, etc. etc. I never follow those instructions. If I have limited time to bake a loaf of bread, I usually put it in my bread machine on the dough setting and then bake it in the oven. I find that the even temperature of the bread machine rise cycle makes the second rise go quickly, so the whole process takes about three hours. One and a half hours on the dough cycle, 45 minutes for a second rise and preheat the oven, and 40 minutes baking at 350 degrees. The bread machine also works best in the winter, since I keep my house slightly colder than bread likes to rise in, so I can be waiting a long time for that first rise.
American Sandwich Bread
adapted from Baking Illustrated
3 ¾ cups (18-3/4 oz) all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 cup (8 oz) buttermilk
1/3 cup (2.67 oz) warm water (about 110°)
2 tbsp. (1 oz) unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp. (63 g) honey
1 envelope (about 2 ¼ tsp.) instant yeast
Mix 3 ½ cups of the flour and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix the milk, water, butter, honey and yeast in a 4-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 10 minutes. (After 5 minutes of kneading, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time and up to ¼ 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 and let the dough rise until doubled.
On a floured work surface, gently press the dough into a rectangle 1 inch thick and no longer than 9 inches. With a long side facing 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 9×5-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.
Place an oven rack at the middle position and heat the oven to 350°. 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°, 40-50 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.