White bread! Although it is not considered cool, perhaps, in the home bread baking community, I will admit that I like white sandwich bread quite a bit. I was interested to see what PR would bring to the table with this recipe.
I chose to make Variation 1, but I am not sure why. PR says that the different variations affect the final outcome in both texture and taste, but neglects to say exactly how each of the variations differ. So I chose to make the first one because I would rather use a whole egg than just a yolk (eliminating Variation 3) and I have King Arthur Flour’s Baker’s Special Dry Milk on hand, instead of the buttermilk or whole milk required for Variation 2.
This recipe can be done all in one day, and it is super easy. You mix all the ingredients together and then knead them. I haven’t bothered to check for windowpanes or check the dough temperature in what seems like forever. This is my dirty little BBA baking secret.
I put my dough on my stove to rise, which is the only place in the kitchen that seems to work. Still, I waited the full two hours before checking on it, and that seems to have been a mistake.
Look at that! I think that is the worst my bucket has ever seen. It looked like the dough might pop the lid off at any second.
Then you divide the dough into two pieces. I do usually weigh out my dough when dividing it because I am pretty bad at guessing by sight. So here is how I go about it.
First I put one of my flat bowls on the scale and zero it out. I usually measure in grams, just to make it easier to half the number in my head.
Then I overturn the bucket directly into the bowl, as seen here.
Then I move the dough to my counter and divide it with my bench knife. I put one half back on the scale.
I usually don’t bother too much to get it exact, as you can tell from the photo. Exactly half of the dough would have been 614.5, but 10 grams difference is not a big deal for loaves. I decided to leave it that way. For rolls, since they are so much smaller and the dough needs more divisions, I would try and get closer to the exact number.
I shaped them into boules, and there was some crazy gluten action.
Then I shaped them into loaves and put them in pans for the second rise.
Halfway through the rise, I had to go out, so I put the loaves in the refrigerator. When I took them out later on, the loaves had definitely kept rising in the refrigerator. I let them come back to room temperature, and after 45 minutes, I noticed they were rising even more. So I started preheating the oven, and put them in about 1 hour and fifteen minutes after removing them from the refrigerator. I don’t think the bread was affected at all.
This is when I started to preheat the oven:
I had to bake them the full 45 minutes to reach the right internal temperature.
I waited until this morning before slicing into them. One of the things I liked about this bread is that I found it very easy to slice. I have been baking pain de mie recently in an attempt to completely stop buying bread from the store. You might think that I would have been able to stop buying bread before that, but you would be wrong for one simple reason: I was not able to slice my bread evenly and thinly enough. I didn’t have any problems with hearth breads, but with soft sandwich breads — exactly the kind of bread where you want to be able to make even, thin slices — I would always mangle the bread. I bought some things that helped when slicing the pain de mie: a better bread knife, a bread and bagel slicer, and even an electric knife, which was the absolute best for the softest breads. But I decided to take a knife to the BBA White Bread, and although the crust and crumb are soft, I was able to slice it very nicely.
This bread tastes great and is easy to make. My only problem is one I have mentioned before: I wish the loaves were a little bigger. Has anyone tried to make this as one two-pound loaf (in a 9 x 5 pan) instead of as two one-pound loaves? The smaller loaves didn’t bother me much this time, but I would prefer larger loaves in the future. As white breads go, this recipe didn’t distinguish itself much from other white bread recipes I have made, but it is perfectly serviceable. Maybe there is just not all that much distinguishing about white bread. But I give it four stars.