Light Wheat Sandwich Bread
Bread baking isn’t something that I do regularly, or at least I didn’t until last week. It only took one taste of this bread to convert me, and I won’t ever go back to store bought bread again. Why would I when this loaf is so simple and inexpensive to make? Bread baking is also quite rewarding. From the wonderful aroma of the bread baking to cutting the first slice, I love everything about it. The most difficult part of this recipe is allowing the bread to cool before slicing it. I can’t think of many times Eric and I have watched the clock so closely. Judging by our excitement and impatience, you’d think we were counting down the time until dessert was ready. We were eager to try it the first time, but we were close to ecstatic the second time because we already knew how good it would taste.
This bread has a wonderfully chewy crumb and is fairly soft due to the blend of bread and whole wheat flours. It’s delicious on its own, with a touch of butter or topped with peanut butter and honey. Really, it’s good with just about anything. Eric and I have been searching for excuses to eat a slice. It holds up very nicely to being sliced, and I’ve had no problems cutting thin or thick slices from the loaf. As far as making the bread goes, it’s a really simple process. After the dry ingredients are mixed, the wet ones are added, and then the dough is kneaded. After the first rise, the dough is shaped and then allowed to rise again before being baked. The actual hands-on time is minimal, and the result is well worth the wait. Just as a note, I made this using weight measurements. I find that to be the most accurate way, but I’ve included both sets of measurements below.
- YIELD: 1 (2-pound) loaf
2½ cups (11.25 ounces) unbleached bread or high-gluten flour
1½ cups (6.75 ounces) whole-wheat flour
1½ tablespoons (.75 ounce) granulated sugar or honey
1½ teaspoons (.38 ounce) salt
3 tablespoons (1 ounce) powdered milk
1½ teaspoons (.17 ounce) instant yeast
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter or shortening, at room temperature
1¼ cups (10 ounces) water, at room temperature
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a 4-quart mixing bowl, stir together both flours, sugar (if using), salt, powdered milk and yeast. Add the butter, honey (if using) and water. Stir or mix on low speed until the ingredients form a ball. If some flour remains in the bottom of the bowl, very slowly add in more water. The dough should feel soft and supple.
Switch to the dough hook and knead at medium speed for about 6 minutes. Alternately, sprinkle a work surface with flour and knead for about 10 minutes, adding more flour if needed. The dough should be tacky but not sticky and register between 77º and 81ºF. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to it, turning to coat the dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 1½-2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
Remove the dough and press it with your hands to form a rectangle about 5 inches wide and 6 to 8 inches long. Working from the short side, roll up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease after each turn.
The loaf will spread as you roll it, and the final length should be 8 or 9 inches, depending on the size loaf pan you have. Pinch the final seam closed, then roll the loaf back and forth to even it out, taking care not to taper the edges.
Place the loaf in a lightly oiled pan making sure that the ends of the loaf touch the ends of the pan. Mist the top of the loaf with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lip of the pan. Preheat the oven to 350º and place a rack in the center of the oven. Place the bread pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Rotate the pan 180º and continue baking an additional 15-30 minutes, until golden brown on the top and sides. The finished loaf should be 190ºF in the center, and the bottom should sound hollow when thumped.
Remove the bread immediately from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2, before slicing or serving. To store, wrap the cooled loaf in plastic wrap or store in a plastic bag in a cool, dark place. Do not refrigerate it because doing so will cause the bread to dry out. If it cannot be eaten within 3 days, I recommend slicing then freezing it, which allows you to remove only as much as you need.