I have been on the hunt for the best homemade sandwich bread for a while. Buying your own flour and baking your own bread saves money over the storebought stuff...even if you buy bargain basement bread. Plus there is something super satisfying about knowing that you baked the bread your family loves the most.
Problem: Most homemade breads I've made have been very tasty but the texture just isn't right for making sandwiches. Something as close to the texture of storebought bread is really what I'm looking for.
This is the by far the best textured sandwich bread I've ever made. Period. It's not super dense like a lot of homemade breads. Plus it's easy. I use my bread machine to do the initial mixing for me and then let it spend some time rising. Overall, it's about 20-30 minutes of "work" and a few hours of resting and hanging out.
Recipe modfied from Peter Reinhart's, The Bread Baker's Apprentice
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 Tbsp Vital Gluten
1 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
3 Tbsp powdered milk
1 1/2 tsp "quick rise" or instant yeast
3 Tbsp soft unsalted butter, divided
2 Tbsp honey (optional)
2 cups slightly warm water
Organic canola cooking spray
In a large bowl (glass preferred), mix together the flours, gluten, sugar, salt, powdered milk and yeast. Set aside.
In the mixing bowl of your bread machine, add 1 1/2 cups of water (just slightly warmer than room temperature), 2 Tbsp butter and honey. Add about 2 cups of the flour mixture on top of the water and turn on the bread machine to the dough only setting.
Allow your machine to mix the ingredients, adding about 1/2 cup of flour mixture at a time once the flour in the bowl has begun to be incorporated. If the mix is looking too dry and the flour is having a hard time being incorporated, drizzle a couple tablespoons of warm water at a time in the corners until all flour is incorporated. Allow the machine to knead the dough for about 3 minutes beyond when all flour has been mixed in. The dough should be soft and hold together in a ball. (Pic 1 and 2)
While the machine is kneading, rinse out the large bowl you mixed the flour in. Dry it and spray with organic canola oil. Prepare microwave to serve as a rising place by microwaving a small jar or bowl of water on high for approximately 2 minutes to create a warm, slightly steamy environment.
After the 3 minute knead time has passed, turn the dough out of the bread machine into your oiled bowl. If the dough is very sticky, lightly sprinkle your countertop with about 1/2 cup flour and gently knead the dough over it. Otherwise, place the doughball in your bowl and spray the top of the dough ball with cooking spray as well. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and place in your prepared microwave.
Allow the dough to sit in the microwave for approximately 60-90 minutes (or longer if needed) until doubled in size.
Turn the dough out of the bowl and gently press it into a rectangle the width of your bread pan and 8-10 inches long. Form the loaf by gently rolling the dough starting at the short end. Pinch the seam to help seal. Place your loaf in a lightly oiled bread pan (make sure that the ends of the roll are touching the ends of your pan so that it rises properly). (pic 3)
Prepare your microwave as a rising spot once more by microwaving a small jar or bowl of water on high for approximately 2 minutes.
Lightly spray the top of the loaf with cooking spray and loosely place a piece of plastic wrap over the top. Place loaf pan in the prepared microwave to rise about 60 minutes (or longer if needed) until the dough crests above the lip of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the rack in the middle. Bake bread in oven for 30 - 45 minutes or until the top is a golden brown color. If using a thermometer, the internal temp should register at 190 degrees (but I just go based on a visual check). (pic 4)
Remove the bread from the oven and turn out of the bread pan immediately (using a towel or large oven mitt so as not to burn yourself!). Lightly thump the bottom of the bread. It should sound hollow. If not, you may need to return it to the oven to bake a bit longer. Spread the top of the finished bread with the remaining 1 Tbsp of softened butter. Allow to sit on a cooling rack for approx 2 hours before slicing, serving or storing.