Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Basic Sandwich Loaf

Adapted from this recipe.

yield: two 8"x4" loaves

Dough Starter (Sponge)

  • 12 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (2¼ cups plus 2½ T)
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¾ cups water, room temperature
  • 1½ ounces honey (2T plus 1 tsp)
  • ¾ tsp instant yeast

Flour Mixture and Dough

  • 11 ounces whole wheat (or white whole wheat) flour (2 cups plus 3 T)
  • ¾ tsp instant yeast
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 tsp salt
Scald the milk by microwaving it for 1 minute on high. Meanwhile, combine the white flour, honey, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Combine the water and milk, and whisk into the flour mixture briskly until smooth, to incorporate air into the starter.

Sprinkle half of the whole wheat flour over the sponge, sprinkle the yeast over the flour, then add the remaining flour in an even layer. Cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature one to four hours. Set out the stick of butter to soften.

Add the salt and butter, and work the dough together in the bowl with your hand. When it comes together, knead for a few more minutes (five total). The dough will be quite sticky, but try not to add too much flour. Form the dough into a ball on the counter and turn the bowl upside down over it on the counter. Let rest 20 minutes, then knead for five more minutes. (The dough should be easier to handle this second time). Return the dough to the bowl, flatten the surface, cover tightly and let rise until doubled, 1 to 1½ hours.

Turn the dough out onto the counter and flatten gently into a rectangle, without squishing out too much air. Fold it in thirds like a letter, turn and fold in thirds again. Flip it over, return it to the bowl, and gently flatten. Let rise again until doubled, about an hour.

Turn out the dough and cut it in half. Shape each piece by pressing or rolling it into a rectangle with the long side facing you, deflating any very large bubbles with your fingertips. Fold one side in to the center, then fold the other side to meet or slightly overlap it. Starting at the top, roll up the dough, pulling on the roll to stretch it slightly as you roll. Seal the edge, and if necessary, roll the loaf under your hands until it is as long as your loaf pan. Place the loaves into greased pans, cover and let rise until the center is 1" above the top of the pans.

Set an oven rack in the lowest position. If you have a baking stone, set it on the rack. Preheat the oven to 350º. Set the bread pans on the stone and bake 50 minutes, turning halfway. (When done, an instant-read thermometer inserted into the bottom of the loaf should read 210º.) Remove from pans and cool on a rack.

Notes: Measuring by weight instead of volume guarantees consistent results with minimal effort, but if you don't have a scale, reserve a half-cup or so of the flour and add later as needed to get the texture right.

I use a Pyrex 8-cup measuring cup for the mixing bowl. It has a lid so you don't need saran wrap, it's easy to keep an eye on progress with the markings, and this recipe is doubled just when it reaches the lid for the first rise, and when it starts to lift the lid off the bowl for the second rise.

If you prefer, you may substitute water for the milk and add ¼ cup dry milk to the whole wheat flour.

This recipe stores well for about a week.

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