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Baking Beginner Sandwich Bread

 

Baking beginner sandwich bread[A few readers have suggested that the recipe would be even easier if it didn't use a couple of ingredients that non-bakers would never have on hand; I've revised the recipe to use more common ingredients, while still keeping it as easy as possible!]

I love fresh bread. I love the smell, I love the feel of cutting into it when it’s still a little warm, I love it plain and with butter and with peanut butter and toasted or not. I love to make sandwiches with it.

And I love making bread. I love the process. I love that it’s an excuse to stay home for a few hours (sorry, can’t help, I have bread rising!), even though there’s not much hands-on time involved. I love the look non-bread-makers give me when they find out I make practically all of the bread I eat, as if I’d just told them I’ve mastered time travel.

People who don’t bake bread often think it’s hard. And while there are some tricks – bread dough can be fussy – baking bread is something that even a kid could do with the right instructions. Some breads are just more difficult than others. I still haven’t mastered a crusty, bubbly French bread, and I’ve never even attempted croissants.

But white sandwich bread? As easy as it gets.

My Perfect Loaf

I’ve probably tried a dozen white sandwich bread recipes in the past few years, and while all of them were tasty, I decided a few days ago that I really wanted to develop my own. Some of the loaves I liked best were a bit of a pain to make (I’d rather not have to get out my candy thermometer and microwave milk if I can help it!). Others were really tasty, but fell apart when sliced.

What I wanted was something easy to make that I could throw together in my stand mixer in ten minutes or less. I wanted it to be very soft, a little sweet, and dense enough to hold up when sliced – great for toasting and sandwiches. Not heavy, but something that won’t fall apart if I try to spread something on it without toasting it. And, I wanted it to be able to sit out on my counter for a while – refrigerated bread tastes fine, but I like it better room temperature if I’m not toasting it.

The first loaf I tried actually tasted great, but I needed a few tries to really nail down the measurements. I’m very happy to report that I’ve got it, and I’m thrilled to share this easy, delicious recipe with you!

Baking beginner sandwich bread

Special Ingredients

Now, there are a couple of ingredients in this bread that you probably don’t have on hand if you don’t do a lot of baking, but get them and you won’t be disappointed.

The first is Baker’s Dry Milk (please note that this is not the same as powdered milk). Some of my favorite bread recipes call for milk, but warming it up was an extra step I didn’t want to deal with. Baker’s dry milk tastes just as good in bread, and helps make the bread soft.

The second is Instant Yeast. If you use regular yeast, you have to put it in warm water or milk first and let it sit until bubbly. Again, something I just don’t like to deal with if I don’t have to. Instant Yeast can be mixed into the dry ingredients – easy peasy. Good tip: store it in the refrigerator. It will last longer. I store mine in these great containers, which I was able to buy with the yeast from King Arthur Flour.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

Other than that, you just need bread loaf pans and some other common ingredients you probably have, like flour, sugar, vegetable or corn oil, and salt.

Special Equipment

Do you need a stand mixer to make good bread? It helps. And it’s quick. But I made bread by hand for years before I bought a mixer, so it’s definitely not required. And kneading dough by hand gives you gorgeous arms.

Another item that is optional but oh-so-awesome is a kitchen scale. It is so much easier – and accurate – to measure dry ingredients by weight than by using measuring cups. Flour is very fussy when put in measuring cups – it has to be scooped or spooned into the measuring cup, rather than using the measuring cup as the scoop. Otherwise, you get way more flour than you need. But if you measure it by weight, you’ll always get the right amount! And even with ingredients that aren’t so fussy, like sugar, you’ll have fewer things to wash, and it’s just quicker. Mine is an Oxo.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

Don’t Quit!

One last note before we get started: sometimes bread just fails. I’ve had loaves fall or turn out terrible and I never knew why. It happens rarely, but it does happen. If it happens to you, don’t quit! Making bread is part art and part science, and the more often you do it, the more comfortable you’ll get with it.

Now, let’s get started! Since I’m assuming you’re beginners, I’ve written this out with plenty of tips to follow as you go. If you just want the straight recipe, you can find that at the end of the post.

Amy’s White Sandwich Bread

This recipe makes two loaves. You can totally halve the recipe for one loaf, but then you’ll only have one loaf! Two is always better than one when talking about fresh bread.

Ingredients

24 ounces all-purpose flour (5 1/2 cups) plus more if needed

2 ounces Baker’s Dry Milk (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons)

3 ounces granulated sugar (6 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon salt

4.5 teaspoons Instant Yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water

1/4 cup vegetable or corn oil

Directions

Gather all of your ingredients except for the warm water – you don’t want to get that until you need it, so that it doesn’t cool down.

Put all of the dry ingredients in your mixing bowl and stir well with a spoon.

Get your warm water. How warm? Very. It should feel almost hot on your finger, but you should have no trouble holding your finger in the water at all without it hurting. If it’s too hot for your finger, it’s too hot for the yeast and will kill it.

If you have a thermometer and actually want to measure the temp, it should be between 100 and 110 degrees. But unless you have super-sensitive (or super-not-sensitive) fingers, you don’t need to measure the temp.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

Add the water and oil to the dry ingredients and give everything a good stir. You can also reach your hand in and knead everything together a few times, but it’s not necessary if you don’t want to get your hands dirty.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

Now it’s time to use your stand mixer and dough hook. Get it going on the lowest speed. After a couple minutes it should be forming something of a ball around the hook.

If the dough is too wet to make a ball (the top of the dough is wrapped around the hook, but the bottom is sticking to the bowl), you need to add more flour. Add only a spoonful at a time and let it work its way in completely before adding more. Once it’s not sticking to the bowl anymore, stop adding flour! Otherwise, your bread will be like a rock. It’s OK (good, actually) if the dough feels tacky – what’s important is that it’s forming a ball and getting kneaded, not just spinning around.

If you’ve halved the recipe, you may have a little trouble getting the dough to form a ball. If that’s the case, stop the mixer, reach in, and knead the dough a few times with your hands. This will help the hook grab it.

On the other hand, if your mixer is on the small side, it may not be big enough for this two-loaf recipe. Watch it carefully, to make sure it doesn’t go over the top of your hook and goop up the insides of the mixer.

Once the dough has formed a ball, continue kneading for five minutes. Then check it by sticking your finger in, up to the second knuckle. The dough should spring back fairly quickly, closing the hole almost all the way so that it looks like a belly button. If it’s not springing back, let it knead for two or three more minutes. At that point, it should be good.

 

What if you’re doing this by hand? Good for you. Fold the dough in half, pushing down hard. Give the whole thing a quarter-turn clockwise. Fold the dough in half again. Give another quarter-turn clockwise. Repeat. A lot.

Don’t be surprised if it takes you twenty to thirty minutes to get the dough to the point where it passes the belly button test. Don’t worry, you’ll be paid back by the smugness you can exude when telling people you made the bread completely by hand.

Next, the dough needs to rise in a warm, cozy environment. I highly recommend dough buckets (I have the 4-quart size) because one, they have lids – no plastic wrap needed, and you get a nice tight seal. Two, they have markings on the outside and are shaped almost straight up-and-down, making it easy to see when your dough has doubled.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

If you don’t have a dough bucket, any big bowl will do – just make sure it is at least twice as big as your ball of dough.

Lightly oil your bucket or bowl, put the dough ball in, and roll it around a bit to coat all of it in oil. Cover. If you’re using plastic wrap, make sure it’s a tight seal – you might even want to use a big rubber band to hold it in place.

If your kitchen is very warm, you can probably let the dough rise on the counter. That’s what I do in the summer when I don’t have the air conditioner on. Otherwise, I like to let it rise in my oven. I turn my oven on for literally a minute or two, just so it starts to get warm, then I turn it off, put my dough bucket in, and close the door. Another good option is to boil a pan of water, put it in the microwave with the dough bucket, and close the door.

The important thing to remember about rising times is that they’re just a guide. What matters is how much the dough has risen. What takes one hour in my kitchen might take two or even three hours in yours. You want to let it rise long enough to double in volume.

This batch doubled for me in 90 minutes.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

Once the dough has doubled, take it out and knead it on the counter a few times, to get all of the air pockets out. Divide in half by cutting it, ideally with another of my favorite kitchen tools, a dough scraper. Or use a knife. But don’t stretch and tear the dough, ever. Always cut it.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

If you want to put the halves on your kitchen scale and make sure they’re close to even, do it! That way they will both bake at the same rate. Cut off small pieces to even them out if you have to. Knead the bread a few more times to work the cut pieces in. The dough should be rather stiff, so they won’t knead in easily, but that’s OK.

Now you want to form a couple of loaves. I don’t get fancy with this, I just kind-of roll them into loaf shapes, putting the ugliest part on the bottom. I never promised you pretty loaves, just tasty ones. If you want really pretty, even loaves, I’d suggest using a different recipe. The denseness of this dough makes it a sturdy bread, but also makes it more difficult to form into a pretty loaf.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

Lightly oil your bread pans and put the dough in (ugly side down!). Press it down a bit in the middle. The middle is going to be higher than the ends no matter what you do, but you can make it a bit more even by starting it out as even as possible.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

Cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap. Notice I have the pans totally covered, but I haven’t tucked the plastic wrap in anywhere. The bread needs to rise over the top of the pan, and you don’t want the plastic wrap to restrict it.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

Again, you want it to rise in a warm place. I like to preheat my oven while the dough is doing this second rise, so I put them on top of the stove and let the oven preheat to 325.

A note about oven temperature: your oven is probably cooler than you think it is, and it probably takes longer to preheat than you think it does. I have to set my oven to 350 and preheat it for about half an hour to get it to around 325. I recommend investing in an oven thermometer so that you can know what’s going on.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

Some recipes call for you to preheat the oven higher than you need it, then lower the temperature after you put your baked goods in. Do not do that with bread. Better for the oven to be a little too cool in the beginning than too hot. You want your dough to “pop” – rise again quickly in the oven one last time. But if your oven is too hot, the bread can start crusting over before it has a chance to pop. Not good.

Set your timer for half an hour. You want to bread to rise about an inch over the top of the pan. If it isn’t there after half an hour, check it every ten minutes after that. A rough guide is that the second rise will be half as long as the first rise. So, if it took you two hours to get your bread to double in the first rise, it will probably take an hour to get it an inch over the pan in the second rise.

Still, you should check it after half an hour, because you never know.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

Once the second rise is done, you can do the totally optional step of slashing the top of the dough – if you have a razor or lame. Do not try this with a regular knife. It will not be sharp enough, and you will ruin your dough. I use a lame, which I bought on Amazon. Just store it in a safe place.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

I’ll admit that slashing this particular dough isn’t really necessary. With some doughs you absolutely need to, or the bread will do things you don’t want it to do. But for this bread, I just like the way it looks.

If you’re going to slash it, do it fast, about half an inch deep.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

Time to put the bread in the oven! Be gentle at this point. If you accidentally bang the pan against the oven rack, your bread could fall. And this is not a good time for your kids to wrestle in the kitchen.

If your temp really is 325, you should be baking the loaves for 35 minutes. There’s no great way to know when bread is done. My mom seems to be able to tap it and hear that it’s done, but she did not pass that on to me – it all sounds the same.

Some will tell you insert a thermometer in and it has to be a certain temperature. When I try that I just end up with a big doughy section where I stuck the bread.

35 minutes should do it. If it turns out too dark for your taste, you can tent some aluminum foil over the top for the last ten minutes next time.

Next, you want to get those beautiful, hot loaves out of the pans as soon as possible. Turn them out onto a cooling rack, and cool completely. Or almost completely if you just can’t stand to wait. Just don’t cut into the bread when it’s still hot – the inside will get gluey.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

If you like your crust extra soft, like my son does, you can brush melted butter over the top as soon as you get it on the cooling rack. And once the bread is completely cool, storing it in a plastic bag will soften the crust up considerably. I use these bags. They’re thick and sturdy.

Baking beginner sandwich bread

And that’s it! How did you do?

Here’s the recipe written out without all of my talking, for those of you who don’t need the tips.

Enjoy your homemade bread!

Amy’s White Sandwich Bread

Ingredients

24 ounces all-purpose flour (5 1/2 cups) plus more if needed

2 ounces Baker’s Dry Milk (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons)

3 ounces granulated sugar (6 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon salt

4.5 teaspoons Instant Yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water

1/4 cup vegetable or corn oil

Directions

Combine dry ingredients in stand mixer bowl and mix together with a spoon

Add warm water and oil and combine with spoon

Set stand mixer to 1 or 2 and knead with dough hook for 7-10 minutes, until dough is smooth and springy

Put in lightly-oiled dough bucket or bowl, cover tightly, and rise until doubled

Knead a few times by hand, cut in half, and form into two loaves

Put loaves in lightly-oiled bread pans and cover loosely with plastic wrap

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Let dough rise until highest part of dough reaches one inch over the tops of the pans

Bake in middle of oven for 35 minutes, tenting with aluminum foil for last ten minutes if you don’t want the crust too dark

Turn out immediately onto cooling rack and let cool completely before cutting

Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.

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One Response to “Baking Beginner Sandwich Bread”

  1. Lisa on October 27th, 2013 4:08 pm
    1

    I love bread! It’s one of my weaknesses besides chocolate. I would love to make this. Thanks Amy!
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