I Like to Cook Stuff

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread Recipe

 

As a step to further eliminate processed foods from our household, I decided to take up bread making and it was one of the best skills I’ve ever learned! Store-bought bread can’t compete with the homemade stuff – taste-wise or ingredient-wise.

 

Making homemade bread can be intimidating at first, and you’re destined to produce an ugly loaf or two, but just as with everything in life – practice make perfect! Here’s a few tips to help get you started in the right direction:

 

-          Measure your ingredients, especially flours and liquids, by weight if possible. This will increase your chances of getting that perfect loaf every time. When measuring by volume, the actual amount can vary quite significantly. Before I started weighing my ingredients, I would get some high loaves, some short loaves, some soft loaves, some dense loaves… when I take the time to weight my ingredients I get more consistent results.

-          Use rise times stated in recipes as a guide only – don’t watch the clock! Rise times can vary depending on several variables that are out of your control… the temperature, humidity, quality of your yeast, etc. The best technique is to keep an eye on your dough and not the clock.

-          Invest in an electric carving knife. Trust me, serrated knives just do not cut it (pun intended). And I use the term “invest” loosely, because it isn’t much of an investment – I got mine at Target for $10 and it works really well. I can usually make between 18-20 perfect slices per loaf, whereas with a serrated knife, I was getting between 12-14 torn, tattered and ugly slices that were way too thick for sandwiches.

-          Knead it long enough! The purpose of kneading is not just to incorporate all the ingredients, it also helps develop the gluten in your bread, which (long story short), helps your dough rise. Knead by hand for at least 10 minutes.

-          Experiment with different flours. You’d be amazed how different your results can be just by buying a different brand of flour. I have found my sweet spot with King Arthur’s White Wheat and White All Purpose. Previously, I used Bob’s Red Mill Wheat flour and it made a more dense loaf.

 

This is a basic, no frills sandwich bread recipe and it is a keeper! Let’s go through the steps (ingredient list and recipe are below):

 

If you are a beginner, or just really organized like me, it may be helpful to measure out your ingredients first.

 

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Pour the water into a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Let your yeast “proof” for a few minutes. It should dissolve and get foamy – if it doesn’t, your yeast is probably bad or your water was way too hot/cold. If you messed up here, go ahead and just start over.

 

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Add the milk, honey, oil and salt stir a bit – then pour in the all purpose flour and combine. Once that is mostly soaked up, add the wheat flour and combine. Don’t worry about being gentle. Stir until a “shaggy” dough is formed. It will look something like this.

 

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Flour your kneading surface with a bit of the reserved all purpose flour and dump out the dough, scraping the bowl down to get all excess bits. Let this sit for several minutes to give the flour time to absorb the liquid – in the meantime, I like to wash my bowl so I can use it for my dough to rise in.

 

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When you’re ready to start kneading, take both hands and press the dough from all sides, helping to form it into a ball. Flatten it out and fold it over on itself, pushing forward as you flatten (this helps to stretch the gluten strands). NOTE: Use both hands – I am only using one hand in these photos because I was holding the camera with the other one! As you continue kneading, it will come together nicely and be a lot easier to work with.  In my personal experience, this is not a sticky dough and does not require much additional flour for kneading, but if it is sticking to your work top and your fingers, work in more flour a few tablespoons at a time until it is not sticking. Get a good rhythm going with kneading – flattening out the dough, then folding it over to work it into itself.

 

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When the dough is kneaded sufficiently it will be slightly tacky but not sticky, form a pretty firm ball (not saggy), and it should pass the poke test – poke it with your finger and the indentation should bounce right back. Form into a ball. Spray your mixing bowl with cooking spray and place the dough inside, turning it over a few times to get it evenly coated with the spray. Cover it with a tea towel and place it, ideally, in a warm and draft free place to rise.

 

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My time on the first rise is usually between 45 minutes to an hour. This dough doesn’t rise quite as dramatically as some recipes, as in, it won’t be crawling out of your bowl. But it should visibly double.

 

Once it has risen, spray your two loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside. Dump out your dough onto your surface (lightly floured if you want – but I have no trouble with it sticking). Use a bench scraper or knife to divide it into two equal portions. Set one aside. Form the remaining portion into a ball then begin to roll it back and forth with your hands on top, creating a tube shape. When it is about the length of a loaf, pick a side to be the bottom and fold it similar to a letter – taking one side and pulling it up to meet the other side and then pinching the seam in the middle. Then, fold it in half over the seam you just made, bringing the sides up again and pinching a new seam. Flip the loaf over and pat the sides if they are uneven. The folding thing probably seems weird – but it helps create a tight surface on the top, allowing your dough to rise more easily and avoiding a dense interior. Place it in a pan and repeat the process with the other loaf.

 

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Tear off a piece of plastic wrap and spray it with cooking spray. Drape this over the loaves (do not seal or wrap in any way) and set them aside to rise.

 

My second rise is usually 10 minutes or so LESS than my first rise, but let it rise until the loaf starts peeking out of the edge of the pan. There have been a couple of times where the loaves just did not want to rise all the way, so I placed them in the oven at the lowest temperate for a few minutes and they finished rising just fine.

 

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Once your loaves are getting close to be being risen, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Once preheated, take a serrated knife and slash the top of the loaves.

 

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Place the loaves inside the oven, then immediately turn down to 375 degrees and bake for 30-35 minutes. The loaves should have a dark brown crust. Remove them from the pans immediately, but wait until completely cooled (overnight if necessary) before slicing. This is important! If you slice it while hot the bread will get mushed. After slicing, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil. Place into a bag and freeze if desired – otherwise the bread lasts about a week if you keep it wrapped tightly.

 

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The Recipe

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Pour the water into a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Let proof for  a few minutes until foamy.
  2. Add the milk, honey, oil and salt and stir a bit. Then add the all purpose flour and stir until incorporated. Finally, add the wheat flour and combine until a “shaggy” dough forms. Turn this out on a floured surface and let sit for several minutes while you clean your bowl for later use.
  3. Take both hands and press the dough from all sides, helping to form it into a ball. Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes, until it springs back when poked. Spray your bowl with cooking spray and place the dough inside, turning it over a few times to coat it with oil. Let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to an hour.
  4. Once it has risen, spray your two loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside. Dump out your dough onto your surface and use a bench scraper or knife to divide it into two equal portions. Set one aside. Form the remaining portion into a ball then begin to roll it back and forth with your hands on top, creating a tube shape. When it is about the length of a loaf, pick a side to be the bottom and fold it similar to a letter – taking one side and pulling it up to meet the other side and then pinching the seam in the middle. Then, fold it in half over the seam you just made, bringing the sides up again and pinching a new seam. Flip the loaf over and pat the sides if they are uneven. Place it in a pan and repeat the process with the other loaf. Tear off a piece of plastic wrap and spray it with cooking spray. Drape this over the loaves and set them aside to rise.
  5. Let rise about 35-50 minutes, or until the loaves start to peek out of the pan.
  6. Once your loaves are getting close to be being risen, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Once preheated, take a serrated knife and slash the top of the loaves. Place the loaves inside the oven, then immediately turn down to 375 degrees and bake for 30-35 minutes. The loaves should have a dark brown crust. Remove them from the pans immediately, but wait until completely cooled (overnight if necessary) before slicing.

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