Making a 1lb loaf of five minute artisan bread for dinner each night has become an easy habit to fall into. I always have about four loaves worth of dough sitting in the fridge and it’s a rare day that goes by that I don’t make at least one loaf for dinner. But dinner is only one meal of the day, and since I work from home, a lot of sandwiches get made in our house. I have been on a search for a tasty, easy to make sandwich bread loaf recipe, and James Beard’s Home Style Bread from Beard On Breadis the closest that I’ve come so far.
I’ve never been a fan of wonder bread and was never served it at home growing up. Generally when I used to buy sandwich bread (before I started making all of my bread at home) I almost always went for a whole wheat bread. This was in part due to the (real or imagined) health benefits of the wheat bread or at least the lack of corn syrup additives. This recipe is most definitely a “white” bread, but it will never be compared to wonder bread. It has a slightly sweet crumb and a salty crust, and has a soft, pliant texture that is great at room temperature or toasted. As far as sandwiches go, it is firm enough to make a solid base for the filling, and it’s mild taste is perfect for my sandwich of choice, smoked turkey.
This recipe is made using milk as opposed to water, which I think contributes to the lightness. Beard insists on “proofing” the yeast, and despite the fact that commercial yeast is almost never completely dead, I always do this step in case it has a larger part to play in the overal development of the dough.
James Beard Home Style Bread Recipe
Based on the recipe found in Beard On Bread
2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast (1 packet)
2 cups warm milk (100°F-115°F)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cups melted butter
1 tablespoon salt
5-6 cups of all purpose flour
1+ teaspoon olive oil or butter for the rising bowl
Soft butter to coat two bread pans
1 egg, lightly beaten
Mix the sugar, yeast and 1/2 cup of the milk together in a small bowl and allow it to “proof” for several minutes. Put the rest of the milk, the butter and salt in a large bowl and mix in the firs three cups of flour. Next add in the yeast mixture, followed by the rest of the flour, a cup at a time. Only add enough flour until the dough comes together in a hard to stir mass. Dump out on a floured surface and knead, adding flour as necessary until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky. This generally takes between 5-10 minutes. Quit complaining, it’s good for your arm strength. Let the dough rest on the counter for a moment while you wash the original large bowl. I like to use very hot water so my ceramic mixing bowl is nice and warm (to help with the rising). Grease the bowl with olive oil or butter then add your dough to the bowl, coat with the butter or oil, then cover. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in a warm, draft free area.
Once the dough has doubled, push or punch the air out of it and knead again for 3-4 minutes. Cut the dough in half, shape them into loaves and put them in buttered loaf pans. Cover, and allow them to double again. Slash each loaf several times and coat with an egg wash, milk or water for a crispy brown crust and bake for 40-45 minutes at 400°F until they sound hollow when tapped on the tops. Remove from the pans and leave in the oven for a couple extra minutes to crisp them up. Allow the loaves to cool fully on racks.
After Action Report
This recipe makes two nice sized loaves, which is a little much for me and Dr. Fiance to use quick enough, so I decided to only par-bake one of the loaves and freeze it to see if that was a viable option. I essentially pulled one of the loaves out of the oven at around 30 minutes instead of 40, allowed it to cool fully then wrapped it in foil and a freezer bag and popped in the freezer. I don’t plan on keeping it long, probably no more than a week, so we’ll see how that goes. I used to always order Fresh Direct bread in NYC which was an awesome way to get fresh bread without the hassle. However, even though Fresh Direct bread was better than most, my bread makes all big box store bought bread taste just weak. Yeah, I said it. My bread knocked down your bread at recess and made it cry.