I am going to state some true facts. I know that it is redundant to say ‘true’ before ‘facts’ because facts are true by definition but I did anyway for emphasis so don’t judge.
1. Everybody loves bread because bread is the best thing ever.
I also know that this is a gross generalization but really, is someone going to argue with me? You’re going to try to find someone who doesn’t like a really good slice of bread? Have fun with that one, hoodlum.
2. My new year’s resolution was to become really good at making really good bread.
I did not resolve to eat healthier. I did not resolve to regain the work ethic that slipped out of my life as soon as the titles of “senior” and then “going to college” were placed upon my head. I should have done both of those things but I figured the whole bread deal would be a lottttt more fun. And it totally was.
3. I am now capable of making really good bread. Useful, versatile, delicious, legitimate bread.
Technically this is subjective, but once again, I would have a hard time finding someone who would argue that this bread is not completely on top of the sandwich bread food chain. It’s basically a black bear, while Wonder Bread is a small rodent of sorts. This bread comes from Sarabeth Bakery’s epic and beautiful cookbook, which I highly recommend to anyone, and basically encompasses everything that a sane person would want in a loaf of standard sandwich bread. It’s about half whole wheat and half white, but if whole wheat isn’t your cup of tea, it would work fine using 100% white flour. For me, the whole wheat makes it okay to smother the bread in butter/biscoff/jam and still trick my head into thinking it’s “healthy.”
A side note: has everybody tried Biscoff spread yet? If you just said no in your head, then you need to get your hands on a jar RIGHT NOW! It is the greatest thing of my life. But really.
Perfect Sandwich Bread
From Sarabeth’s Bakery
3 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
¼ cup honey
2 ¼ cups cold water
2 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
2 ¾ cups bread flour, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons stone-ground yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (I omitted this)
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons hulled sunflower seeds
Solftened unsalted butter, for the bowl and pans
1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
- Sprinkle the yeast over ¼ cup warm water (105-115 degrees F) in a small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes to soften the yeast, then stir to dissolve. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 2 cups cold water and the honey and whisk to combine.
- Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. Combine the whole wheat flour, 2 ¼ cups of the bread flour, the cornmeal, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and salt in a large bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and seed mixture. Beat until a dough begins to form. Gradually add enough of the remaining bread flour to form a rough dough that cleans the sides of the bowl. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky, about 5 minutes, again adding a little more flour only if necessary- keep the dough soft. During the last minute or so, add the sunflower seeds.
- Transfer the dough to a clean work surface. Knead with your hands to check the dough’s texture: it should be slightly sticky but not stick to the work surface. Knead in more flour only if needed. Butter a medium bowl. Shape the dough into a taut ball by pulling the sides of the dough together into the middle of the dough ball and sealing the ends together. Place in the bowl, turn to coat with butter, and turn smooth side up. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until the dough doubles in volume, about 1 ¼ hours.
- Cut the dough in half. Shape each piece into a ball. Place on a lightly floured work surface and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand for 15 minutes. Butter two 8 by 4 by 2 1/2 –inch loaf pans. Working with one ball of dough at a time, gently press on the dough ball to deflate the dough. Pat the dough into a thick 8-inch-long rectangle. Starting from the long side, roll and shape the dough into an 8-inch-long loaf and pinch the long seam closed. Place, seam side down, in the pan. Repeat with the second dough ball. Place the pans on a half-sheet pan.
- Choose a warm spot in the kitchen for proofing. Slip the pan with the loaf pans into a tall “kitchen-sized” plastic bag (I used a trash bag… don’t judge. It worked great!) Place a tall glass of hot water on the pan between the loaves to keep the plastic from touching the dough. Tightly close the bag, trapping air in the bag to partially inflate it. Let stand until the loaves gently dome about an inch above the tops of the pans, about 45 minutes. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
- When the dough is ready, remove the glass from the bag, then the pan with the loaf pans. Brush the tops lightly but thoroughly with the beaten egg. Bake until the loaves are browned and sound hollow when tapped with a wooden spoon, about 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pans and cool completely on the rack.
Bread is my religion.