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American Sandwich Bread

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Recipe adopted from The New Best Recipe.  [Recipe makes (1) loaf].

If you were to ask someone to describe sliced American white bread, I'm willing to bet that your replies would lack of excitement or passion.  To most, white bread is something you use to build a sandwich, solely because you wouldn't have a sandwich without it.  The generic brands that we all grew up with have absolutely no flavor, are packed with (loads of) air and preservatives, and lack any desirable structure or texture.   Despite all of this, though, it's what most of us turn to since it's what we know.

As I've started to make more and more yeast breads at home, I've always been on the lookout for a recipe for this American staple.  I've tried many versions, but they've always fallen short.  Some have no flavor.  Some don't rise as they should.  And some lack in texture.  I want to be able to make that 'bread machine bread' without the bread machine.

Well, finally, I've found a winner!  This bread rose beautifully, had a crisp crust with a chewy interior, and had flavor!  I'm not sure what took me so long to try America's Test Kitchen's recipe, but I guess that's in the past now as the search is over with.  So with that, I urge you to give it a try and see what sliced American white bread is supposed to taste like.  Use this bread to bring a rustic quality to your standard BLT, give some body and texture to your French toast, or do as I did tonight and make a killer grilled cheese sandwich.  You always hear people saying that once you master sliced white bread, you'll never go back to the generic store bought stuff again.  I finally can join that group as there simply is no comparison between the two.

INGREDIENTS:

18 3/4 ounces (~4 cups) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt

1 cup warm whole milk
1/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 1/4 ounces (~3 tablespoons) honey
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

DIRECTIONS:

Adjust an oven rack to its lowest position and preheat the oven to 200° F.  Turn off the oven once it reaches 200° F.

Mix all but 1/4 cup of the flour with the salt in a stand mixer bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the warm milk, warm water, melted butter, honey, and yeast.  Using a hook attachment, slowly incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry.  Continue to scrape down the bowl and mix until a smooth dough is achieved.  If the dough seems too wet, add the additional flour, tablespoon by tablespoon.  Transfer the dough to a greased, ovenproof bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and transfer to the warm oven until the dough doubles in size, roughly 45 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into an 8-inch square.  Grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan.  Roll the dough into a log, making sure to keep it tight.  Fold the sides underneath the loaf and transfer to the loaf pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until the dough doubles in size once again, roughly 25 more minutes.

At this time, make sure the second oven rack is at the middle position, and then preheat the oven to 350° F.  Also, bring several cups of water to a boil.  Pour the boiling water into a rimmed sheet pan and transfer to the bottom rack of the oven.

When the dough has risen fully, transfer to the oven and bake for 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  Remove the bread from the tin and let rest on a cooling rack for an additional hour (or more) before slicing.

[Side note:  Freeze any leftover bread the day it's made, since there are no preservatives to give it the shelf life we're used to].

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