Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Final Answer... Sandwich Bread Recipe

Cartoon Bread ... Too big!
When I wrote I Get to Bake Bread Today..., and I researched past bread posts, I was reminded that in I Still Bake, Part 1 and I Still Bake, Part 2, I was working on perfecting my recipe, especially for timing and the length of the sponge rise.  And in Cartoon Bread, I was having trouble with loaf size.

I thought I should come back, and share where I've come with my bread recipe since then.

I made 4 loaves with 2 eaten by the dogs last Wednesday, so Thursday I made 4 more loaves.  On Sunday, I baked another 4-loaf batch, which was down to scraps and heels by late Tuesday.  Besides devouring it in short order, the kids are commenting on how good the bread is lately, and asking why it's better.  It's obviously a hit with the dogs, too...  So I guess I've hit on THE method and recipe with which I can feel satisfied.

I have adjusted the amount of water in the recipe, which affects the amount of flour needed.  This regulates the batch size so that the loaves aren't too big for my 8" bread pans.  Bigger Pans would be an alternative answer, but that means spending money we don't need to, and I'm not sure I could fit 4 loaves in the oven, as I do now.
Sponge when first mixed

I have also settled on a sponge rise time that works pretty well into any day's schedule...
Sponge after rise time.
Click on the photos to see images larger
since it's flexible, but doesn't have a negative effect on the result.  

Additionally, to slow the rise, I reduced the amount of yeast.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
Makes 4 (8 x 4 1/2 inch) loaves

I use my Bosch Universal Plus Bread Mixer.  I would use 1/2 this recipe to use a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, or any other electric mixer that can be fitted with a dough hook for the "after-sponge" portion of the mixing and kneading.  You can also, of course, mix and knead by hand, but I haven't done it that way in awhile.

Mix the following in the mixing bowl:
3/4 cup Canola oil
4 1/4 cups water
2 Tablespoons Instant Yeast
Close-up of sponge after 4 hours
5 cups freshly milled Montana Wheat Prairie Gold hard white wheat (or comparable brand of protein rich wheat flour, like King Arthur.  If not freshly milled, you may not have the same rise result.  If this happens, try replacing up to half of the flour with all-purpose flour)

This should look similar to the consistency of pancake batter.  Let rest, covered for 2 to 8 hours.  I usually aim for around 4 hours, which means I can start the sponge in the mid-morning, tend to schooling and other tasks, then finish kneading in the early to mid afternoon, with bread baked before dinner, and cooled enough to bag about the time dinner dishes are done.

If you've been using a regular mixer paddle or beaters, refit the mixer with the dough hook.  Stir the dough as you add
3 Tablespoons Dough Enhancer
1/2 cup Vital Wheat Gluten
2 Tablespoons salt (I use Kosher Salt)

Then add approximately
7 - 8 cups of freshly milled hard white wheat flour (or other, as noted above)
one cup at a time, until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl as it mixes.
The bowl is almost clean after kneading

Knead 7 minutes in the mixer, or approximately 10 minutes by hand, until stretchy and not too sticky.

At this point I use my Escali Scale.  I spray a pasta bowl with Pam, then weigh the whole mound of dough.  Use that total, divide into 4, so you know how much each portion should weigh for each loaf.  Turn dough onto the counter and divide into 4 pieces... 
I use my dough cutter or stainless scraper/chopper.  Weigh each and adjust each until they're close to equal.  They should be approximately 25 ounces each.

Shape each section into loaves, pulling the outsides to the bottom and pinching together underneath, so that it is roundish or loaf-shaped... Or flatten the dough and roll into a loaf, using a hand-kneading motion.  Tuck the ends under, and pinch all seams together underneath.  It's not too important that it's the perfect shape.  I have put 'loaves' into the pan that look more like softballs than a loaf of bread, but as they rise, they shape to the pan.

Place each, as shaped, into greased bread pans.  Coat the loaves lightly with oil, or spray with Pam.

Cover the loaves with a towel, and let rise at room temperature for 45 to 90 minutes. So many things can affect the length of the rise, and waiting long enough, without letting it rise too much, is important to the texture and lightness of the bread.  (Sometime during that time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.)  
After waiting about 45 minutes, test the dough by pressing with finger tips or knuckles.  If it springs back, it's not ready/not risen enough.  Check every 10 to 20 minutes until the impressions stay.

Place the pans on the middle oven rack, making sure there is space between each pan, and between each pan and the oven wall.  Also, make sure the upper rack is high enough so that the rising bread won't reach it.  
Phew...BARELY under the upper rack

Bake the loaves approximately 30 minutes, until the internal temperature is 190 to 200 degrees.  

Remove immediately from the pans, and place on racks and cover with a towel to cool.   

If you have dogs,
keep the bread far back from
 the edge of the counter or table!  ;-)

Let cool at least an hour (if you can) before cutting.  Use a good, sharp, serrated knife so that the bread isn't squashed or torn.  After fully cooled, store in plastic bags at room temperature (as much air removed as possible) or, if you need to save some, wrap well to fully protect, and freeze.  (No refrigeration)

Previous related posts:                                                                                                                                            

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