Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sandwich Bread

adapted from Joy of Cooking

Makes 2 loaves of sandwich style bread

4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup milk
1 cup water
2 tablespoons shortening or butter
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
1 tablespoon salt
4 to 5 1/2 cups bread flour

Combine lukewarm water and yeast in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine milk, 1 cup water, shortening, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Stir and heat over medium low heat until sugar and salt has dissolved. Mixture should be lukewarm to the touch- but no warmer than 115ºF.

Pour warmed milk mixture into the yeast mixture, stir to combine. Add 3 cups of the bread flour and stir vigorously for 1 minute. Adding 1/2 cup of flour at a time, stir in flour with a wooden spoon until you can't anymore. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and begin kneading with your hands- adding enough flour at a time to keep the dough from sticking. Depending on the humidity this can take a little or a lot more flour. Knead for a total of 10 minutes.

Set dough in a lightly greased large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 1/2 hours. Punch dough down, knead briefly, and allow to rise again for about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Divide dough in half and shape into two loaves. Place in two 9x5 loaf pans that have been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. While the dough is rising the final time, preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Place the bread pans in the oven for 10 minutes.

Without opening the door, turn the temperature down to 375ºF. Bake for another 30 minutes. The bread should be golden brown and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Remove to cooling racks to cool completely.

This bread slices very well for sandwiches and is very slow to stale. It also stores nicely well-wrapped in a freezer.

**To make a whole-wheat or other grain variety, increase the yeast to 4 1/4 teaspoons, and swap out 2 cups of the initial addition of bread flour for your choice of flour. Whole wheat, rye, and oat flour all work very nicely.

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