So, apparently there is a shortage of snow plows in scenic southern Maryland. We have been snowed in for days after a few inches of the white, fluffy stuff graced our peninsula. The first item we ran out of was sandwich bread. Although my husband and I don’t eat carbohydrates often, my two-year-old son lives on ‘sammiches’ – cheese, tuna, ham, egg or otherwise. And of course this mom didn’t realize we were down to the last piece until my son grabbed it and shoveled it into his mouth while humming the theme song to Mission Impossible. (There are certain things that are better left unquestioned.)
With lunch a mere three hours away, I jumped onto my favorite cooking sites to find salvation. And yes, victory was mine. This sandwich bread proofs and cooks in under two hours. And the bonus? It contains some whole-wheat flour and it tastes great!
Editor’s Note: While I usually link directly to recipes published online, Cook’s Illustrated is a pay-to-use website.
Easy Sandwich Bread
Makes 1 Loaf
To prevent the loaf from deflating as it rises, do not let the batter come in contact with the plastic wrap. This loaf is best eaten the day it is made, but leftovers may be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored for up to two days at room temperature or frozen for up to one month.
2 cups (11 oz) bread flour
6 Tbsp (2 oz) whole-wheat flour
2¼ tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast
1¼ cups plus 2 Tbsp warm water (120˚)
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp honey
¾ tsp salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp water and pinch salt
In bowl of stand mixer, whisk bread flour, whole-wheat flour, and yeast together. Add 1¼ cups warm water, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and honey. Fit stand mixer with paddle and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl and paddle with greased rubber spatula. Continue to mix 2 minutes longer. Remove bowl and paddle from mixer. Scrape down bowl and paddle, leaving paddle in batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let batter rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 20 minutes.
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Dissolve salt in remaining 2 tablespoons warm water. When batter has doubled, attach bowl and paddle to mixer. Add salt-water mixture and mix on low speed until water is mostly incorporated, about 40 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, scraping down paddle if necessary. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth surface with greased rubber spatula. Cover and leave in warm place until batter reaches ½ inch below edge of pan, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover and let rise until center of batter is level with edge of pan, 5 to 10 minutes longer.
Gently brush top of risen loaf with egg mixture. Bake until deep golden brown and loaf registers 208˚ to 210˚, 40 to 45 minutes. (If using a 9 by 5-inch pan, check for doneness 5 minutes earlier.) Using dish towels, carefully invert bread onto wire rack. Reinvert loaf and brush top and sides with remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter. Let cool completely before slicing.
WHAT MAKES IT FASTER—AND EASIER?
The dough, or batter, for our bread is made with more than double the amount of yeast used in a typical sandwich bread, and it has 20 percent more water by weight. We also use the paddle attachment of our stand mixer instead of the dough hook employed for almost all other bread doughs.
MORE YEAST: WHY IT HELPS
Lots of yeast means a faster rise—20 minutes versus up to 2 hours for a standard loaf.
HIGHER HYDRATION: WHY IT HELPS
More water in the dough (up to a point) enhances gluten structure without requiring as much kneading; it also results in pourable dough that doesn’t need shaping.
PADDLE ATTACHMENT: WHY IT HELPS
Using a paddle (more typically used to beat heavy cookie dough) instead of a dough hook allows for more aggressive, faster kneading.
FLAVOR FIXOne downside of cutting back on rising time is a sacrifice in flavor, since the trademark taste of a classic loaf develops as fermentation occurs during two slow rises. We compensate for this by adding butter and honey to the batter as well as a bit of nutty whole-wheat flour.