1 3/4 cups (235 grams) unbleached bread flour
1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) SAF Red or Gold instant yeast Available on Amazon
1 1/4 teaspoons (5 grams) kosher salt
2/3 cup (150 grams) cold filtered water
White Sandwich Bread:
5 1/2 cups (715 grams) unbleached bread flour
1/2 cup (65 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (7 grams) SAF Red or Gold instant yeast Available on Amazon
3 3/4 teaspoons (15 grams) kosher salt
3 tablespoons (40 grams) granulated white sugar
Scant 1/2 cup (40 grams) dried milk powder
2 cups (480 grams) cold filtered water
5 tablespoons (75 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pre-Ferment: In a medium sized bowl stir the flour with the yeast and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the water. With a plastic scraper or wooden spoon, work the flour into the liquid, until all the flour has been moistened.
Then lightly oil a medium sized bowl. Place the dough into the bowl and flip it over so the top of the dough has a light coating of oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit (ferment) at room temperature for one hour. Then place in the refrigerator overnight (about 12 hours).
White Sandwich Bread: In a large bowl stir the flours with the yeast, salt, sugar, and dried milk powder. Remove the Pre-ferment from the refrigerator and cut it into small chunks. Pour the cold water into the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the dough hook. Then add the Pre-ferment and the flour mixture. Knead the dough on 1st speed for five minutes. Increase your mixer speed to 2nd speed and continue to knead the dough for about 4-6 minutes or until the dough cleans the bowl and is smooth, elastic, and not very sticky. Add the butter and continue to knead the dough, on 2nd speed, for another three to five minutes or until the dough cleans the bowl and is smooth and elastic.
Place your dough in a large bowl that has been lightly oiled. Turn the dough once so the top of the dough has a light coating of oil (this prevents a crust from forming on the top of the dough). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature (about 75 degree F) (24 degree C) until almost doubled (approximately 1 hour).
Turn out your dough onto a lightly floured surface. You want the top of the dough to now be on the bottom. Lightly flour the top of your dough and with the palms of your hands flatten the dough slightly to break any large air bubbles. Then divide the dough into two equal sized pieces (about 500 grams each). When you divide the dough use a pastry scraper or knife and cut, don't pull or stretch, the dough. Then, working with one piece of dough at a time, pre-shape your dough into a round. Do this by taking the edges of the dough and fold them into the center and gently seal. Then flip your dough over so the smooth side is facing up. With the palms of your hands rotate the ball of dough on your surface to create surface tension and to seal the edges of the dough completely. Place the rounds on a lightly floured baking sheet or board and cover with plastic wrap. Let the rounds of dough sit at room temperature for about 25-30 minutes. (This is to relax the dough and you will notice that the dough will rise a little.)
You will need two - 9 x 5 x 4 inch (23 x 12.5 x 10 cm) loaf pans. Lightly grease the pans with a flavorless oil or spray with a non stick vegetable spray.
Next, place the rounds of dough, upside down, onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Form the dough into a rectangle. Take the short edge of the rectangle and fold the dough lengthwise into thirds, like you're folding a letter. Make sure the edges of the dough are straight and even. Next, we need to shape the dough into a log shape. Take the top edge of the dough and fold it into the center and seal. Again, take the top edge of the dough and fold it over to the edge of the dough and seal. Turn the dough so the seal is now underneath. Then with the palms of your hands, gently roll the dough back and forth until it's the length of your loaf pan. Place the logs of dough into your pans, seam side down. (The dough should fill the pan about two thirds full.) Cover each pan with plastic wrap that has been lightly floured and let proof at room temperature for 1 - 2 hours or until almost doubled in size. The dough will rise above the rim of your loaf pan. (If you lightly press into the dough, your finger will leave a slight indentation.) (If the dough starts to mushroom over the sides of the pan bake immediately.)
Meanwhile preheat your oven to 350 degree F (180 degree C). If you want your bread to have a slight crust, place a cast iron frying pan on the floor of your oven. We will be placing a few ice cubes in the frying pan to create steam.
When your bread is ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap and place in the preheated oven. Place 3-4 ice cubes into your frying pan. Bake for about 35 - 40 minutes or until your bread is golden brown. If you tap the bread it will sound hollow. About halfway through baking turn your pans front to back to promote even baking. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for a couple of minutes. Then remove the breads from their pans, placing the bread top side up on a wire rack. If a soft crust is desired, brush the tops of the breads with melted butter. Let cool completely before serving. This bread can be stored in an airtight bag for about three days or it can be frozen for a couple of months.
Makes 2 loaves of White Sandwich Bread.
White Sandwich Bread may not be a fancy bread and it may not get a lot of attention. Yet it's the bread I turn to most often. It's instantly recognizable with its billowy loaf shape (probably why it's often called Pan Bread) and its lovely golden brown crust. When the bread first comes out of the oven the crust is slightly crisp. But as it cools the crust softens and becomes almost flaky in texture. Cut into this white bread and you will find its texture is soft and oh so fluffy. It's delicious buttered. It's a great bread to use for sandwiches and it makes delicious toast. This is also the bread I use for French Toast and Cinnamon Toast, and when it's a little stale I use it to make bread pudding.
A few notes on technique and ingredients. First, I must admit, while White Sandwich Bread has great texture, it doesn't actually have a lot of flavor. So, to make it a little more flavorful I add a pre-ferment. That is, a starter. This is made the night before and then just stored in the refrigerator overnight. This bread dough is kneaded for quite a long time which produces a strong dough that cleans your mixing bowl, is smooth, elastic, and not very sticky. If you're new to bread making, I would watch the video as I show you an easy way (the 'window' test) to determine if your dough has been kneaded enough.
As far as ingredients go, we are using mostly bread flour and a small amount of all purpose flour (plain flour). For the yeast, I like to use either SAF Red or SAF Gold instant yeast. This type of yeast gives a good rise and it doesn't need to be proofed. However, if you want to substitute active dry yeast for instant yeast you need to increase the amount of yeast by about 20%. You also need to activate the yeast in warm water. To do this, remove about 1/4 cup (60 grams) water from the total amount called for in the recipe and heat it to lukewarm. Stir in the yeast. Let stand about 5-10 minutes or until the mixture becomes frothy. Dried milk powder is used in this recipe as it enhances the color of the crust, adds flavor, and helps to keep the bread moist. For the salt I like to use kosher salt. There is also some butter in this dough, and I like to use unsalted butter. And lastly we need water. I like to use filtered water. The temperature of the water is very important when making bread as it determines the temperature of the final dough, which affects the rate (time) of fermentation (proofing). The desired dough temperature (DDT) should be between 74-77 degrees F (23-25 degrees C). Generally speaking, if the temperature of your kitchen is at room temperature (about 75 degrees F) (24 degrees C), then your water should be cold. The reason we use cold water is that the dough warms up during the long kneading period. For those of you who want to be a little more technical you can use this formula to determine your precise water temperature. WT = (desired dough temperature (DDT) x 4) - (the temperature of your flour (FT) + the room temperature (RT) + temperature of pre-ferment (PT) + friction temperature (FT)). Friction Temperature means how much the dough will warm up during kneading. Everyone's mixer is a little different so you may have to do some trial and error to get the correct friction temperature for your mixer. However, for reference I use a friction temperature of about 20 degrees F (10 degree C).