Bread. I owe a lot to bread. Bread started me on my journey. I was baking before but bread brought me to a new level. Well, bread and Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but that is another post. It all started because I couldn't find a loaf of really good sandwich bread without milk, at least not reliably. My husband and I are lactose intolerant so it was really bumming me out. Don't get me wrong, we aren't allergic and still eat dairy, but reducing our consumption helps a lot. I decided that since I couldn't find it, I would make it myself.
At first it was pretty intimidating, bread seemed so hard and time consuming. I tried a few recipes and different types of bread. I even briefly flirted with a bread machine. Eventually I landed on a recipe and a method that works for me. I use my trusty stand mixer for some of the kneading and finishing the rest by hand. There is something so satisfying about working the dough, feeling it with your hands. I just love it. The taste is amazing, soft and flavorful with just the right texture. There was no going back to store bought brands. The hardest part now is keeping my family away from it until it cools.
Now that I have been making bread every week for more than a year, it's a breeze.Although I still consider myself to be a bit of a bread novice, this bread is easy to put together with dependable results. I make 1-2 loaves a week. It's become a comforting activity and my family loves it. (Did I mention that, because be warned, I think my family would mutiny if I said I wasn't going to bake bread anymore. If you end up with a similar problem, don't complain to me.)
This isn't the type of recipe that you do all at once. It's more of a puttering recipe that is done in stages while you are working on something else…say writing a blog post, just as an example.
One caveat, this bread is not dairy-free, despite my little rant at the top. But, the only dairy is a tablespoon of unsalted butter. In general, butter contains only trace amounts of lactose and if you use cultured butter, the cultures turn most of that into lactic acid. So, the bread is pretty gut friendly. The butter is mostly for flavor so you might be able to replace it if you had to. I wouldn't want to, but that's me.
Ok, one more - one more thing: the type of yeast I use for this bread is critical. I typically have strong preferences about products I use, but I recognize that mostly it is a matter of opinion. With the yeast, however, I really think you will get the best results with SAF yeast. I've never had success with any of the various packets of yeast you can typically find in the supermarket. I'm sure there are other yeasts that would also work; I just haven't gotten around to trying them.Once I found SAF, I stopped looking.
I start with the bowl of my stand mixer and a small bowl to measure flour in. I measure the first round of honey directly into the bowl and then add the lukewarm water. Be careful not to have the water too hot or you will kill your yeast. It should be between 110° and 120° (an instant read thermometer helps for a quick temperature check if you are unsure). I give a quick stir to dissolve the honey, then I add the yeast and the bread flour. I mix it until it is uniform then I let it proof until I have the next round of ingredients ready. You don't need to proof the yeast – at least that is what it says on the bag – but I find it helps.
After the flour mixture has begun to bubble and the other ingredients are ready to go, I dump them all in the bowl and give it a quick stir with my spatula before setting it in my stand mixer with the dough hook.I let the mixer work on the lowest speed for about four minutes, checking halfway through and adding a bit more flour if it seems really sticky (side note, I almost always add just a touch more flour - it's really sticky).
While the mixer is kneading I prep my bread bin. You don't need a bucket and I used to let the bread rise in a bowl, I just make enough bread now that a bin seemed like a good investment. It has been a fantastic idea – they are cheap and have measurements right on the side so you can see exactly how much your dough has risen. I prep it with a quick spritz of canola oil and head back to my dough. Just about this time the dough is ready to be moved to my wooden cutting board for some kneading by hand (it will STILL be pretty sticky, it is honey bread). It only takes a couple minutes on a well-floured board and it's off to the bread bin for an hour to rise. Once I put it in the bin I give it a quick turn so that it is coated in a thin layer of oil and let it do it's thing.
After about an hour and fifteen minutes – maybe a little bit more, the dough should have more than doubled in size. [One word of caution: if you let the dough rise too long and it rises and then falls again, you may need to consider starting over. The dough will be very difficult to work with and exceptionally pliable. It will be hard to shape and chewy. The bread will turn out ok, edible, but not great.]
I prep the glass loaf pan with pan grease and some parchment along the bottom, then pan grease over the parchment. You can make your own pan grease – here is the link to my recent post. Otherwise, butter and flour the pan. (You may need to run a flat spatula around the edge when it is ready to come out.)
I punch down the dough and unceremoniously dump it on my floured cutting board. I quickly shape the bread; it takes just a couple of minutes. First I punch it out into a rectangle. Then I fold it in thirds like a letter and stretch it out to the length of my cutting board. (For reference my cutting board is 20".)I let out some aggression and punch it down a bit.
I fold it again in thirds in the other direction and pinch the edges together.Then I roll it tightly into a log and pinch the seams together.
I lay the log seam side down in the prepared pan.I slash a slit in the top of the loaf and then let it rise again for about a half hour or until the dough is about an inch over the edge of the pan.
Then I bake in a 350° oven for 28 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and an internal temperature of 190°.
After if comes out of the oven I let it cool in the pan for five minutes.Then I turn it out of the pan onto a cooling rack until the loaf is completely cool. Resist the urge to cut into the bread while it is still hot – if you do it will compress the bread. Of course, that might be worth trying just once… but you should be prepared to eat the whole loaf...
Once the bread is completely cool, store at room temp in a bread bag. Typically the bread lasts for about a week at room temp. This bread also freezes really well. The recipe is easy to double so you could make one loaf for now and one to freeze.
This is my family's favorite sandwich bread. Hopefully it will be yours too.
Honey White Sandwich Bread
Delicious white sandwich bread sweetened with a hint of honey. An every day bread with better than every day taste.
- 1 cup (approx 237g) warm water (btwn 110 and 120 degrees)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast
- 4 teaspoons (28g) honey
- 240 grams (approx 2 cups) bread flour
- 240 grams (approx 2 cups) all purpose flour - divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon (14g) unsalted butter (melted)
- 4 teaspoons (28g) honey
- 1 teaspoon (or so) unsalted butter (melted)
1. Combine water, 28g honey, yeast, and bread flour in a mxing bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with a spatula until just combined. Let this mixture rest for a few minutes while you prep the other ingredients and there are bubbles forming within the dough so that it looks a bit like a science experiment.
2. Add remaining 28g honey, tablespoon melted butter, salt, and about 200g all purpose flour (leave about a quarter cup for later). Mix to combine. Set the bowl in a stand mixer with the dough hook. Knead on low speed for about 4 min. Pause the mixer about half way through and scrap down the sides and bottom. Add a bit more flour (from the reserved) if the dough seems really sticky and continue kneading.
3. Stop the mixer and dump the dough onto a floured wooden cutting board. Knead by hand until the dough is no longer sticky and bounces back when you press it with your finger. Tuck the dough under into a ball and pinch the seams together.
4. Put the dough into an oiled container or large bowl for it to rise in. Turn it over once or twice so it is coated in oil. Let the dough rest in a the bin or bowl covered with a towel or loose lid at room temperature for a little over an hour or until the dough has at least doubled in size.
5. Punch the dough down and return it to the floured cutting board. Shape the dough into a loaf and place it in a greased 9x5 loaf pan. Allow it to rise in the pan for another 30 min or until the dough has risen about one inch above the edge of the pan. (See above for how I shape my loaves).
6. During the second rise, preheat the oven to 350°.
7. Bake bread for 28 to 30 min or until it reaches an internal temp of 190° (rotating half way through).
8. Allow bread to rest in the pan on a cooling rack for 5 min.
9. Turn bread out of the loaf pan and lightly brush top with remaining melted butter. Allow bread to cool completely.