Another try at sandwich bread

April 17, 2015

Isn't it pretty? And that's my new Kuhn Rikon red bread knife.

Isn’t it pretty? And that’s my new Kuhn Rikon red bread knife.

I MAY — repeat MAY — have whipped the issue of baking a good sandwich bread.

I’ve been in search of the sandwich bread since I first got into breadmaking four or five years ago. I’ve gotten close. But none of them had the combination of soft-yet-durable texture, moisture, and taste that would stand the test of a healthy-sized sandwich.

I used my favorite Miss Mary Lloyd’s bread. The taste is marvelous, and it’s soft enough. But it wants to crumble. I tried the master loaf from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a day, which is sturdy enough, but isn’t soft, and tends to get a little dry the day after it’s baked. I’ve tried several other breads, but always had a problem with them wanting to break, or crumble. You know how you can take a slice of Wonder bread and fold it, and it won’t break? Can’t do that with any that I’ve tried.

Until today.

Cooks Illustrated, which is a test kitchen operation that publishes a newsletter, monthly magazine or two and regular cookbooks, prides itself on testing recipe after recipe, tweaking as it goes, until it gets to the absolute best alternative for any recipe. So, since I happen to have the 10-pounder “New Best Recipes” cookbook, I decided, “Self? You need to see if they’ve got a sandwich bread recipe.”

And self did. And they do. And I believe it may be the answer to the sandwich bread issue.

The recipe is here, which keeps me from having to retype it. A few key points:

  • It took me a tad more flour than called for. To be fair, I may have started out with a bit more liquid than called for.
  • I baked this in two 8 x 4 pans. It’s not as tall/square as a normal sandwich loaf. This does not present a problem to me, other than you have to tear off the edge of a piece of cheese to make it fit, but then you can eat the piece of cheese, so not a big problem. It calls for making it in a 10 x 5 pan, of which I have one, but I like to keep my loaves in gallon plastic ziplocs for freshness, and a 10 x 5 loaf won’t fit. Plus it takes me forever to eat that big a loaf. Next time, I’ll do the math, increase the recipe by a third, and it ought to be perfect for two 8 x 4s.
  • I kneaded the dough — thank God for Ms. Scarlett! — for the full 10 minutes it called for, and upped the speed to medium for the final five minutes as directed, which thwapped the dough around at an alarming rate. But I am here to tell you, when I turned it out onto my board to make a ball and put it in bowl to rise, the difference in the texture of the dough was one you could FEEL. When the recipes tell you it’s springy and elastic? Yeah. That. First time I’ve ever felt that texture in dough (because, well, I don’t think I ever kneaded dough that long before.

Allegedly, the use of whole milk and the scant two tablespoons of butter, both of which add some fat to the loaf, lend themselves to a moist end product. The long knead time develops the gluten more fully, which, in what sounds like a real paradox, both adds to the softness of the texture AND to the durability.

As soon as mine cooled, I cut off an end slice to taste-test. I marveled at the texture; folded it, and it didn’t break. And in the final, acid test, I slathered it with butter and ate it. It’s got it going on as far as taste is concerned.

In fact, in terms of softness and taste, it ranks up there with Miss Mary Lloyd’s bread. And as I have to pack myself a lunch tomorrow, we will see if it holds up to make a sandwich. (In all fairness, I’m planning pimiento cheese, which is not really challenging to a piece of bread, but….)

I’ll let you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em know. But things are looking promising.

 

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