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Author Notes: I know rustic rounds of artisan bread are all the rage these days, but don’t forget the simple joys that a plain white sandwich loaf can bring. This is adapted from Peter Reinhart's recipe in The Bread Baker's Apprentice. —amykelinda
Makes one 9x5 loaf
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (one packet)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Sponge (see above)
- 1 2/3 cups unbleached bread flour
- 1/4 cup powdered milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 large egg, yolk only
- 1/4 cup butter (or vegetable oil), melted
- For the sponge, mix together the flour and yeast in a large bowl. Heat the heavy cream and milk until it is lukewarm (between 90°F and 100°F) and stir it into the flour mixture until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated. Set aside and let it ferment at room temperature for 1 hour.
- When the sponge is ready, add the additional bread flour, powdered milk, salt, and sugar to it. Stir until it begins to come together.
- Add in the yolk, honey, and butter and stir to combine. If the dough still seems too dry and stiff, trickle in some water one teaspoon at a time until it is soft and supple. My dough needed about 3 teaspoons of water to get it to the right consistency.
- Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 20 minutes until the dough feels smooth and elastic. You can use an electric mixer with a dough hook running at medium speed for the same amount of time. The resulting dough should feel tacky, but not sticky. You’ll know it’s ready when you can pinch off a hunk of it and stretch it until it’s so thin that you can see light coming through it (also called the windowpane test). If the dough breaks apart before you can stretch it that thin, keep kneading!
- Once the dough is ready, put it in a lightly oiled bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic or a damp towel and let it rise at room temperature for two hours, or until it doubles in size.
- Carefully remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a boule. Cover it with a damp towel and let it rise for 20 minutes.
- Flatten the dough into a 5″ x 8″ rectangle. Starting at the short end, tightly roll the dough up like you would a poster. With each roll, pinch the dough at the crease to tighten the surface tension, which will help your loaf to rise up instead of out. With your new dough log, pat it on the ends back and forth until it looks relatively uniform.
- Put the dough log into a lightly oiled loaf pan. The ends should be touching the loaf pan, but the sides probably won’t until it proofs some more. Mist the dough in the pan with some oil and cover it lightly with plastic or a damp towel. Let it proof for a final 90 minutes at room temperature, or until the dough looks nice and tall in the pan.
- Preheat the oven at 350°F.
- Brush the dough lightly with egg wash. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through if needed. If the bread begins browning too quickly, lightly tent some foil over the top of it to stop the top from browning further as it bakes. The finished bread should have an internal temperature of about 190°F, and sound hollow when thumped from the bottom.
- When the loaf has finished baking, immediately turn it out of the loaf pan and let it cool on a wire rack for about an hour before cutting into it.