Whole wheat sandwich bread

These days, I am a bit torn about bread baking. Yeast breads often take the better part of a day to prepare, and if a recipe has several proofs, I’m trapped in the house until the bread is done (ever try to run an errand within an hour and a half when you live in a rural town?). However, I think the taste of fresh baked bread is incomparable to anything store bought or even bakery bought.

We’re riding the crest of another whole grain infatuation (I go through these phases), and I recently bought organic white whole wheat flour from the health food store. I read somewhere that the color is paler and the flavor is less bitter because it’s made from a different type of wheat (hard white winter wheat) that lacks some compound in the germ. The flour is supposed to be nutritionally identical to regular whole wheat flour (ground from hard red winter wheat).

I wanted bread for sandwiches and toast, and I selected a recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible. (I still heart RLB.) This is her basic sandwich bread recipe, modeled after a clone (or predecessor?) of Wonder Bread called Silvercup. It is a very moist and butter-rich dough. Relying a tip from James Beard (Beard on Bread), I substituted white whole wheat and bread flour (50/50) for the all-purpose flour in the recipe.

6 oz bread flour
6 oz white whole wheat flour
1 c milk, scalded and cooled to room temp
3/4 c water, room temp
2 1/3 T honey
3/4 t yeast

5.5 oz bread flour
5.5 oz white whole wheat flour
3/4 t yeast
9 T butter, unsalted, softened
2 1/4 t salt

Mix all sponge ingredients until it forms a uniform and runny batter. In a separate bowl, mix the “dough” flours and yeast. Pour the flour jumble on top of the batter, but do not mix. Let it proof for 1 to 4 hours at room temp. Watch the yeasties bubble through the cracks between mounds of flour and make tectonic plate movement jokes.

Add butter and knead until a rough dough is formed. Cover and let it rest for 20 minutes (autolyse period). Sprinkle the salt and knead knead knead until the dough is shiny, smooth, and mostly cleans off the side of the bowl (10 minutes in a KA mixer at setting 4). Cover, proof until doubled in volume (~2 hrs). Pour the dough onto a surface, flatten without popping every bubble, do a business-letter fold, turn, do another business-letter fold, cover, and proof until doubled in volume (~1 1/2 hrs).

Set the oven to 350 F at least 45 minutes before the dough goes into the oven. Put a pizza stone on a middle shelf and a baking sheet on the oven floor. Cut the dough in half, shape 2 loaves, proof until the dough is at least level with the tops of (or 1 inch above) 2 1-lb loaf pans. Place the pans directly on the stone and toss a cup of ice cubes in the baking pan. Bake for 50 minutes (turning once during the baking). Release from the pans, slather on more butter, and let cool.

I liked this bread a lot. I cut it into fairly thick slices (1 cm?) and froze all that we weren’t going to eat within a day. (Each slice is separated from another with accordion folds of wax paper, and it never sticks together.) It’s a fairly nondescript bread, as far as breads go, but it fulfills the “basic sandwich bread” function very well. As you can see in the photo, it’s a pale yellow color and not a “white bread” – somehow, I was naively expecting it might be indistinguishable from bread made with all-purpose flour. I’ve been eating a slice with Swiss cheese almost every morning for breakfast. Delicious!

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13 thoughts on “Whole wheat sandwich bread

  1. Thank you for sharing the recipe. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about bread, but there is definitely truth to the “staff of life” description. I will definitely be trying this recipe, as the cooler weather (not being the best for bread) keeps the kitchen from turning into an inferno. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Your post made me a little homesick as my mom would bake rolls for us. They were suppose to be dinner rolls, but there was butter and jelly and different cheeses on hand. We would eat them right out of the oven and burn our fingers.

    Thanks for the memories.

  3. Another good recipe! Thanks. I’ll have to try that technique too. Unfortunately, I have an electric oven, but I guess I can just put the baking sheet on the lowest level.

  4. When I lived in the Boston area, I was actually pretty happy with the quality of bread that I could buy at the stores. But after one trip to my new one and only local grocery store in the middle of nowhere, I realized that I am going to have to bake a lot of my own bread. I’ll have to try that recipe. Although my one and only local grocery store only sells three kinds of flour: bleached white, unbleached white, and whole wheat. This might require mail-order.

  5. Hi June,

    I love fresh baked bread (well, doesn’t everyone?). A bread cooker is a nice thing to have, my ex used to make loaves of rye bread in ours on a very regular basis… Throw ingredients in – walk away and come back hours later to fresh bread – though they are a bit fiddly and inferior to doing it all by hand, the convenience factor vs. not having fresh baked bread at all is a big consideration.

    Also, I just wanted to put in a recommendation for the best “bread” book I’ve ever seen: Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book – is amazing – focusing on whole grain breads, troubleshooting the whole process, and best of all – they were friends of my Grandmother’s! The book was self published probably back in the 70’s. It really is very well thought out, researched, illustrated and has many non-standard ideas and recipes.

    If you haven’t seen this book, it’s definitely one that you would enjoy.


  6. My husband and I just had dinner out for our anniversary last night. The restaurant serves the most amazing, yummy bread. It was called Portugese cornbread. I searched the Internet for a bit and found this recipe that seemed the closest to the bread served at the restaurant, I’m going to try it out this weekend. http://www.recipezaar.com/114144 Would love to hear if you have made any bread like this before. The most important part was to roll the bread in the cornflour, it gives the crust an amazing flavor!

  7. I am sooo gonna make this bread! Thank you for providing the recipe since I can’t really afford all the great new cookbooks that you mention. I’ve done lots of breadmaking and there is nothing better. I have been putting up pears and pear preserves like a mad woman and they scream for fresh homemade bread to put them on. I will have to make a run to a fancy grocery store to get the white whole wheat flour (it’s a bit exotic for my semi-rural grocer), and I don’t have a pizza stone yet, but it’s all do-able.
    Now, do you have a good recipe for potato and leek soup? I know the heat’s gonna let up eventually.

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