Photo by Donna

Photo by Donna

Last post on the astonishing versatility of five parts flour, three parts water.  First it was pizza (remember this awesome pizza?… hmm, maybe a bacon and egg pizza this weekend).  More recently, I made these delicious pretzels.  Same dough, different products. And here it is in yet another form.

Every now and then, when I or Donna stop at On the Rise bakery, where Adam Gidlow and staff bake bread, bread, bread—the best baguette in the land, as far as I’m concerned—we pick up a loaf of sandwich bread, which young James calls “the most awesome bread ever.” Last time I was there, jealous of the light airy crust and soft kid-friendly texture, I asked Adam, “What makes it sandwich bread?”

He said, “It’s the exact same dough as the baguette, but a longer ferment.  And it’s baked in a loaf pan.”

“You mean second rise?”  Bakers speak in curious tongues and I wanted to make sure.  Traditionally what we at home call rising, some bakers call fermenting, referring to the delicious microbial activity.  This is when the yeast does most of its work and generates most of its flavor.  The second rise after it’s been shaped is sometimes called “proofing.” Which never made sense to me—it’s either proved itself in the first rise or it hasn’t.  Adam nodded. That’s right, he explained, it goes for nearly twice the time an ordinary baguette goes after being shaped.

I’d already noticed how dense my Dutch oven bread could be if I didn’t let it rise long enough.  For sandwich bread, it needed even more time to open up.  I’d let it rise to within an inch of its life, then score it and put it in the oven. (See this post for bread baking basics and one of my favorite of all of Donna’s pix.)

Works like a charm.  Want to throw in some extras?  Honey?  Egg white?  Wheat germ for fiber?  Rosemary?  Go to town.  Use a ratio as your starting point and you’re good to go. (If you don’t own the book, put it on the Xmas list you give to the loved ones who adore your cooking! Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking.)

Oh, home food photographers, the above picture?  Donna explains how to get similar lighting effects using inexpensive materials on her latest post.

Everyday Sandwich Bread

20 ounces flour

12 ounces water

1 teaspoon dry yeast

2 teaspoons salt

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer.  (The standing mixer is a big ticket item but a powerhouse that’s well worth the investment; here’s the one I recommend, available at OpenSky; we WILL matching Amazon’s prices!) Mix with the dough hook until the dough is very elastic, about 10 minutes on medium speed.  Remove the bowl from the stand, cover it with a pot lid or plastic and let it rise till it’s doubled in volume, 2 to 4 hours depending on how hot your kitchen is.

Remove the dough from the bowl, pound it down, knead it and get as much gas out as you can (you’re redistributing the yeast so it can get fresh food).  Shape it into a rectangle about the size of a sheet of paper.  Let it rest for 10 minutes covered with a towel.  To shape it, fold it over on itself, starting from the top and pinching it solidly down with the heel of your hand—fold, pound pound pound pound pound—until it’s a round loaf.  Drop it into an oiled loaf pan and cover with a towel, or better yet, put the entire loaf pan in a dutch oven and cover it.  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and let the dough rest till it looks like it won’t rise no more.

Draw a knife lengthwise down the center to help it rise and put it in the oven.  Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.  (If you’re cooking in a Dutch oven leave the lid on for the first half hour.) Bake for about an hour, till it’s done (internal temperature of 200 degrees or so).  Let it cool (it’s still cooking and setting up inside!).