A sandwich bread is a must when you plan a picnic, outing, gathering, kids party or BBQ. This is a kids favorite right!? However, I tend to buy sandwich bread from a good local bakery mostly, as I never plan ahead.
So this is not very frequent bread at our place. We prefer the rustic country bread and the last time I even bought a sandwich loaf was to pack lunch for a road trip, a few years ago (I think it was to Western Australia… yes we drove along the “great ocean road”, a bucket list item if you visit down under).
But I have been asked several times, for a sourdough sandwich recipe. I know this is a staple bread if you have kids. I mean before I started this whole sourdough bread journey, I depended on the good old sandwich loaf. It is versatile, soft, keeps fresh for longer and really easy to slice and pack…really what’s not to like about it!
This is the perfect bread to make fresh salad sandwiches, for picnics or a simple PB&J sandwich. We also love french toast made with thick slices of this kind of bread.
Whenever I bought sandwich bread, I used to go for Rye, wholemeal, seeded or oats thinking that somehow they were better than just eating white bread. Later when I went to pastry/bakery school I had the chance to study about the world of bread and I learnt how the industrial bread are being made and what goes into them etc. This is the major turning point for me. From this day onward, I stopped buying cheep supermarket bread and always went for that trusted local bread baker instead. I started to read the label and look for the bread from known reputed bakeries. If a loaf of bread is made with a few simple ingredients that you can pronounce and would remember, then that is what you should go for.
This is why making your sandwich bread at home is worthwhile, if you can’t find a good local bakery that does this for you. And the sourdough version is so flavorful. It is not like the usual white bread, it doesn’t stick to the inside of the teeth and doesn’t go all mushy like under cooked cake. You have to make it to know the difference.
Lets have a brief look on what each ingredient does in this loaf, so you can adjust them to suite your palate and / or substitute them with your preferred alternative.
What it does: lubricates crumb for easy slicing, flavor, softness, keeps freshness for longer
For my sandwich bread i’m using good quality butter. You can substitute this with oil, but oil is liquid and so you have to be careful when adding water. You can use bacon fat /drippings too. Vegetable spread or vegan butter is another option.
What it does: sweetness, keeps crumb moist (sugar is hygroscopic), softer crumb, helps feed yeast, caramelized color on crust
I’m using caster sugar in this recipe. Can be replaced with honey, brown sugar, coconut sugar etc. If using sugar in liquid form, cut down on water when you mix the dough.
What it does: gives body, supply food for yeast, flavor
I am using all purpose flour as we are looking for a softer crumb. But this can be make with bread flour or a mix of other glutenous flours. If you use bread flour, your bread will be less soft and chewy though.
What it does: flavor, gives richness, softness(milk fat tenderizes gluten) and sugar too, helps keep fresh for longer, crust color
I’m using full fat dairy. You can substitute with plant-based milk but they may lack fat and sweetness so read the packaging to figure out. If you use, low-fat milk, then expect less richness as that takes away some fat.
A lot of extra ingredients can be added for various reasons.
Bakers dry milk powder: this is a common thing added in bakeries to achieve the soft, rich crumb
Starch: gluten free and gives softer crumb while increasing the protein content. I’m using chickpea flour, it adds flavor too.
Diastatic malt: increase yeast activity and hence a greater rice/open cloudy crumb, gives flavor and color
Non-diastatic malt: for color and flavor
Okay, so ideally, sandwich bread or Pullman loafs are made in a specific pan that has got more height than a normal loaf pan. They usually got square edges and comes with a lid. You can use the lid or bake without the lid. The lid will give you a perfect block of bread and without the lid, you will have a slightly rounded top. You can of course make this in your normal loaf pan, just that the bread will be of a different shape.
This recipe is developed to fit the following tin dimensions:
8.4(L) x 4.8(W) x 4.5(H) inch
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If you want to use a tin with different capacity, you might want to adjust the quantities. You can calculate and get a rough estimate and then do a trial bake to know for sure.
Following are the steps, its always a good idea to read through the steps, look at the pictures and then attempt the recipe.
Mix everything except water and butter, in a bowl of a stand mixer. Gradually add water until everything comes together. Add butter a bit at a time and mix to combine. Once everything is mixed, you will get a soft, sticky dough.
Let this sticky dough sit in the bowl for 15 – 20 minutes. And then mix for about two minutes on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl as necessary. Add a little dusting of flour around the edges to encourage dough to come together in to a ball.
After mixing, the dough will feel stronger and stretchy, but still a bit sticky. At this stage get the dough out on to a floured surface, and finish off kneading by hand. Check next image.
Use slap and fold method to finish the kneading. After a few folds, you will get a tight dough like this.
Feel the dough and you will sense the resistance. The dough is a lot less sticky than the starting mixture but it is not completely smooth yet.
Place the dough in a bowl, cover and leave in a warm place to ferment. This is the crucial bulk proof.
This will take about 3.5 – 4 hours at 26°C(78°F)
This is how the dough looks after the proof. Almost doubled in size, softer and full of air bubbles. It will feel squishy. Tip the dough on to a floured surface and you’ll see the bubbles and the mesh.
This is the underneath of the bulked dough. This will look and feel spongy as the yeast has been multiplying, releasing a lot of CO2.
Now we need to punch and fold the dough again, back to a tight ball. get the dough from sides and fold into the center. Check the next image.
This is the easiest to punch down a soft dough. Once folded in, flip the dough and round it up while applying gently pressure.
Place the tight dough ball back in the bowl, close tightly and place in the fridge for retarding. For about 12-16 hours.
This process will help develop the unique sourdough flavor. If you are not particularly into sourdough flavor, then skip this part. But you will still have to refrigerate the soft dough for at least 2 hours, otherwise it will be very difficult to mold.
This is the dough as soon as I pull it out of the fridge after the retardation. It has grown a bit and feel very stiff to the touch. We need to let this thaw at room temperature for about an hour, so that it is soft enough to mold but not too soft that it sticks.
When the dough is soft enough to handle, tip it on to a lightly floured bench.
Now we need to roll this out. Check next image
When rolling out the dough, keep the bread pan as a guide. The width of the dough should not exceed the length the of the pan. Roll the dough until it is very thin (about 1/2 cm)
Make sure to check that it hasn’t been stuck to the surface. Lift the dough very lightly flour if it is too sticky.
Use as little flour as possible for dusting.
Start rolling the dough from one end. Make sure it is tight and that no gaps are left. apply gently pressure as you go to release any trapped air. Maintain the width at all times.
Once done, pinch the seem. See how the dough length now roughly matches the length of the pan.
Spray the pan with a very light coating of cooking oil. You can use oil or butter too.
Place the dough seem down, in the pan and press with your palm until it fits the pan nicely.
It should be a snug fit!
Cover the tin and leave in a warm place to proof.
This will take about 3 – 4 hours at 26°C(78°F) and we are looking for a risen dough like in the picture below
The dough should be risen almost to the top ( 1/2 inch below the rim) just below the lip.
You should be able to slid the lid on.
If it has come above the rim, then either you can bake without the lid or gently press the dough down for the lid to slid in.
Do not get the dough damaged, by trying to force the lid on
Pre-heat the oven to a 350 °F
Make sure to grease the underneath of the lid before sliding it in.
Place the pan in the pre-heated oven bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 25 minutes.
Tip: Internal temperature 200°F
Once done, take the pan out. Let it sit for about 2 minutes and then slid the bread off the tin. Use mitts and be very careful, it will still be very hot. Place the bread on a wire rack to cool completely.
If you leave the bread in the pan, it will go soggy so it’s important to release the bread while still hot.
Leave the bread to cool completely before slicing it. Use a sharp serrated knife or a bread slicer.
Keep in an air tight container for extended freshness