Lazy Sunday Sandwich Loaf

When I started to make bread I found it a little discouraging at times that so many of the recipes I wanted to try took two days.  Most often this was letting the dough rise overnight, or having a preferment (basically making 1/2 your dough the night before).  I’ve now come to realize that this didn’t make the recipes more difficult, but just required a bit more patience.  That being said it is always nice to start a dough around lunch time and be able to slice it fresh to have with dinner.

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For the past few months one of the first things I do when I wake up on Sundays is start making a basic sandwich loaf.  It’s incredibly easy to make, and takes about 4 hours from start to finish though only about 15 minutes of that will require you doing any work.  It’s really the perfect way to feel productive without doing much.

Do note that there are a few ingredients in this (gluten, dehydrated milk) that are there to help the bread rise/give it that soft sandwich bread feel.  While they’re relatively inexpensive, if you don’t want to buy these the bread will still turn out just fine.  In the recipe I mention a few ways that I’ve substituted for them in the past.  The first couple of times I made this recipe I didn’t have them and was still able to churn out a delicious loaf.

Some of these things you use so little of at a time that in the long run it costs significantly less per loaf than buying a comparable loaf at the store.  Given all the ingredients and the number of loaves I can make of out each one, it costs me about $1.40 per loaf.  Not bad considering I was paying over twice that at the store.

So without further ado, let’s get to the (minimal) baking!

In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine your bread and whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, powdered milk, yeast, and butter.  If you decided to use them, also add in your oats, flax, or nuts.  Add 1 1/4 C water and mix.  If you added oats or flax you will need more, I usually require close to 1 3/4 C but it’s always best to start with less.

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If making by hand, mix until the dough begins to take shape and then turn out onto a hard surface to knead.  This whole process will usually take about 10 minutes.

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If using a stand mixer, you will want to use your dough hook for about 5 minutes on low speed to knead the dough.  The dough should be a bit wet but not stick to the sides of the bowl.  If you want to knead by hand it will take about 10 minutes.

Place your ball of dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a cloth to let it rise until doubled.  This usually takes about 1.5 hours in my kitchen.  If you want to speed it up, toss it in the oven with the light on and it will only take about an hour.

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Lightly grease a loaf pan (mine is 9″x5″).  Transfer the risen dough onto a flat work surface, being careful not to degas it too much.  Gently shape the dough into a rectangle about 6″x8″.

Form the loaf by rolling up the length of the dough (working from the short side).  With each full rotation pinch the creases to create a bit of surface tension.  As you roll it will get a bit longer as well, just make sure that when you place it in the pan it touches each edge. This will help ensure that it rises evenly.

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Cover the bread once more and let it rise until it crests over the pan slightly, about another hour and a half.  While the rise is finishing, preheat the oven to 350°.
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Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the pan 180° to ensure even baking.  Bake for at least another 15 minutes (45 total), and then check periodically.  Mine usually takes 50 minutes for a nice brown on top and the bread to be baked all the way through.

Once removed from the oven, promptly take it out of the loaf pan and place it on a cooling rack for 1 to 2 hours.  Two hours will allow it to cool completely, and I suggest leaving the house if you don’t want to find yourself eating the entire thing before that time is up.

Keep in mind that the bread cooling before being sliced allows a nicer crust to develop and will prevent it from drying out as quickly (keeping steam in longer).  If there is any left on Sunday night, it keeps for about a week at room temp or the fridge.  The bread will also freeze very well.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf
Ingredients
  • 2.5 cups high-gluten or bread flour (AP will be ok if you don’t have this)
  • 1.5 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1.5 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons powdered milk*
  • 1.5 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons butter (room temp)
  • 1 1/4 cups water (room temp) plus up to 1/2 cup as needed
  • 2 tablespoons gluten (optional, will help with bread texture)
  • Oats, flax, and other seeds as desired
  • *Powdered milk can be substituted with liquid milk if unavailable.  Keeping liquid amounts equal, use no more than 1/2 cup milk (therefore using 1/2 cup less water).

Directions

In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine bread and whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, powdered milk, yeast, gluten, and butter.  If you decided to use them, also add in your oats, flax, or nuts.  Add 1 1/4 cup water and mix.  Add remaining 1/2 cup of water as needed to bring dough to desired consistency.

Mix/knead for 5 minutes using a stand mixer, or 10 minutes by hand.  The dough should be a bit wet but not stick to the sides of the bowl.

Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a cloth to let it rise until doubled (about 1.5 hours)

Lightly grease a loaf pan and transfer the risen dough onto a flat work surface, being careful not to degas it too much.  Gently shape the dough into a rectangle about 6″x8″.

Form the loaf by rolling up the length of the dough (working from the short side).  With each full rotation pinch the creases to create a bit of surface tension.  As you roll it will get a bit longer as well, just make sure that when you place it in the pan it touches each edge.

Cover the bread once more and let it rise until it crests over the pan slightly, about another hour and a half.  While the rise is finishing, preheat the oven to 350°.

Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the pan 180° to ensure even baking.  Bake for at least another 15 minutes (45 total), and then check periodically.  Mine usually takes 50 minutes for a nice brown on top and the bread to be baked all the way through.

Promptly take it out of the loaf pan and place it on a cooling rack for 1 to 2 hours.  Two hours will allow it to cool completely.

Recipe adapted from ‘Light Wheat Bread’ from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

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