The quintessence of American sandwiches – tall and domed, with a thin snow-white crumb and light brown crust – is one of the main products of the supermarket.
Because it is eaten so often, we wanted to develop a recipe that would be not only better than rich bread in a plastic wrap, but also better – an impressive loaf that has become a decent base for sandwiches.
For a soft crumb of this bread we needed to include a fair amount of fat; we used whole milk for most of the liquid and then enriched the dough with 2 more tablespoons of melted butter. These quantities were enough to make the bread soft without making it too rich.
A couple of spoons of honey gave the bread the light sweetness we had been waiting for. But because our dough contained milk, butter and honey, the crust tended to brown before the inside was ready. We checked the oven temperatures of 350 F, 375 F and 400 F and found that the lowest temperature gives us the soft crust we wanted and avoid the dough inside. Yet it seemed to us that our loaf was a little dense.
We experimented with making the bread stand longer until it rose a full inch above the edge of the pan; the increased lift gave an air crumb and a larger loaf. This extra boost also meant we could give up cutting the loaf because it wouldn’t expand much more in the oven.
Refusal of slicing gave our finished loaf a smooth top of the supermarket. The preferred form for bread in the test kitchen is 8½ by 4½ inches; if you are using a 9 by 5 inch bread pan, increase the lifting time by 20-30 minutes and start checking readiness 10 minutes earlier than indicated in the recipe.
AMERICAN BREAD SANDWICH
Servings Per Container: 20
From start to finish: 4 to 5 hours plus 3 hours to cool
Lifting time from 2½ to 3⅓ hours
Baking time 35 minutes
Key equipment: 8½ by 4½ pan, water-filled spray bottle, instant thermometer
2½ cups (13¾ ounces) bread flour
2 teaspoons fast-growing or fast-growing yeast
1½ teaspoon salt
¾ glasses (6 ounces) of whole milk, room temperature
1/3 cup (2⅔ ounces) water at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted ghee
2 tablespoons honey
Beat flour, yeast and salt together in a blender bowl. Whisk the milk, water, melted butter and honey in a 4-cup measuring cup until the honey dissolves.
Using a test hook at low speed, slowly add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix until a homogeneous dough begins to form and dry flour remains, for about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl if necessary. Increase the speed to medium and low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic and cleared from the sides of the bowl, about 8 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured countertop and knead by hand to form a smooth round ball, about 30 seconds. Put the dough seam down into a lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1½ to 2 hours.
Grease a bread pan measuring 8½ by 4½ inches. Press the dough to release. Lay the dough on a lightly floured counter (the side of the dough that was before the bowl should now be facing up). Press and stretch the dough into a rectangle measuring 8 by 6 inches with the long side parallel to the counter.
Roll out the dough from yourself into a solid cylinder, keeping the roll taut, exposing it under itself. Pinch the seam and place the loaf seam down in the prepared form, gently pressing the dough to the corners.
Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until the loaf rises 1 inch above the pan and the dough bounces back minimally if gently poked with a handle, 1 to 1.5 hours.
Adjust the oven rack to the lower middle position and preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray the loaf with water and bake until rich golden, and the bread will not rise from 205 F to 210 F, 35 to 40 minutes, turning the form in half baking.
Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and allow to cool completely on the rack for about 3 hours before serving.
Nutrition information per serving: 85 calories; 16 calories from fat; 2 g of fat (1 g of saturated; 0 g of trans fat); 4 mg cholesterol; 179 mg of sodium; 15 g of carbohydrates; 1 g of fiber; 2 g of sugar; 3 g of protein.
Find more recipes, such as American Bread Sandwich, in “Bread Illustrated”.