Friday, October 7, 2011

"The Daily Bread" Project: White Bread Girl

I grew up on good New York City bread. Rye bread, crisp and just sour enough. Bagels that you really had to bite and chew. Seeded Italian semolina bread.

Sure, my mother bought white bread too, because this was back before whole grains really took hold, but it was Arnold/Pepperidge Farm white breads, not the spongy kind. Wonder Bread wasn't to be had in my house. So how did I get a girl who LIKES the spongy white bread?

Don't get me wrong. JR WILL eat other kinds of bread. She loves bagels and challah and other breads--except <sigh> rye.And I've taken to buying the white breads made with "white wheat"--like whole wheat but not as dark.  It's an improvement.

But I'd far rather make her homemade bread, without the additives and preservatives. If she has to eat white bread, let it be healthier white bread.

So as part of the "The Daily Bread" project, I have been using recipes from "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" to make different sandwich breads.  Which basically means following their recipe and then baking it in a loaf pan with instructions for sandwich bread I found recently on their website.

Importantly, I also learned when making their White Sandwich Bread that if I moistened the crust with butter  before baking it would stay soft. This is important, because JR loves crusty bread, but her braces don't. Her sandwiches have to be easy to eat!

After making a loaf I learned to also butter the crust as soon as I take the bread from the pan. This really does work well. And despite the lack of preservatives, the loaves have lasted for days and days, just in countertop storage. 

 The white bread was okay, but a bit bland, even for JR. So we tried Buttermilk Bread, something I used to bake the regular way back when I first had the bread machine. And the buttermilk really did add flavor. I bought a small container of buttermilk because JR was baking something else that needed it. But I also keep powdered buttermilk on hand in the fridge. You just mix powder and water right in along with the rest of the bread ingredients.

The Artisan Bread In Five recipe makes enough dough (they say) for 3 one and one half pound loaves. Their thing is to store the dough and use it over several bakings.  But since fridge storage is always an issue around here I've cut the recipe in half and use all the dough for one single loaf. 
I've been aided in this by a wonderful "yeast spoon" I bought this summer at King Arthur Flour. It holds 2 3/4 tsp of yeast, which is the equivalent in a packet. The Artisan recipes usually call for 1 1/2 tablespoons of yeast (2 packets), so this halves it perfectly. It also is the usual measurement for salt, and in this case for sugar.

I make this in a large square Ziplock container which holds about 13 cups. You could easily do this in a large bowl. While rising in or out of the fridge it needs to be loosely covered.

We use (wince if you will) spray margarine around here,because it's easy for the girls to use on pasta and vegetables and it's a way to reduce fat intake, especially for SC who needs that. And it's great for stuff like this when I need to apply a layer of butter to something. But you could easily use melted butter to brush the crust.

Make sure the bread is TOTALLY cool before slicing it, or you won't get neat slices. A bread knife is essential for sandwich bread. The Man likes to make really thin slices, but overly thin ones don't stand up to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.....

Buttermilk Sandwich Bread
(adapted from Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day)

2 3/4 tsp yeast
2 3/4 tsp salt
2 3/4 tsp sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup buttermilk  (or 4Tbs buttermilk power + 1/2 cup lukewarm water)
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
melted butter or spray margarine

Making The Dough:
Combine the yeast, salt and sugar with the buttermilk and water and stir a bit.
Start stirring in the flour gradually.
You will not have to knead this bread. A rubber spoon or scraper is great for mixing this.
If you can't get all the flour in, wet your hands to mix in the last bit.
You could do this in a mixer or a food processor. But it's easy to do by hand and there's no cleanup as the dough rests right in the container.....

Cover and let the dough rest for at least 2 hours on the table or counter. You can fridge the dough after this and use it later.

Making the Bread:
Dust a little flour over the top of the dough and scrape it out of the container.
If it's really sticky, you may need to mix in a little more flour so you can handle it. 
Stretch the sides of the dough under to shape it into a ball, then put it down on a floured surface and press it out into a flattened rectangle with your hands.
Roll the rectangle up and press it down a little so that seams are sealed.

Let it rise for about 2 hours (1 hour if the dough hasn't been in the fridge)
Wet a knife and gently make slashes across the top (the short way).
Brush the dough with melted butter or margarine.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes.

Remove the dough from the pan. Brush it again with butter or margarine.


  1. Thank you for posting your experiences. I haven't been baking since before summer, but I did buy this book, too, and intend to work with it some more. I wasn't pleased with the smell or taste of the reserved dough when I did try it, so I'll definitely refer to this post when I'm ready to try again. For starters, I've given up the white bread battle with my family (Tony is the worst offender), and we've always got a little buttermilk around because we make pancakes from scratch on Sunday.

  2. Sometimes dough can take on a winey sort of flavor when it sits in the fridge for more than a few days. I've eyed their "keep it for a week" thing with suspicion, but again, since this dough is so easy to make, a half batch for a single loaf done every few days is very workable. I've been known to mix a batch in 5 minutes before going to work in the morning and coming home at lunchtime to stick it in the fridge!

    You may be able to sneak some bran or other fiber even into the white bread. Made an oatmeal bread that all of us really like--even JR. Will post it later this week.



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