Saturday, May 1, 2010

Simple (really!) Sandwich Bread

I always knew that when I finally got around to blogging that my first post would be about bread. Bread is my favorite comfort food. There is nothing better than fresh warm bread with butter and honey - I could eat it for dessert! And no lie, when it bakes it makes your entire house smell heavenly. Recently, I've become intent on making all of our own bread at home... Sandwich bread, artisanal loaves, tortilla wraps, and rolls. It started with the realization that I couldn't walk down the grocery bread aisle and find any products without High Fructose Corn Syrup, and loaded with other "shelf life" preservatives. Next time you are in the same aisle, I dare you to try! There is the possibility that you will find some without the HFCS in some organic aisles, but have you TRIED that bread? It is rarely soft and is often dry and tasteless.

I challenge you to try this recipe. It is really quite simple and it can be tweaked to your liking. No bread machine needed, just a mixer and a loaf pan. By using the mixer, you can avoid having to spend a lot of time kneading the dough. After trying this five months ago, we haven't bought bread in the grocery store since!

Before you read these instructions, realize that your time in the kitchen with this recipe is actually very little... it's the rising time that seems to turn people off of bread making, for some reason. Try starting a batch right after breakfast and watch how little time it actually takes. You'll have fresh sandwich bread before lunch!

  • 1 Cup warm water, plus 1 TBSP (plus 2 more TBSP if you choose to try all whole wheat)
  • 3 TBSP Honey
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1/4 Cup (solid) Coconut Oil
  • 1 Cup Unbleached Whole Wheat flour
  • 2 Cup Unbleached All-Purpose or Bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt (plus 1/2 tsp if making all whole wheat)
  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the warm water, honey, and yeast. Gently stir with a wisk to help break up the yeast. No need to set a time for proofing if you are using the right yeast (see note below). Add your Coconut Oil - I use a dry measuring cup for this since it is a solid oil. Measure and add flours and salt (Don't add the salt until after the flour is measured and added. Salt can kill the yeast before it's had it's moment to "come alive" with the warm water and honey.)
  2. Place under your stand mixer with the bread hook attachment. Mix on low speed ("stir") until all materials are well combined, about 3 or 4 minutes. Even if your dough starts to "crawl" up the hook , allow it to mix for the whole time so that the gluten can begin to build up.
  3. Turn off the mixer, release the dough from the hook, and allow dough to rise for one hour in the mixing bowl - covered with plastic wrap, and set someplace free of cold drafts.
  4. After the first hour has passed (or until your dough has doubled in size): Preheat oven to 375. Spray your loaf pan with cooking spray. Uncover your bread dough - it should be about twice the size as what you started with. At this point, simply give the bread a really brief knead... no more than 15 seconds. Try not to add extra flour if possible, but work on a wooden cutting board to avoid the dough from sticking. Or honestly, use a "gluten cloak" by gently stretching the dough from the top of the ball to the bottom on all sides a few times, turning the ball a quarter turn as you go - it will do the job just as well! Place the dough into your loaf pan and allow it to rise another 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap.
  5. At the end of the last 30 minute rise, remove the plastic wrap and place in the center of your oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. I find that exactly 30 minutes works for me with my oven, my ratio of wheat/white flour, and with baking only one loaf at a time. You may need to play with the time a bit for your own oven to figure out what works right for you! The bread should have a nice golden color to it, and feel "sturdy" on the top - Not crispy, but not so soft that you leave an indentation when you touch it either. Allow the bread to rest in the pan for 15 minutes before running a knife around the sides and turning it out to cool on a rack. Allow bread to cool for another 20-30 minutes before slicing. Allowing it to rest that long will improve the overall texture of the bread!
** A note about ingredients...

Yeast: I use instant dry yeast. You can either buy this in glass jars in the cold section of your market (mine keeps it nears the eggs/pop-and-bake cookies), or it can be purchased in vacuum sealed packages from big box stores. This is a really economical way to buy yeast if you're doing a lot of baking. Simply keep it in an airtight container in the freezer and use when needed. Stay away from the single use packets of yeast that you can buy in the baking aisle. It never seems to give bread the same rise as the choices I've already mentioned. "Rapid Rise" yeast works as well.

I've worked really hard to start cooking and baking with healthier alternatives for my family. When ever possible I try to choose ingredients that are are as minimally refined as possible. I will write the recipe exactly how we've adapted it for our family, but do know...
  • If you can't find coconut oil, you can use vegetable oil.
  • You can also use sugar instead of honey (but honey works really well and is not highly refined like sugar is!).
  • And although we choose to use King Arthur brand unbleached flours, that the recipe will work with regular all-purpose flour.
Even if you choose to use bleached white flour, white sugar, and vegetable oil, you are still making a choice to exclude HFCS and preservatives from your bread. You have to start somewhere!

And yes, if you HAVE a bread machine, this recipe will work with it just fine.


  1. Hi Melissa!
    Your blog looks great, I will definitely be reading it. Your entry about bread ALMOST makes me feel like I could do it too! I'll let you know when I get the courage... Frederic would certainly like it if I do.
    Jen H.

  2. Love it Melissa, thanks for including me :) Is this the same bread that Lia and I always eat with the soup? Cant wait to try it and make bread for my new husband :)

  3. Hey girl! What a great site - best of luck with everything. I look forward to learning so much. I'm waiting for my "hands on" lesson. Bring Lia and come on over! Brigitte

  4. It's funny that you mention pan size, Kerri... The standard loaf pan is a 9X5, but they will typically vary between manufacturers - sometimes by a 1/2" in either direction! And you will also find loaf pans sold as "1 lb or 1.5 lb pans, etc". When I bake my sandwich bread, I tend to reach for a standard 9X5 METAL (glass will leave the crust too light) loaf pan, and the loaf size you are baking is a "1 lb" loaf (though it will weigh slightly over). The 1.5 lb pans typically measure 10X5" or more. Good question!

  5. Giving this a try right now! Its already smelling delicious. My husband thinks I've lost my mind by the way, but hes in Iraq so he can't have any bread I bake anyways. Hopefully I'll have a baking schedule perfected by the time he comes back and we can always have fresh sandwich bread too! I feel inspired :)

  6. So glad, Lora! And congrats on that shiny new red mixer (yahoo!). ;0)

  7. After making this bread and adapting it to my own kitchen and time constraints, I am truly inspired also. I might even do this more often! Thanks Melis! Keep the wonderful recipes coming :)

  8. Just made this today in my bread machine (used canola oil). Turned out AWESOME. I bake bread regularly and really liked the resulting soft crust. It's a keeper. Thanks!

  9. love it. i have made it our staple sandwich bread. THANKS!

  10. Okay - so I looked at the loaves of bread on this page and on your clip for HERSTORY...your bread rises so wonderfully high. What can I do to get mine to rise so high and be so beautifully shaped? This recipie is great; I sub in spelt flour for the whole wheat...could that be causing my bread to rise, but not quite so high? Any suggestions about what I can do to remedy this problem? The bread comes out really quite tender and all...but it just doesn't rise quite so high...and I'd love it to :)

  11. ok, I'm inspired! and afraid to go and read what's on the ingredient list on the bread in my fridge.
    Thanks so much!!!!

  12. I love this bread!!! It is perfect and tops all other breads. Words fail to describe the sensations that run wild in my mouth when I bite in to this slice of heaven. It has been my go to recipe for seven years! That's seven years that you have made amazing with your bread. Thank you so much!