Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Classic Whole-grain Sandwich Loaf

Bread like everything else has its fashions and its seasons. I was intrigued to read Harold McGee's dissertation on breadmaking in today's New York Times. He mentioned making "an establishment loaf" in the 1970s from James Beard's Beard on Bread cookbook (1974, Alfred Knopf). Since I still have my much stained and spotted Beard on Bread and bake from it nearly weekly, this made me sit up.

As McGee details, much modern breadmaking follows the "no-knead" fashion. I've been curious to try a cottage loaf with an overnight rise, but haven't gotten around to it. Instead, I bake Beard's classic white sandwich loaf and a whole-grain sandwich loaf (plus a modified Cuban bread) week after week, month after month, because they are part of our diet, where we eat food made mostly from scratch, of basic ingredients. Sandwich loaves make wonderful toast and grilled sandwiches. I make them two loaves at a time and freeze them sliced and that way we are never out of bread.

Here is the recipe for the whole-grain sandwich loaf I make, modified from Beard's white loaf recipe. Maybe it is retro enough to be fashionable again. I can tell you that it is delicious.

Classic Whole-Grain Sandwich Loaf

One loaf will weigh one pound and will require approximately 4 cups of flour. I use King Arthur flour except where specified. (Note: this recipe is vegan, unless you use butter for the loaf pan.)

It will need a warm place to rise. I use an oven that was heated briefly at the lowest temperature, then turned off.

Flour and grain mixture:

1/2 c "white whole wheat" (could use a local flour like Westwind instead)
1/2 c stone-ground whole wheat (I use Ernst, made locally, and freeze it)
1/2 c stone-ground rye (I use Hodgson Mills, kept frozen)
1 c high-gluten bread flour
1 T flax meal (optional)
2 T wheat germ (optional)
1 1/2 c all-purpose unbleached flour, as needed

Other ingredients:

1 package active dry yeast (not instant rise), or 2 1/4 t bulk yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 t sugar
1 T salt

Mix the water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Add a spoonful of flour and allow to proof for 30 minutes. (This allows the yeast to start multiplying and to produce the amylase enzymes it will use later.) Add 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and the salt and allow to rise until light and bubbly. (Skip this sponge stage if you are in a hurry or just impatient; I think it helps the bread to be high and light later.)

Now mix in the whole grain flours and the high-gluten flour, one at a time until the flours are all well blended with the dough. Then add 1/2 cup more all-purpose flour. By now the dough should be rather stiff. Turn it out onto a clean surface and continue adding up to 1/2 cup more all-purpose flour, kneading it in. Continue to knead for about 10 min until the dough is elastic, all the flour has been well incorporated, and when a dimple is made with your finger, the dough springs back into place.

Wash out the bowl and butter or oil it. Place the dough ball in it and allow to rise for an hour or two, so that it fills the bowl but not till it falls again. (Cover with a tea towel to help keep it moist and warm.)

Knead it again and shape into a loaf. This is accomplished by making it into a rectangular shape,then rolling up the sides and pushing out air bubbles, then pull the other sides into a seam and push out air bubbles again. Place the roughly cylindrical dough into a buttered or oiled loaf pan and allow to rise until the loaf is high above the edges of the pan. Place in a cold oven, turn to 400° and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the pan. Bread should sound hollow when tapped. If you have doubts, place bread back on baking rack for a minute without the pan. Cool on a rack before slicing.


Mom said...

Thanks for your post! It will help me achieve one of the 46 things I want to do this year:

Buttercup said...

You'll definitely need one of those old lady loaf pans! Good baking.

Ed Schenk said...

ently did a loaf useing a wild yeast starter. It turned out great!

Buttercup said...

I corrected the recipe. It should have said that it makes a 2-pound loaf, not a one-pound.

Angela Madaras said...

I usually bake the "no kneed" bread which takes 24 hours but is simple and always perfect. Your recipe sounds great. would love an easy baguette recipe with whole grain?
angela madaras

Karen said...

My mom has that book and I've been wanting to steal it for years now :) Thanks for sharing!

Adventures in Domestic Cooking said...

Oh yum, bread!!

Paula said...

What a great blog!

Have a nice time!

Anonymous said...

How do you slice it so perfectly?