American-Style Sandwich Bread

As you may remember, my goal for this school year was to make my two sons’ sandwich bread for their school lunches. While I’ve missed a few weeks, I have generally settled into my happy new routine of baking their sandwich bread every Sunday. The wonderful aroma of baking bread seems to make everyone in the house happier. In terms of my actual effort, it’s only 20 to 30 minutes of hands-on work, but clock time is between 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours. The boys love the bread, and I am satisfied to know that it’s low in sugar and Calcium-Propionate-free.

Best sandwich loaf made weekly for my kids lunches.

Because I need the bread to stay fresh for a full week of lunches, I added a few natural “dough conditioners”. I add a tablespoon of granulated lecithin which makes for a moister loaf.  Chris Kimball’s original loaf  would dry out after a few days. I include 1/4 teaspoon of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C ) to slightly change the pH to inhibit mold growth. When I made the loaf without this it grew mold in as little as 3 days. Finally 1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger helps the yeast rise, resulting in a lighter, fluffier loaf.  My final warning requires will-power: resist the urge to slice the bread until it has cooled for 3 full hours. Slicing warm bread will allow moisture to escape from the loaf. In the best case you’re left with dry loaf, but if you then put it in a plastic bag the escaping moisture will encouraged molding after only 3 days. Never put warm bread into a plastic bag.

Recent Changes:

  1. Compared to prior versions, I have divert 3-1/2 ounces of flour and water to make a sponge the night before. The pre-ferment adds nice complexities to the flavor, and also inhibits mold by increasing acidity levels. In fact, once I perfect the yeast-to-flour ratio to ensure that the sponge always reaches full maturation, I could eliminate the ascorbic acid from the recipe.  For those occasional weeks that I don’t adequately plan ahead, I simply add the sponge ingredients together with the other dry and wet ingredients as I make the dough.
  2. I am now using 3 tablespoons of olive oil in lieu of vegetable oil or butter. I switched away from butter to eliminate saturated fats, then switch to olive oil because it’s mono-unsaturated fat is healthier than the poly-unsaturated fat found in other vegetable oil. (more info on health effects of fat)
  3. My new loaf pan has a standard pullman sandwich bread shape. It yields a 15″ loaf, which makes 25 thick slices. That’s more than enough to satisfy the weekly allotment of 10 sandwich.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $.90 for 29-ounce loaf.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Finish time 7:30 PM. (But don’t slice for another 3 hours)

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared and baked the bread today are given below:

Sponge:
3-1/2 oz warm water
1/8 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast or dry active yeast
3-1/2 oz flour

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk (9 ounces)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rapid-rise yeast or dry active yeast
1 tablespoon granulated lecithin

Dry Ingredients:
3 cups bread flour (15 ounces)
2 teaspoons table salt
1/4 teaspoon fruit fresh or other powdered Vitamin C
1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger

  1. About 12 to 24 hours before making the loaf, prepare the sponge by heating water in microwave for 15 seconds to 105-degrees. Whisk in yeast and let it hydrate for 5 minutes. Finally, whisk in flour, cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm spot in your kitchen for up to 24 hours.
  2. Adjust an oven rack to low-middle position. Pre-heat the oven to 200-degrees, then turn it off. You will use the residual heat of the oven to speed the first rise.
  3. Add 9 ounces of milk to a Pyrex measuring cup (at least 2 cup capacity). Heat in microwave for 40 seconds until mixture reaches 105-degrees. Mix in olive oil, sugar, yeast and granulated lecithin; allow to hydrate for 5 minutes.
  4. Add sponge and dry ingredients (15-oz bread flour, 2 teaspoons salt, ascorbic acid and powdered ginger) to the bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook.
  5. Turn on standing mixer to lowest speed and slowly add liquid; use a rubber spatula to scrape out measuring cup. After the dough has come together, increase speed to 4 on KitchenAid mixer (medium-low on other models). Continue mixing for 10 minutes, stopping twice to remove the dough from hook. The dough will become smooth, add a little more flour or water if necessary. Lightly flour a work surface and gently turn out the dough. Knead by hand for about 15 seconds to form a smooth ball.
  6. Lightly oil a large glass bowl with non-stick cooking spray, add dough and roll around to lightly coat the dough ball. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in your warm (but turned off) oven. The dough should take about 45 minutes to double in size.
  7. Spray your loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Gently turn the dough out onto floured surface. Gently press the dough into a rectangle that corresponds exactly to the length of your loaf pan. Lightly spray the dough rectangle with a water bottle before rolling to try to prevent large air bubbles (or brush water on using a pastry brush). Roll the dough into a tight cylinder so that it corresponds to the length of your loaf pan, firmly pressing down as you roll to ensure that the dough sticks to itself and that there are no large air bubbles. Pinch the seam closed along the length of the cylinder, and put into your loaf pan seem-side down. Softly press the dough so that it touches all four sides of the pan.
  8. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap, realizing that the loaf will grow above the top of the pan. Place it in a warm spot in your kitchen for between 1 to 2 hours. Depending upon pan size, wait until the dough grows to fill your loaf pan.
  9. About 20 minutes prior to baking, begin pre-heating your oven to 400-degrees. Adjust an oven rack to middle position; any lower and your bottom crust will be too hard.
  10. Carefully remove plastic wrap, spray the loaf three times with water from a spray bottle, and place loaf pan in oven. After 5 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 325-degrees and turn loaf 180-degrees. Bake uncovered for 8 additional minutes. Tent with aluminum foil to keep the loaf top very soft; baking for another 12 to 14 minutes until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 195 degrees. Carefully remove bread from pan, and let cool on a wire rack for 3 hour before slicing.

Ingredient list from typical loaf of bread

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