Bread Baking (the ordinary way)

After several months of using the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes recipe to bake bread every few days for the family, I thought I might give a try to making “ordinary” bread, to see how much more work it really is.  (The Artisan recipe is great, but I have not had as good luck making sandwich loaves with it; they dry out too quickly and are a little dense most of the time.  I’m sure it’s something I’m doing wrong, but whatever it is, I’m doing it wrong fairly consistently and I don’t know what it is…still much better sandwich bread than anything I get in the store, but I’ve just not been as happy in the long run. )

So I did my standard Google search: “best sandwich bread recipe.” Naturally I got a whole bunch of hits…so I tried the one from King Arthur Flour, which looked yummy.

For once I did actually follow the recipe, even though the single loaf used only white flour and 3/4 stick of butter.  It also had powdered milk and mashed potato flakes (which I happened to have in the cupboard).

My conclusion to the original question: Yes, making bread the “regular” way is a heckuva lot more work than the Artisan way.  The kneading part, honestly, was not that big a deal–in fact, it was less messy in a lot of ways than the much stickier Artisan dough.  And it felt kind of nice, squishing and folding this soft cool dough until it smoothed out. And I think the only potential to really screw it up would be using water that’s too hot in the “lukewarm” stage; if it’s much hotter than skin temp (i.e. if it feels very warm when you stick your finger into it, as opposed to just sort of neutral), it’s too hot and may kill your yeast.

The double rise, though—pain in the aspiration! (There might be a “PITA” pun here, acronym, bread type, but I’m not ready to go there…)  I never can get my dough to rise until I preheat the oven or create some artificial form of heat in the general vicinity of the dough, and the rising times are imprecise enough that you can’t just assume you know when it’ll be done doing what it needs to do.  For a busy and schedule-laden working mom, that is just not do-able.  Yesterday I had time to babysit it, but most days I just don’t have the 4+ hours to pay attention.  First rise, punch down, shape, second rise, bake.  Way impractical for me.

The bread itself: lovely, but honestly (which surprised me!) not as good as I’d hoped.  Probably because when most people think “sandwich bread” they are thinking of the soft and sort of insubstantial white bread you get at the grocery store.  And this had it all over that stuff, I freely admit.  But it’s just not my thing, or my husband’s (though he will eat his sandwiches on it this week nonetheless).

So for anyone who a) has a few hours when they know they will be at home and wants to give this a shot and b) likes soft white bread, I highly recommend this recipe.  I’d probably double it and at least get two loaves for my work, but YMMV.

I will doubtless try this process again, but I will try adding some whole grains–maybe a third white-whole-wheat flour and some oat bran, and use honey or brown sugar in place of the white sugar.  And see if I can reduce the butter a little bit. And, as I said, I’ll double the recipe for sure.

But as a basic bread-baking plan–the artisan bread is still the way to go for me.  The deal with that is that you can leave dough in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks, and then you just put it out to rest for an hour or so before baking it.  And you give it a few good slashes in the top before it goes into the oven, so it does a really fast spring-rise in the oven and is lots quicker and easier, and give you a much nicer crispy crust.

Still, either way–I don’t think I’ll ever be relying  on store-bought bread again; as with many other things I’ve discovered on my go-green journey, making it myself is cheaper, tastier, and not much more difficult.


Posted on March 17, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I know there are a lot of folks who LOVE the whole knead-rise process of breadmaking but not me. And the lazy way, I think, to make sandwich bread is with the bread machine set on mix only (no baking) – I just dump in 4 cups flour, some yeast, oil or butter, salt, and about 1+ cups water or milk. Then watch it start to mix (lid raised); you will need to add more water/milk til it sort of stays in a stiff gooey ball. it kneads and then rises then turns off. then you can dump it in a bread pan, let it rise some more, and bake it. I never bake in my bread machine as i dont like the consistency of the product but this is less messy and the machine keeps track of the time.

  2. I know this is such a cliche response, but…You’ve got to try my bread recipe! There are no crazy ingredients, and the times are very consistent. You can cut it in half if it makes too much for your family.

  3. greenmomintheburbs

    Erin, thanks! That looks yummy, I’ll have to try it! I’ve been looking for a good wheat bread recipe that my kids will eat…

    And Grandma, thanks for the tip on the bread machine; I think I knew on some level that I could let the machine do the kneading and stuff and then bake it on my own…may try that too. And the keeping track of time is hugely helpful…

    In the meantime, though, I still love the Artisan bread!! (I bet you haven’t tried it yet! It’s delicious with soup, which I know you make all the time…)

  4. I have a question about your artisan bread process. Do you do the whole water in a pan thing or water spray? I didn’t and just wonder if that’s actually needed for sandwich bread.

    I got the book for Christmas and have only made it once. I didn’t take them seriously when they said you HAD to use a greased non-stick pan. I don’t own non-stick and just figured I’d grease what I had. Let’s just say it didn’t work out too well. 😉

  5. greenmomintheburbs

    Ooh! Two words: Parchment Paper!

    I too tried the not-really-nonstick sandwich bread thing exactly once, and it was not a success. and I tried it once in my silicone bread pan, but with the huge SPROING oven rise the bread does, it sproinged laterally as well as vertically in the flexible pan, and wasn’t very sandwichy.

    But when I tried lining the bread pan with parchment paper, it worked beautifully. Give that a shot!

    By “water in a pan”–do you mean the pouring a cup of hot water into the broiler when you bake it? Yes, I do–because a couple of times i didn’t, and it didn’t rise as well and was a bit doughier and gluier inside. I still don’t have the project down to a complete science yet, my bread is inconsistent, but even when it’s not as great as it is on the really successful days, it’s still better than anything I would want to buy!

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