December 10, 2010

Eleven Grain Sandwich Bread

Bread, for me, truly is the staff of life. Meals feel incomplete without some sort of bread, and a good bread makes a complete meal by itself. I love baguettes and focacce, boules and rolls. All those are wonderful right up to the moment I crave a good PB&J, and that's when I need sandwich bread.

Lately I've been baking my way through Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. If you want to bake bread or improve your bread-making skills, this book is the one you need. Reinhart thoughtfully includes every step of every process, each thoroughly explained, and most documented with one or more photographs. Sure, his Bread Baker's Apprentice has more technical information, but for most of us, it's more information than we really want.

Artisan Breads Every Day includes an enriched Everyday 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread recipe with multigrain variations. After making several batches of this bread, I've settled on my preferred variation.

Eleven Grain Sandwich Bread
Peter Reinhart, Artisan Breads Every Day

4 oz Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Hot Cereal
29 oz white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3½ tablespoons honey
1 large egg
¼ cup canola oil
1¼ cups lukewarm water (about 95°F or 35°C)
1¼ cups lukewarm milk (about 95°F or 35°C)
1½ tablespoons active dry yeast

When I measure the ingredients, I always use a scale for the dry ingredients. Measuring flour by the cup just doesn't work well. Also, I measure out 4 tablespoons of oil rather than using a quarter-cup measure so that I have an oiled tablespoon ready for the honey.

Combine the flour, cereal, and salt in a mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Whisk together the egg and oil. In a separate container, whisk together the water, milk, and honey, then add the yeast. It may seem a bit fussy, mixing in three containers, but what you're doing is combining the dry ingredients in one bowl, the fat ingredients in another, and the liquids in a third. I've tried being less fussy, and had less satisfactory results, so I just wash the extra measuring cup or mixing bowl.

You can do this by hand, but as you can see I use a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix the dry ingredients for a moment, then add everything else and mix on medium-low speed for 1 minute, until everything is combined. Lift the paddle attachment and clean it using a wet finger or spatula. Wet fingers and spatulas do not stick to bread dough nearly as much as dry ones. Let this stand for 5 minutes so that the flour absorbs plenty of liquid.

Switch to the dough hook. Mix on medium-low speed for 2 minutes, then evaluate the dough. If it looks too much like a batter--so far mine always does--add up to 1 ounce of flour, one tablespoon at a time. I usually add 4 tablespoons at this point until the dough begins to look a bit more shaggy than batter-y. Continue kneading on medium-low speed for 4 minutes.

Using a wet dough scraper, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. It's going to be sticky and much wetter than any bread dough you've worked with before, but have faith. Knead by hand (well-floured hands) for about 30 seconds until you can feel that it will just hold together.

Now for the stretch-and-fold technique. Using wet hands, reach under the back end of the dough, stretch it out, then fold it back onto the top. Repeat from the front end and each side, then flip the dough over and tuck it into a ball. Wait ten minutes, then repeat. Wait another ten minutes and repeat again. You'll feel a change in the dough from the first stretch-and-fold to the last. It will get firmer and feel more structured, but it will still feel a lot wetter and softer than other bread doughs you may have experienced.

If you don't want to make 2 loaves at the same time, divide the dough in half and put each half in a lightly-oiled bowl. Otherwise, put the dough into a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or up to 3 nights).

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 3 hours before you want to bake. Shape the dough into sandwich loaves and place in greased 4½ by 8½-inch loaf pans (Reinhart includes detailed shaping instructions with photographs). Mist the dough with oil (an optional step for this bread, in my opinion) and then cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, until the dough domes about 1 inch above the rim of the loaf pan.

Preheat your oven about 15 minutes before baking time to 350°F (177°C). Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 40 minutes. If the internal temperature in the center of the bread isn't above 185°F (85°C), continue to bake up to 15 minutes.

Now comes the hardest part. Remove from the pans and let cool on a rack for at least an hour before slicing and serving.

Once you've mastered this recipe or your own variant you'll never buy sandwich bread again. People who think they don't like whole wheat or whole grain breads will enjoy the sweet flavor of this bread.

Coming next: more baking as I attempt to make both panettone and stollen on the same day.


  1. The bread looks gorgeous! I also feel like a meal is incomplete without a piece of good bread.

  2. This bread sounds wonderful! I would love this toasted with some almond butter! Yummy!

  3. I love everything about baking bread and rolls...the kneading, the waiting for the rise, the smell...this looks wonderful, I will have to give it a try!

  4. I just love to make my own bread! Your loaves look perfectly lovely!

  5. This bread looks very nice....I made whole grain seeded bread few days go.

    Home bake bread is a such a nice thing to make :)

  6. Ooh..I would soo marry a guy who can bake bread! :)

  7. I've been looking for a multi-grain recipe for toast....this looks awesome, and I love a little sweetness in my bread. Thanks! Theresa