Monday, October 17, 2011

Buttermilk Sandwich Bread

One day out of every month is set aside to bake a few loaves of sandwich bread to be used throughout that month for lunches. The price of bread has been rising over the past year (unless you want to buy Wonderbread) and I really prefer the taste of homemade bread over store-bought. On baking day, I usually end up making between 3-5 loaves of bread, reserving one for immediate use, and double wrapping the remainder for the freezer. Paul is obsessed with this sandwich bread and we tend to go through a loaf very quickly because he likes sneaking a thick slice as a quick snack or to use in his famous egg-in-a-hole.

Most of the time, Matthew is a great sport and behaves himself during the dough-making process. This last time, he made kneading particularly difficult. It takes a LOT more effort when you have this bundle of joy attached to your leg:

Anyway, we have made a lot of different sandwich breads around here, including Oatmeal-Honey, Whole Wheat, Classic White, Multigrain, and Rye, but this is the recipe we make the most. Sometimes we'll throw in some grated cheese, chopped jalapenos, or vegetables based on how we plan to use the finished loaf. It's delicious every time!

And a slice of this bread with bananas and peanut butter is one of Matthew's favorite post-nap snacks!

Buttermilk Sandwich Bread
from Baking Illustrated

3 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup cold buttermilk
1/3 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons honey
2 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

Whisk together the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the dough hook.

In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, boiling water, butter, honey, and yeast. Turn the mixer onto low speed, and slowly add this mixture to the flour. Wait and watch as the dough comes together, then slowly increase the speed to medium and knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. If the dough is still sticking to the bowl after 10 minutes, add a little flour, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough cleans the bowl.

Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead into a ball. Place in a large, greased bowl and turn once to coat. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take anywhere from 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Meanwhile, grease a large loaf pan.

When the dough has doubled, turn dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and pat into an 8-inch square. Starting at the edge furthest from you, roll the dough tightly towards you, pressing down lightly with your fingers to ensure that the cylinder is tight. Pinch the seams tightly to seal and then place, seam side down, in the greased pan and press lightly down on the dough to make sure it is touching all four sides of the pan. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the dough has risen approximately 1 inch above the top of the loaf pan. This will take about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, set one oven rack in the center position and the other in the lowest position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil approximately 2 cups of water on the stove top.

Once ready to bake, place a large, rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven. Remove the plastic wrap from the loaf pan and place it in the oven on the middle rack. Pour the boiling water into the baking sheet and quickly shut the door. The steam from the water will create a delicious, sturdy crust. Bake for40-50 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the center of the loaf reaches 195 degrees.*

Remove the loaf from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

*If you like to do a lot of baking, I highly recommend purchasing an instant read thermometer. Taking the internal temperature is a much more accurate way to judge when yeast breads have completely finished baking than other observational techniques, including the tapping or browning method.


  1. Yummy...Some day I will do this. Gotta use that fancy stand mixer somehow!

    Was wondering if you had a soft pretzel recipe that you are fond of? I picked up a beer cheese soup mix at the apple orchard store the other day, and was thinking about how it would be delicious dip for pretzels!

  2. Actually, Paul loves soft pretzels and we have made them quite a few times. I've used a couple different recipes, but the best recipe was from Alton Brown on the Food Network site. I'll email you the link!

  3. Monica, do you need any kind of special equipment to make this, like a specific kind of pan? I have a mixer and some baking pans, but is there a special bread pan that you use? If so, what does it look like?

  4. Hey Tess! I use a glass 9x5" Pyrex bread pan for this type of loaf. I also have a Wilton nonstick 8x4" pan that I used once and it worked just fine as well. You can find the Pyrex anywhere and they are super inexpensive. Let me know if you try this!