Ruhlman recently shared a recipe for a loaf of sandwich bread that I believe is about as easy as bread making gets. The recipe uses a weight measurement for the flour, rather than using a volume (cup) measurement. This is a great asset to the recipe, since the weight of a cup of flour can be drastically different depending on how you measure it. If you stick the measuring cup into your flour bin and scoop out your flour, your going to end up with a lot more flour in that cup than if you were to spoon your flour into the cup. The weight measurement helps reduce the margin of error. Most of the work is done by a stand mixer,
and then a brief amount of work is done by you—just a tiny bit of shaping.
The rest of the process really entails waiting: waiting for the bread to rise, letting the bread rest, waiting for the bread to rise a 2nd time, and then waiting for the bread to cook. Easy!
A few things to note that I especially appreciate about this recipe are the suggestion to use a Dutch oven, a note on the internal temperature of baked bread, and a reminder not to cut into the loaf right after it comes out of the oven. I learned the Dutch oven trick when I first made Jim Lahey’s recipe for No-Knead Bread. That bread, however, is a rustic boule that is baked directly on the bottom of the pot, not in a loaf pan like this bread, and so it didn’t even occur to me to use the same technique. Ruhlman suggests putting the loaf into a Dutch oven for the 2nd rise and for the 1st 30 minutes of baking time. This technique helps to seal in heat and moisture, which helps with the rising of the dough, and then acts like a steam-injected oven when baking. You can definitely make this bread without a Dutch oven, but it is such a nice bonus to use one!
Ruhlman notes that the bread is ready to come out of the oven when it reaches an internal temperature of about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have ever worried about whether or not a loaf of bread is done or not, this is a fabulous way to know. I use an inexpensive thermometer that works like a charm.
Finally, all of your “hard” work and temperature taking will be for naught if you cut into that loaf of bread when it comes out of the oven. Bread should be allowed to come to room temperature after baking, because the heat retained inside continues to cook the bread, so slicing it too early interrupts this process prematurely and could leave you with a gummy middle.
I’m going to help you make a goal/New Year’s resolution (whatever you want to call it) for 2010: “I (insert your name here) am going to make fresh bread from scratch this year.” See? That wasn’t so hard! Now go do it, and report back to me!
“You can do it” Sandwich Bread
Adapted from Michael Ruhlman’s Everyday Sandwich Bread Recipe
Makes 1 loaf of bread
20 ounces all-purpose flour
12 ounces water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer. Using the dough hook, mix the ingredients on medium speed until the dough is smooth and very elastic (about 10 minutes). Remove the bowl, cover it, and let it rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume. This can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours depending on how warm the area is where it is rising.
2. Remove the dough from the bowl, place it on a smooth surface, and then punch it down and knead it to get as much gas out as you can. Then shape the dough into a rectangle that is approximately 8×11-inches in size. Cover it with a towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.
3. Shaping the dough: Fold the dough rectangle in half and then use the heel of your hand to press the halves together. Fold in half again, and repeat the process until you have a round loaf. Place it in an greased loaf pan, seam side down, and cover with a towel to rise (or place it in a Dutch oven and cover it) until it has doubled in volume (approximately 1 hour). While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. When the dough has finished rising,use a sharp knife to make a slash down the center of the loaf. Make the cut about 1/4-inch deep at a 30 degree angle. Put the loaf into the oven and then turn down the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. (If you are using a Dutch oven, leave the lid on for the first half hour.) Bake the bread for about one hour. For the best results, the internal temperature of the loaf should be about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool before slicing into it.