Sandwich Bread Nirvana (aka: ‘toot-toot’)!

Ladies & Gentleman….(drumroll)…Children of ALL ages….I bring you: The bread recipe that has taken 7 months to figure out! Granted similar recipes can be found, but I’ve yet to find one that didn’t include a sourdough starter. I have had little patience for babysitting yet another ferment on a regular basis, so I’ve been trying to find a ‘lazy woman’s sourdough’.

First, details: I’ll give details on why I’ve done what I’ve done AFTER the recipe. That way folks that don’t really care about the science can just have the recipe already. Then fellow food-nerds can wallow in my overly detailed explanations that will follow….and those who don’t care at all about my bread making endeavors will have stopped reading by now. I apologize in advance for the fact that my ‘recipes’ are not exact and there’s a lot of trial & error/guesswork involved. I suppose that’s why people say bread-making is an ‘art’. It’s taken me a few years to ‘feel’ it….and it’s still not necessarily the same result twice.

Jenn’s Tweaked Version of the Bread Beckers “Slightly Sweet But Very Simple Whole Wheat Bread”

1 cup cool or lukewarm water
1 cup kefir or thinned yogurt (i use home-made kefir, no idea if this makes a difference or not) *
1/2 cup oil (olive or coconut…or butter, though this last one might be heavier? i’m not sure) (1/3 cup if using egg)
1 egg (optional)
2TBS honey
2TBS blackstrap molasses (can probably use all honey or all molasses if you like..explanation will follow)
1tsp yeast
5+/- cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour (optional, but i used it)
2tsp. salt

in a glass, ceramic, or plastic bowl (so, preferably no metal, though if u try it & it works, lemme know), mix: water, kefir, sweetners, yeast, oil, egg (optional). Let that sit while you mill your wheat (heh)…or let it sit for 10 min or so (i didn’t time it, i have no idea…just let it sit awhile…). In the mixing bowl mix: 3-4 cups flour, salt. Turn on mixer (i use cookie hook first, then switch to dough hook when it starts getting thick), pour in the liquids. Add more flour 1/2-1cup at a time till it’s…uh…enough? i’m sorry. i’m not good at explaining bread dough texture. Something about atmospheric conditions and how many legs you’re standing on in any given moment or something. In fact, i typically add just a tad too much, it’s fine, just a bit heavier than hoped for. Anyhow, if you want the 1 cup of white flour (I’ll explain why I’m ok with this later), add it first, then add more whole wheat till it’s no longer super sticky & looking more like dough…it’s all incorporated & rolling around in the mixer**. I ‘knead’ (in the mixer) for 5-7min. It gets loud & the motor warms up a bit. Again…i’m not entirely sure when i’m done. I’ve not perfected kneading. Rumor has it if you knead by hand you’ll know better when it’s ‘done’. I’m too lazy to knead by hand. I think it’s like 15min by hand or something. Some sort of ‘window pane test’. I’ve never experienced this with whole wheat dough, though i guess this is what you’re supposed to achieve. My Aunt Helen could probably shed some light here.

then grease a large non-metallic bowl, turn the dough in it to moisten a bit, cover & leave sit in a warm place for 16-24hrs. I let mine sit on the counter (the thermostat claims it’s 70 degrees lately, but i don’t believe it….i still need a sweatshirt). I started it at about 2pm & at 7am it needed to go into the oven w/the pilot light on for a few hours. Anyhow, when it looks like it’s probably doubled (I’m also really good at forgetting where it started so not sure if it’s doubled), punch it down & shape however you want. This last batch i put into 2 loaf pans (1 in my stonewear which makes a pretty big loaf & one in a metal pan which makes a small/medium loaf). If you want hamburger buns, just form them into roundish mounds. I used to twist them all fancy, but then it made them too thick. Just a smoothed-out blob of dough works better. let rise till doubled, then bake @ 350 for approx. 30min or until you can tap on the top & it sounds hollow.

Here’s the kicker: WAIT! If this is sandwich bread: wait!! If you want it to maintain a sturdy shape (i.e. doesn’t collapse with the slightest pressure while you’re slicing) & a ‘crumb’ (inside texture) with integrity (i.e. can hold up to a sandwich)….WAIT until it is COMPLETELY cooled! it’s sooo hard…nothing’s better than hot bread with butter….unless that leaves you with annoying sandwiches the rest of the week.

Since i make 2 loaves, i like to keep one out & slice as needed, then slice up the other & freeze it. That way I can just take out slices as I need them (thaw in toaster as needed). Ok….this is the first time I’ve done it, but i’ve seen it recommended elsewhere & kept meaning to do it that way.

*for casein-free folk you *might* be able to sub a lemon juice/water mix (like 2-3TBS lemon juice + remaining water), but i make no flavor guarantees…and it’s not likely i’ll put forth the effort to trial it. lemme know if u do!)**

** if you don’t have a heavy-duty mixer (thanks again Pop & Gigi for the heavy duty mixer christmas gift 3 years ago!), i’m not exactly sure what you should do…perhaps mix till it gets to where your mixer seems to be getting angry with you, then hand knead?

The ‘Science’
Um…after all that i’m not gonna go super duper in-depth. If you want to know ALL the details about why phytates are bad…or any of my crazy ideas that follow. google it. :)

Non-metallic bowls: Supposedly metal kills yeast. I have experienced this with killing sourdough starters by stirring with metal spoons. I’ve also had many a sourdough bread not rise in a metal bowl. I do however mix it in my Kitchen-aid which is metal. But I don’t keep it there long.

I added the kefir (original recipe calls for 2 cups water), because an acidic medium helps neutralize phytates. This is the reason I make sprouted wheat flour for quickbreads & cookies. There are soaked recipes for these things, but i don’t like them. Sprouting accomplishes the same thing as soaking does (some might argue more). But sprouting, dehydrating & grinding are far too labor intensive (& buying sprouted wheat flour is far too expensive), so I’m not going to do it unless I can’t find a yummier easier alternative. For bread, this is that alternative. So…phytates in an extremely simplified explanation: Enzyme inhibitors that make digesting the grains/beans/seeds more difficult. It’s good news for ‘seeds’ in the wild because animals gnosh on them, but many pass through undigested….in their own wonderful little pile of compost, to go on to grow into a new plant. Bad news for us though. Best case we’re just not getting all we can out of the grains, worst case it’s wreaking havoc in our intestines. Bread Beckers folks have written an argument against this theory…but i disagree with it. I’ll stop there.

If you want to know why I said said, “olive, coconut oil or butter” see Nina Planck or weston price they can explain why ‘real fats’ are better, and why vegetable oils in particular are not good for high-heat cooking better than I can (& why corn & soybean oils will never be in my pantry). I HIGHLY recommend Nina Planck’s book, “Real Food; What to eat and why”.

The honey molasses mix: It might well work with just honey. In which case, just do a 1/4 cup honey. But yeast likes blackstrap molasses. Not sure if it’s the calcium, magnesium or iron or what. i forget… But it likes it. I however don’t so much, thus I don’t do ONLY molasses….I’ve never been a fan of black licorice which is what it tastes like to me. For what it’s worth, yeast also likes ginger so If YOU like ginger you can add a tsp of powdered ginger to the water mix to make your yeast really happy. Ryan’s not a big fan of gingery bread so I was glad to see that this still worked without it.

The original recipe calls for 1.5 TABLESPOONS yeast. i only used 1 TEASPOON (i bet 1/4 tsp would work too given enough time). The reason for this is that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”. …It just takes longer for it to do so. This is a GOOD thing because (and again, I’m not an expert, just a crazy person who reads stuff by crazy people too often): 1) it gives the ‘acidic medium’ time to works it’s magic against the phytates. 2) something about the longer the yeast gets to proliferate the more digestible IT becomes (a lot of people are sensitive to commercial yeast…and may or may not know it…it’s usually grown on corn…). 3) The longer it gets ‘predigested’ by the yeast & kefir, the more digestible the gluten becomes (gluten being the protein in wheat, which again, many (some might say most) people are sensitive to & don’t even know it). This is where I’m ok with a bit of white flour. This guy claims that “bran is bull….” well…you get the idea…and that we should only consume slow ferment white bread. I’m not entirely convinced since I want to get as much nutrition out of every bite that I can…and i wonder how fine ‘traditional’ cultures were able to sift wheat on a regular basis. Whole wheat, in it’s entirety I think does work toward nutrient-dense…though I agree I would never purposely add bran in isolation to anything just like i prefer not to use white flour in isolation (though ok ok…i cheat on the latter a good bit). So the cup of white flour can add some lightness but it’s mostly whole wheat, so has all that ‘goodness’….and the long ferment deals with the sugars in the white flour.

As for why I would not use any refined salt (even ‘sea salt’…if it’s just labeled, ‘sea salt’ it’s probably refined. Unrefined salt is more expensive so they’d be putting that pretty info on the label), and why I prefer freshly milled wheat….well….that’s too much for the scope of this already-too-long-post (both info would be found in the “Real Food” book). Store-bough whole wheat would work though. Ryan’s already in bed. I’d like to go join him.

If any of you try this let me know how it goes!

6 thoughts on “Sandwich Bread Nirvana (aka: ‘toot-toot’)!

  1. Love this! Thanks for doing all the leg work! I always have “salt” discussions with people and they don’t really “get it” unless they care to be interested, but they are always impressed with the different salt in my pantry – colorful! heh heh. Anyway, the science part excites me the most; I guess that’s the nerd in me. When we get settled from our upcoming move, I will try this recipe. I’m excited!

    • i have no recollection. i haven’t made it in awhile! but i think a few hours…?

  2. Jenn -

    Hey! i was looking for a bread recipe and thought I’d check your Blog first. Do u still like this recipe? Also, wondering if you have any recommendations for a good laundry detergent, dish soap and furniture polish (I think the stuff I currently use is going to kill us all! – seriously wreaks)

    Hope that you and your family are doing well – looks like it from your blog and fb posts. Miss you guys.

    Also would you mind sending me your address. Sydnie is going to do some letter writing this summer to work on her writing skills – so I thought it would be fun to keep up with an old pal. (We’ll see how well I follow through – but I have good intentions :)


  3. i have been pretty slack in the bread department lately, but when i make bread, yes it’s pretty much this recipe (you can do just honey btw, don’t have to molasses). i’ll send the address!