I am slowly, very slowly, becoming more proficient in yeasty things. This makes me happy because as long as I’ve got flour and such on hand, when the zombie apocalypse comes, I’ll still be able to bake my breads and thus have a carb fix. When I’m not busy kicking zombie ass, I mean. Hey, did I mention I’m a carb fiend? Well I am. I love anything carby, most especially bread. Warm, fresh bread with butter is pretty much one of the nicest thing on the planet, can we agree on that? Lots of people have lots of different ideas on how to bake bread and bread-based things and I wanted to get on this “having a mother starter” bandwagon, so I checked out Peter Reinhardt’s Artisan Breads book. I have to brag that I successfully made a seed culture from scratch and evolved it into a mother starter. Betty (my starter) is currently sitting in my fridge needing to be refreshed. I even made a recipe from his book for pain au levain with Betty and it was pretty lovely. I do still need a lot of practice with shaping loaves though. My batons came out kind of misshapen and strange. However much I loved the simplicity of the recipes and the steps involved (and the giddy feeling that came when I watched my starter actually bubble and rise and do what it was supposed to), I do have a word of caution about these recipes and that is I found the amounts of flour given in them to be way too much. Too much flour makes your breads dense and heavy and if that’s not what you’re looking for in a bread, you’ll have to experiment and modify. That’s what I ended up doing when I set out to make his recipe for soft sandwich bread/rolls. I broke out the lovely dough I ended up with into two medium sized loaves and a batch of dinner rolls I shaped into butterflake style (these are so stinkin’ cute). I had great success with them! The bread was pillowy inside and had great flavor. The rolls were so good Erik ate about 5 at once.
Soft Sandwich Loaves/Rolls
recipe from Peter Reinhardt’s Artisan Breads Every Day
P.S. all of these recipes require at least two days – as you prep your dough the day before, let it rise in the fridge overnight or up to 3 days, and then do your baking on a different day.
1 Tablespoon instant yeast
1 3/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons lukewarm milk (I used whole milk and just heated it in a pan until very barely warm)
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
5 1/2 teaspoons sugar
6 Tablespoons oil or melted butter (I used the butter)
6 1/4 cups bread flour – this is where you’re going to want to experiment. I don’t remember how much flour I used but I know it was not a full 6 1/4 cups.
Whisk the yeast into the warm milk and dissolve it. Let it stand til bubbly (5 minutes or so). In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the salt, sugar, oil or butter, and egg. Mix it together slowly (on low). Add in the milk/yeast mixture. Mix this together. Start adding in your flour a cup at a time, mixing together after each addition. You’re looking for a cohesive dough that is only slightly sticky. If you want to switch to your dough hook and knead it that way, go ahead and do so, running the mixer for 8-10 minutes. Otherwise, dump the dough onto a floured countertop and knead it by hand, until the dough is elastic and still only slightly tacky. Spray a large bowl (make sure it’s fairly large as the dough rises pretty high while in the fridge) with cooking spray and dump the dough inside, turning it over to grease all sides of it. Cover with plastic wrap, and pop it in the fridge overnight.
On baking day, let the dough sit out on the counter for 2 1/2 hours. Divide it in half for two loaves. The guide Reinhardt gives in the book is the dough should weigh about 25 ounces for a 4 1/2 by 8 inch loaf pan, or 28 to 32 ounces for a 5 by 9 inch pan. I used 5×9 pans and each wedge of dough I took off weighed approximately 1 pound. I know this because I laid the dough pieces on plastic wrap on my postal scale. Whatever works, right?
So shaping: here is a video link on the easy way to shape a loaf. If you want to shape them jelly roll style, like I’ve always done, on a floured surface, roll your dough pieces out into rectangles, 1/4 inch thick or so, then start rolling it up. Pinch the ends down and place in the loaf pan you decided on that has been greased with cooking spray. Lightly spray the top of the dough, cover with cling film, then let ’em sit and rise for 2 1/2 hours, or until the tops of the dough are starting to rise up over the top of the pans. Preheat your oven to 350. Pop your loaves in and bake for 20 minutes, rotate the pans, then bake until the bread is golden brown all over and the tops sound hollow when you tap them. Remove from the pans and cool before slicing them up. They make wonderful toast.
You can also make a shit-ton of rolls with this dough instead of loaves if you want, and shape them any way you’d like. To make butterflake rolls, you roll the dough pieces into 1/4 inch thick rectangles. Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into four even strips. stack the strips on top of each other and cut the stacked strips into 1 inch wide units. Place those stacks on the sides in a greased muffin tin. Proof as you would the loaves (until they’re very puffy) and bake in a 350 oven until the rolls are golden brown.