It was certainly not the easiest loafing experience for me, but this All-American bread recipe taught me many things, including (but not limited to):
-Julia Child knows her loaves.
-Butter is great for the skin…not so awesome for clothes.
-I’ve never smelled Napalm (in the morning or otherwise) but I imagine the remarkable scent of burning SunBeam MixMaster comes close (I need me some KitchenAid if I’m going to continue with the bread thing. STAT).
– When all is said and done, this white girl makes kick-ass white bread. Furreal.
You will need a stand mixer equipped with dough hook/hooks to make this bread. If your stand mixer is anything like my stand mixer (i.e.: more than fifteen years old and weighing less than 10 pounds), you will also need a very strong man or average strength yeti to help you hold it down while it struggles with a VERY dense dough.
Roughly a billion other food/recipe bloggers have made white sandwich bread, and about two thirds of them used Julia Child’s recipe. I followed this rendition by Dinner with Julie. So here is my adaptation of her adaptation of J.C.’s recipe for White Sandwich Bread.
Julia Child’s White Sandwich Bread
Recipe Makes 2 Loaves
STUFF YOU NEED:
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast (NOTE: That is more than what you get in a single packet of yeast – use bulk yeast or measure out from multiple packets)
1 tablespoon sugar
7 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup butter, softened, plus a little more for greasin’
STUFF YOU GOTTA DO
Pour 1/2 cup of the warm water into small bowl. Stir in the yeast and sugar and whip it up a little. Let the yeast chow down on the sugar for about five minutes, or until poofy, while you…
Put the remaining warm water (2 cups) and 3 1/2 cups of the flour into the bowl of your mixer. Add your yeasty mix (if it has poofed), and get your mixer going on low.
Once everything is blended (you”ll notice the consistency is not unlike pancake batter), gradually add the rest of the flour (3 1/2 cups) and the salt.
This is where things started to get interesting for me. Maybe ‘challenging’ is a better word. Or maybe ‘reallyfirkinscarybecauseitwaslikeCaptainHowdywasallupmymixer’ is an even better word. For the sake of people actually trying to follow the recipe, I will change my anecdotal text to purple so you know you can skip those bits.
Evidently, 7 cups of flour (plus yeast, water, and sugar) is somewhat beyond the capacity of my wee old mixer. It was fine for the first minute or two as I added the flour, then randomly spewed a great dusty mist of it over my boobs and one half of my counter. Then it started to buck and heave like a bronco with food (hay?) poisoning. The business portion (the bit with the hooks) was nearly rearing up and out of the bowl, which was a half second away from spinning itself right off the platform. So I held on to it for dear loaf and screamed for my boyfriend, who came running in, looked at me for a second, and then promptly turned it off.
The portion containing the motor was super-hot to the touch and smelled like something reeeaaaally bad was happening. I took the super stiff dough off of the hooks and held it helplessly for a moment, not sure how to proceed.
Concerned my mixer was about to belch flames and/or fart smoke, keel over, and die, I considered my options. I could knead for a while, but the next step of the recipe involved softened butter, and somehow I didn’t see that going well. So I decided to wait for a bit, knead by hand, redistribute my dough in the bowl, and then see what happened.
Because I’m so very patient, waiting ‘a bit’ meant about four minutes. Although, to my credit, I did knead my cranky, potentially mixer-homicide-committing dough during those minutes. I was sweating by the end, because a) that dough is stiff as a…uh, it’s really stiff, and b) I’m seriously out of shape. Then I plopped it back in the mixer bowl (the mixer was considerably less smelly), said a little prayer, plunged the hooks back into the dough, and turned the sucker back on, so I could add my butter.
With the mixer on low, add the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time. The dough will start to seperate somewhat as you add the butter, but it will pull itself back together for the most part if you just continue to mix/knead until it’s uniformly smooth (roughly 8 minutes). My mixer started to stress again half way through this step, and I coated the ends of both my sleeves with butter as I did my best to hold the bowl down. Great times, guys!
Plop your dough on a very lightly floured surface, knead it by hand just a wee bit and then make it into a ball(ish shape). Put it back into the bowl. If your dough ball, like mine, was smooth and pretty on one side and not so smooth and pretty on the other, that’s okay – just place it in the bowl with the lumpy side down. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let sit in a draft-free environment (I used my unheated oven) for 45 minutes to an hour, or until doubled in size. While you wait, grease up two standard-size loaf pans.
Now here’s the part that I really enjoyed:
Uncover your doubled dough, and punch the mutha sucka that almost killed your mixer right in the kisser. SEVERAL TIMES. UNGH! YEAH!
In other words, deflate, or ‘knock down’ the dough. You should hear the air pockets that have formed hissing out as you push that dough down, like you’re the mean dough kid at dough recess. I’m happy to report that after the first rising, the dough was substantially easier to work with.
Now cut/tear your deflated dough in half. Pat each half into a rectangle that’s just a little bigger edge-wise (9″X 12″) than a standard piece of paper. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
After punching my dough and tearing it in half, I was starting to like it a little more. Which seems like the start of a perfectly healthy relationship.
Starting at a shorter end, fold your dough sheet into thirds.
Place seam side down in your buttered loaf pans and then tuck the ends of your folded bread letter in, essentially concealing the folds. In the below photo, you can kind of see the somewhat shitty job I did of it.
Cover with the plastic wrap or tea towel again and leave them for an hour or so in a warm, draft-free environment (I turned my oven to ‘warm’, or about 85 °F, and let them hang in there) until they look something like this:
Ain’t that gorgeous? Startin’ to look like bread!
If your loaves are in the oven, take them out and preheat to 375°F. Center an oven rack in the middle. Pop your loaves in there and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until they turn light goldeny brown (blond?) and lovely.
As soon as you get them out of the oven, turn the loaves out of their pans and onto a cooling rack.
I hope you’re impressed with me, because I sure as hell was. The crust is crisp and delicate, not at all like the crust on store-bought bread where it’s flavorless and annoyingly sticks to the roof of your mouth. I wrapped one loaf up and stuck in the freezer and James and I are enjoying making our way through the other one.
We got off to a rough start, me and my ‘Murican white bread, but it could not have turned out any more perfectly. I hope you get the same result without the same near-mixer break down.
LOVE YOU ALL!