The Perfect Sandwich Bread



A good, hearty sandwich bread is almost like a basic tool in every serious cook’s toolbox. Yes, it’s easy enough to find good wholegrain bread in the supermarket or a bakery, but in my opinion, it comes nowhere close to the perfection of a freshly baked loaf of homemade bread.

Before I post the recipe, I wanted to give some of you who might be new to baking a few tips on getting started. Bread-baking can sometimes seem daunting to both newbie as well as veteran bakers, not least because you are at the mercy of the yeast and even, to some extent, the weather, because it’s the temperature that determines rise times. And even if you take a great deal of care, there’s every chance that a loaf might not rise at all, or it might come out too dense or too brittle.

I have had many bread-baking boo-boos. The first time I baked a loaf of bread, it turned out looking like a dense mass of cooked, lumpy dough. It certainly didn’t look anything like bread.

But I loved the idea of homemade bread too much to give up so I kept at it, and eventually I caught on.

The most important beginning to the perfect bread is, of course, the yeast. I buy active dry yeast in a big packet from Costco, and although I bake almost every weekend, I don’t use it fast enough, so I store it in an airtight jar in the freezer. It is extremely important to ensure before you start that your yeast is fresh and active. The way most bread recipes do this is by telling you to “flower” the yeast, or, in more straightforward terms, to check if the yeast is alive, by adding warm water and allowing it to sit for a few minutes. If the yeast starts to froth — you can actually see it move– in about five minutes, it is alive and well. If not, you need to throw it away and get fresh yeast because otherwise your bread’s pretty much a non-starter. Also, be sure to add warm, not hot, water to the yeast because while the yeast needs some warmth to grow and multiply, too much heat can kill it.

There’s one more thing I cannot stress enough to new bakers: follow the recipe instructions carefully. You’ve probably heard this cliche before, but like any cliche it’s quite truthful: baking is a science, as opposed to cooking which is more of an art. A little substitution here and there can cause everything to go off-kilter.

Next comes the flour. Many home cooks have a tendency to substitute all-purpose or bread flour with whole-wheat, with the good intention of making the bread healthy. But each type of flour has a different gluten content, which makes it act differently in a bread recipe. Breads made entirely with whole wheat or rye flour, for instance, would be too dense to be edible. You can remedy this in some cases by adding vital wheat gluten to the bread which helps make wholegrain breads fluffier, but again, if you’re new at bread-making, make sure you follow a good recipe that tells you how to do this.

Be sure to accurately follow rise times. For instance, when the recipe asks you to let the dough rise for two hours, don’t let it rise for four, because it can seriously damage the structure of your bread. In some cases the rise time is less important, in which case the recipe will tell you so. But usually it does matter.

Because room temperature is vital in rise times, and because the weather here in the United States varies drastically during the various seasons, I usually bung the dough into a cold oven with the light on, which creates the perfect temperature for a dough to rise.

Lastly, follow baking directions precisely, and resist the temptation to open the oven during at least the first half hour of baking because the unexpected rush of cold air can cause your bread to act in ways you don’t want it to.

Hope that information is helpful to some of you out there. Now it’s time to share my sandwich bread which is part whole-wheat and which I make almost every weekend because we never can have enough of it around for a snack. It also makes great toast.

This bread is really soft and delicious the day it’s baked, and it firms up just a little bit the next day, which makes it great for a sandwich. It remains fresh in the fridge for at least a week, and — best of all– unlike most store-bought bread, it has no preservatives.

The sandwich, as most know, is named after England’s John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, who apparently liked to eat meat tucked between slices of bread. So this bread goes to It’s A Vegan World: British, going on right this month at Holy Cow! This healthy bread also goes to Madhuram’s Wholegrain baking event.

Enjoy, all!

Sandwich Bread

(Makes two loaves)

Mix in a large bowl and set aside for five minutes until it begins to froth:

4 tsp active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

Mix in another bowl:

1 cup warm soymilk

1 cup warm water

2 tbsp shortening like Crisco’s transfat-free shortening

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp salt

Add the soymilk mixture to the yeast. Add to it:

1 cup bread flour

1 cup whole-wheat flour

Mix in a stand mixer on low speed or by hand. Then add:

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

Knead on low speed or by hand, gradually adding until the dough is no longer sticky:

1 to 1 1/2 cups of bread flour (add more flour if the dough’s still sticky).

Continue kneading for another 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, turning once so the top of the dough is coated with oil.

Cover with a kitchen towel and allow it to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in volume.

Now punch down the dough, and put it back in the bowl to rise for another hour.

Grease two standard (6-cup) loaf pans. Now punch the dough down again and divide it into half. Shape each half into an oval, tucking the seams underneath.

Place each oval into a loaf pan, cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise for about 1 hour until the dough rises above the pan, forming a nice dome.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake the loaves for 10 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees and continue baking for another 30 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes, then remove the loaves from the pan and continue cooling.

For more great vegan bread recipes, try my Whole-wheat Challah or my Saltless Tuscan Loaf, both huge favorites in my home.

Before I leave you alone, Lavi at Home Cook’s Recipes has posted her roundup of It’s A Vegan World: Moroccan. Do head on there for a look at some of the most finger-licking, lip-smacking collection of vegan Moroccan dishes you’re ever likely to see. Hats off to Lavi for a great job, and hats off too to all you amazing cooks who sent in your recipes.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Comments

  1. Pooja says

    Wow the sandwich bread looks spongy and soft! Thanks for the tips. It would be very useful. Does all purpose flour work as well instead of bread flour?

  2. Vaishali says

    Hi Pooja, You could substitute all-purpose flour in the recipe, although keep in mind that all-purpose flour has a lower gluten content than bread flour as well as less protein, so the bread’s texture would turn out different. It might not be as spongy and chewy.

  3. BangaloreBaker says

    Just a tip. If you want to use all purpose flour instead of bread flour (which I do all the time since all purpose is cheaper when bought in bulk than bread flour and bread flour can’t be bought in bulk in stores), add a TBSP of vital wheat gluten for every cup of flour. You might have to add 1/2 – 1 tsp extra water , but the results are same as bread flour bread. While making wheat bread, it helps if you double the first kneading cycle’s time.

  4. Pavithra says

    Vaishali thats really usful tips u have given.. I have never tried baking a bread..But having in mind will mail you if i have any doubts other than this… Your looking so good and perfect and really tempting me to do it…

  5. Ann says

    Agree with you completely there..Fresh home baked bread is nowhere near comparison with the store brought..I bake often..
    yours look perfect..texture tell it all !!

  6. Pavani says

    I’ve never baked bread, but I would love to. How do you store your bread in the fridge? wrapped in foil? Nice pics and great tips too.

  7. Pavithra Kodical says

    I agree i was doing that mistake before. I was not measuring the ingredients and the bread use to be dense.Now i make sure to measure all the ingredients and happy with the result.

  8. Dee says

    I dont even get close to thinking about bread baking vaishali. Great tips for a novice like me . I thoroughly enjoyed reading the post. bookmarked for future use:) I hope to participate in the IAVW_ british event. Lets see how it goes…

  9. Sharmila says

    Wow! this post is so informative Vaishali. I did try to bake with whole wheat … and it did turn into a strange looking solid mass. am going to refer this post the next time I try to bake. :-) the bread looks great … wish I can bake some bread successfully someday.

  10. Madhuram says

    I too have not overcome my fear of yeast after one failed experiment. So great tips for people like me.

    Could you also send it to the whole grain event when time permits?

  11. Priya Narasimhan says

    Vaishali, can’t believe it is homemade. It looks so good..And thanks for the tips..What exactly is this shortening? Can I replace it with butter if I don’t mind if it is not vegan…

  12. Anonymous says

    Hi Vaishali, I was looking for a good recipe for sandwich bread and now I have it :) I made your recipe yesterday and it came out really nice, soft and very tasty. I needed to add though more than 2 cups of bread flour before the dough was not sticky anymore; you had on the instructions up to 1.5 cups, so I was a bit worried of the final result; but later when it started rising beautifully I knew it would be good.

    Really excellent recipe. Thank you :)

    Best wishes.

    Maria

  13. Vaishali says

    BangaloreBaker, thanks for a great tip!

    Pavithra, feel free to write in any time.

    Ann, thanks!

    Pavani: I usually use a plastic bag– bags leftover from storebought bread work great.

    Pavithra, measuring ingredients is indeed key for baked goods. Good luck!

    Dee, Thanks. Hope you try it some time, and I am looking forward to your IAVW entry.

    Usha, Thanks!

    Sharmila, it’s always difficult the first few times, but as with most things, practice makes perfect!
    Better luck next time :)

    Madhuram, thanks! And I will definitely send it on to the wholegrain event.

    Priya, thanks. You can replace the shortening with butter.

    Maria: Glad it turned out well for you. I should’ve mentioned that one should add more flour if the dough’s still sticky. Thanks for letting me know, and I will add a clarification in the recipe.

  14. Stephanie says

    Your bread looks wonderful. I do have a recipe I use that makes 100% whole wheat sandwich bread that turns out really well, but I make part unbleached white and part whole wheat bread more often. I love to bake and this looks like a wonderful Sandwich Bread…the Earl would love it!!

  15. Lavi says

    Thanks Vaishali!! sorry for the late post also. Sandwich bread looks perfect!!

    You have posted so many recipes in a week..got to catch up all..You Rock!!

  16. Anonymous says

    Hi Ms. Vaishali

    I love baking and I was very happy when I found Holy Cow… what is the measurement if I use instant yeast? can’t find dry yeast most of the time. Hope to hear from you and thank you very much.

    Baketown

    • Vaishali says

      Baketown, sorry I didn’t see your message earlier– I am not sure about how much instant yeast to substitute because I’ve never used it. I think you typically need less instant yeast, though, compared to active dry yeast. Some websites advise using 25 percent less instant yeast than the amount of active dry yeast in the recipe. Hope that helps.

  17. Anonymous says

    This may sound like a silly question… how do you measure the flour? I’m used to spooning the flour (not sifted) into a measuring cup, as I did this when using a bread-maker. However, I had to use way more than the 1.5 cups of bread flour added at the last step. I’m wondering if my measuring technique is incorrect.

    Finally…when you say to add flour until it is no longer sticky…do you mean absolutely no stick at all (probably another silly question)? Can you tell I’m new to this?

    Thanks!!

  18. Vaishali says

    Anonymous, i usually scoop it out with the cup itself and then level off the top with a knife or my finger. You have to be flexible with the flour while bread-baking: a dry winter kitchen might require less flour, a humid summer kitchen would require more. Add enough flour so the dough does not stick to your fingers.

  19. Vanessa says

    This recipe is great!! I made it for the first time today, perfect!

    I was wondering if it is possible to freeze the dough for baking later? It would be great to be able to make a few batches at once and save some for baking.

    If it is possible, would one freeze the dough before the last rise, defrost it and let if rise in the pan after coming to room temperature?

    Thanks for posting this recipe!!

  20. Vaishali says

    Hi Vanessa, glad you liked the bread and thanks for the feedback. And yes, I think you could definitely freeze it, then defrost and rise before baking. I’ve not tried freezing with this dough but I do often freeze pizza dough and it rises fine once it’s thawed. :)

  21. AgnostiChica says

    Thanks for making my day, Vaishali. This is my first ever successful bread after half a dozen failed ones. DH is vegetarian and finding breads devoid of eggs here in Hong Kong is quite a trip. So this recipe is a godsent :) I’m now off to trying some other breads from you!

  22. Vaishali says

    Hi AgnostiChica, thanks very much for the feedback and glad you liked the bread :)
    I just made an all-whole-wheat version of this and it was really mindblowing– the best bread I’ve made, I think. I’ll be posting it this week so keep an eye out!

  23. DR says

    Hi Vaishali, I visit your site regularly but had not tried anything. Just tried this bread yesterday. It came out absolutely wonderful. Soft & Delicious. Great recipe. !!! One of the only recipes with Whole wheat flour that worked for me. Thanks much!

    Deepa

  24. Amy says

    Great recipe! My second attempt at making this turned out better than the first. First time I disregarded using oiled plastic wrap on last rise, and the towel I put over the loaves stuck to the dough and deflated the tops. The bread was still good, just a little squished.

    Second time they were rounded and gorgeous, just crunchy as heck! The inside is lovely and soft, but the outer crust is very sharp.

    Is it supposed to get that hard on the outside, or am I doing something wrong? I substituted coconut oil for the shortening, and I am using glass pans. Could the glass pans be causing the crunchiness? I do plan to get some metal pans for future bread baking.

    • Vaishali says

      Amy, the glass pan could be making a difference because different surfaces impart different textures to the crust. Let me know if you see a difference with metal pans.

  25. shellybugster says

    I made this recipe today and it was my very first venture into bread-making. I’m not much of a baker in general. This recipe is wonderful! It was easy to follow and understand, the bread smelled amazing while baking and it tasted wonderful when done. I used all-purpose flour instead of bread flour, but it still came out perfect. It was spongy and moist with a harder crust on the outside. Delicious! Thanks so much for the recipe :)

  26. Anonymous says

    Very excited to try this recipe…thank you so much for posting it!! My husband and I went vegan about a month and a half ago, and I haven’t been very happy with any store-bought bread. I do have a question…is there any reason I wouldn’t be able to freeze a loaf once it’s already made, or use it as I would use store bought (ie broil it for garlic bread, etc)?

  27. Thamarai says

    hi Vaishali,

    Can I not use shortening? I have some vegan butter sitting in the fridge and I need to use it up. Any suggestion on the substitution quantity? I was just reading today about the kind of unimaginable ingredients that go into store bought bread to make it bake quicker and I was kind of shocked. I am seriously going to start baking my own bread at home. I have tried previously but it ended up smelling very yeasty. But will give this one a try for sure. Thanks again!

    • Vaishali says

      Thamarai, absolutely. Just replace it with the same amount of vegetable oil. And yes, it’s really shocking what manufacturers add to breads, especially the preservatives. A study last year found that breads are the leading source of sodium in the American diet.

  28. Kitchen worktops guy says

    What ruins sandwiches for me is always the bread – I feel like it’s wasted, somehow, compared to the filling. But finding the perfect bread will be the solution! But the perfect bread will vary according to the filling, right?

  29. VegHead says

    I’m so excited to try making this bread!I was just wondering if you knew how many calories were in it? I’ve been trying t watch my weight lately. Thanks(:

  30. Mama jj says

    I tried the recipe last night and doing a second time right now. The bread turned out crisp on outside & perfectly soft inside in a glass and a metal pan. Smells fantastic, tastes great, and beautiful brown color. Thank you so much for the vegan bread recipe and especially for taking the time to add all the little details that my dummy self needs to cook successfully in the kitchen! Everyone that walks in my house says, “Oh my it smells good in here!” Thanks again and God bless :)

  31. Namrata says

    Lovely bread! I tried the recipe today and it came out perfect. I made with regular milk and canola oil instead of shortening. I have been browsing your blog for a while though first time commenting. You have a nice corner here with not so complicated recipes. I am lacto-vegetarian so can relate to so many recipes. Also tried Mushroom biryani..yum. Thanks for sharing.

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