The quest for the perfect sandwich bread

I’m a bit of a dilettante when it comes to bread.  I dabble.  I read some tips over here, I get some advice over there, and I try random recipes.  I think it has resulted in some pretty good bread.  But my goal has been to find a sandwich bread to replace the 89 cent honey wheat loaf from Aldi that the kids will deign to eat in their lunches. Their requirements:  it shouldn’t be brown, no obvious seeds or nuts, not too chewy, not too crumbly and no hard crusts.  Yeah, they want Wonder Bread.  My requirements:  some whole grains, not too much sweetener (lots of HFCS in that Aldi bread…), not too much fat, and not too much work.

The latest contender: Cracked Wheat Bread from the Moosewood cookbook.  Naturally, I only tried this because I already had a big bag of cracked wheat (aka bulgur, though apparently they’re not exactly the same thing) in the pantry.  The recipe calls for both whole wheat bread flour and all-purpose flour.  I’ve been using all Eagle Mills All-Purpose Flour with Ultragrain.  We started buying this flour at Costco, because it was the only unbleached bulk flour available there.  A little research tells me it is a blend of white whole wheat flour and regular refined white flour.  So, it’s not 100% whole wheat, but it’s a step in the right direction.  And the cracked wheat is a whole grain, so I feel this is a good compromise.

I’ve made this recipe twice, and learned a few things.  First, a little kneading by hand halfway through really helps the kneading action of the KitchenAid dough hook.  Also, don’t forget the salt.  Ahem.  Finally, I’d really like some new loaf pans.  A typical bread recipe yields two large loaves (9″x5″-ish), but my loaves usually end up kind of wide and squat.  The second time I baked this bread, I used one large loaf pan and one small, dividing the dough into 2/3 and 1/3 portions.  Both pans had proportionally more dough, and so rose more out of the pan and had that typical rounded shape I was looking for.  To be honest, these sizes are great for our family.  Two slices from the small loaf makes a perfect sandwich for a kid.

But what’s the verdict on taste?  I really like this bread.  The cracked wheat gives it some texture, but the butter adds enough softness to balance it.  I especially like this bread toasted.  It doesn’t crumble, and it has a fine, uniform texture, without big air pockets.  And it keeps well in a sealed plastic bag for a few days.  I’ve been slicing one loaf and freezing the second until we’re ready for it.  But best of all, the kids have eaten it without comment or complaint.  A winner!  (I may start sneaking in a greater amount of whole wheat flour and see how far I can go before anyone notices.)

Cracked Wheat Bread
adapted from New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant

1/2 cup cracked wheat or bulgur (mine was labeled “cracked wheat/burghul, #1 Fine”)
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup butter
4 tsp salt
1/4 cup honey

1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water

1 cup milk
5 1/2 to 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour with Ultragrain (or a mix of 2 cups white whole wheat flour and 3-4 cups white flour)

Cook the cracked wheat in the water for about 10 minutes, stirring as needed, until the water is absorbed and the wheat looks like hot breakfast cereal.  Add butter, salt and honey.  Meanwhile, proof the yeast in the warm water.  In a large bowl, mix the cracked wheat mixture and milk.  When the mixture has cooled to lukewarm, pour in the yeast and stir.  Mix in the flour until the dough is stiff enough to knead.  Knead it a minute or so by hand, and then transfer to the stand mixer with dough hook and knead for about 8 minutes on medium-low speed.  (Or knead it all by hand for 10-15 minutes.)  The dough should remain soft and a little sticky.  Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat the dough.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.

With floured hands, punch down the dough and knead it for one minute in the bowl.  Shape into two loaves and place in greased loaf pans.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.  Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes (mine was closer to 40 minutes for the extra large loaf).  Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

‘Tis the season 🙂

2 responses

  1. Melissa! I just made this today! Best bread I've made yet! I love the bulgur wheat. I like my bread to have "stuff" in it, and I didn't know what to use! My only problem is that it's a bit gummy. I chronically undertake my bread:( I get too excited. Love your site, keep the recipes coming!

  2. Becky, I often underbake mine, too. I think with this one I did remember to thump on the bottom when I took it out of the pan (immediately after taking it out of the oven), and when it didn't sound hollow enough, I stuck it back in another 5-10 minutes. I think once I also just turned off the oven and left the bread in there because I had to go pick up the kids from school! Turned out fine!

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