Tell me about baking sandwich bread, also why did this happen?
September 15, 2020 9:03 AM   Subscribe

You bake sandwich bread regularly and are happy with the results. In particular, you bake either a whole wheat or 50/50 white/whole wheat loaf. Tell me about your process and recipe.

I am in the process of adjusting the King Arthur 100% whole wheat sandwich bread into a 50/50 white whole wheat loaf - household preference is for a lighter loaf with a higher rise, and 100% whole wheat doesn't quite cut it.

So far, I've changed the flour, reduced the molasses by half and reduced the oil by half since I have full-fat milk powder. I would be up for an existing tested recipe for 50/50 white/whole wheat, but I haven't found one that looks good and King Arthur recipes always at least sort of work.

My result is tasty, rises well but has a delicate crumb and a fragile center which makes it less than ideal for sandwich bread.

The internet tells me that:
1. Under-proofing causes fragility and I should proof longer
2. Over-proofing causes fragility and I should proof less
3. Too much flour causes fragility
4. I need to knead longer

But I'm also thinking "hey, I did substantially change the recipe!!! What if milk powder causes fragility or something?"

In your experience, what causes (or prevents) a fragile sandwich loaf?

Tell me about your sandwich loaf baking process.
posted by Frowner to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
SO of Past Unusual has become very skilled in making shokupan, which is amazing light, fluffy sandwich bread (also great for french toast). The difference from other bread recipes is in creating a "tangzhong" from flour and water the day before you make the bread, which sits in the fridge overnight and does [~something magical~] to the texture of the bread.

On a quick google, there are adaptions to use this process for wheat or 50/50 versions, though it might be a little more complicated because of the differences in the gluten from white flour. But maybe try making shokupan once and see if it's the texture you'd like for trying to make it more wheaty.
posted by past unusual at 9:24 AM on September 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

The best sandwich bread I've made is from Stella Parks' Bravetart. It is like homemade Wonder Bread and has a whole wheat variation. It used a yakone, which is a flour/water mix. I think it lends a tenderness to the bread. Be advised, you need a powerful KitchenAid.
posted by bookworm4125 at 9:34 AM on September 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

I use this recipe for sandwich (and noshing) bread.
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 9:49 AM on September 15, 2020

I would be up for an existing tested recipe for 50/50 white/whole wheat

I think that's a better idea than mangling this one -- 100% whole wheat bread is a different beast from even 50/50 bread. This loaf contains a few ingredients designed to soften the bread (milk, milk powder, potato flakes) that might not be desirable in a bread with more white flour.

I make a loaf that I vary between 33% and 67% whole wheat (this makes a loaf of about 800g):
Bread Flour     66.6%     300g
WW Flour        33.3%     150g
Water           40.0%     180g
Milk            25.0%     112g
Butter           8.0%      36g
Sugar            4.5%      20g
Salt             2.0%       9g
Instant Yeast    1.6%       7g

Mix, knead, proof, shape, proof, bake at 350F for 25-35 minutes (I aim for about 200F inside).
As you increase the percentage of whole wheat flour, you'll usually need to increase the hydration percentage (this loaf is already a little low compared with some super-soft sandwich bread). I also find that it helps to give the flour some time to absorb the liquid after mixing and before kneading. When you knead, make sure you test your dough for "windowpane." You'll be able to stretch a strong-enough piece of dough just about thin enough to read through without breaking it.

To check for proof, press the dough with one finger. It should indent and spring back slowly. If it springs back immediately, it needs more time.

This bread will still be soft and a little crumby, but generally strong enough to take chunky peanut butter. If you find that it's still too soft for your taste, increase the water % while decreasing the milk % until you get to the desired texture .
posted by uncleozzy at 9:50 AM on September 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Assuming that I'm not getting windowpane levels of stretch, do I just keep kneading? What happens if I never get to windowpane? (This happened with another dough once but it was a forgiving recipe and baked up fine anyway.)
posted by Frowner at 9:53 AM on September 15, 2020

Are you kneading by hand or by machine? What kind of white flour are you using? King Arthur flour is particularly strong, so you shouldn't have any trouble getting enough gluten development with it. Personally, I always had trouble getting a really solid windowpane until I switched to kneading in the food processor. 75-90 seconds and the dough is perfect, every time (although it generates a ton of heat so I need to use cool-to-cold ingredients).
posted by uncleozzy at 10:07 AM on September 15, 2020

I havent made it in a minute bc my spouse prefers boules to sandwich loaves, but this recipe which a friend sent to me when i started my sourdough starter in early covidtimes was super reliable and very delicious. I usually cold retard in the fridge after panning it for up to 24 hours.

Mix the sponge
Use a recently fed, active starter.
To a glob of starter, mix 75g whole wheat or rye flour and 75 ml lukewarm H2O.
Cover, let ferment overnight.

Mix the dough
To sponge, mix in 380g warm H2O, 2 tbsp veg oil, 540g flour (any kind, or a combo - ive been doing about 40% sifted wheat from maine grains, 20% each whole grain spelt, whole grain red fife, and bread flour), 16g salt.
Knead earnestly for 5-10 mins, until smooth.
Cover, in bowl.

Bulk Rise

Every hour knead for 1-2 mins, in the bowl if it’s especially sticky.
Bulk rise lasts from 2-4 hours until dough is springy and has risen noticeably.

Shape + Final Proof
Tip out dough onto floured surface.
Tap out air a bit w/ fingies.
Fold edges of dough into center, as if swaddling The Baby Jesus.
Keeping dough-baby tight, pull towards you so as to flip the dough over onto the seam side.
Use the outer edges of hands on the bottom of dough to further tuck, tighten and shape into an oblong loaf.
Plop gracefully into an oiled loaf tin.
Cover, let rise another 1-3 hours at room temp; should rise noticeably.
Can pop into fridge for up to a day, which adds flavor (be sure to let come to room temp when ready to bake).

Before baking, you can use kitchen scissors to make 4-5 half-inch deep cuts along spine of loaf; optional but can help it keep shape during bake.
Preheat oven to 480 degrees for 10 mins.
Drop temp to 450 degrees, bake for 35-40 mins.
Done! Tip onto rack and cool completely before cutting.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:25 AM on September 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I like using a lot of dark rye flour in my breads and have felt the lack of gluten/structure, even when I add a reasonable percentage of bread flour (which is higher gluten). So, I add extra isolated, "vital" gluten and it helps me cheat my way through having a high percentage of gluten in dark rye (very low gluten) flour. You can buy gluten pretty easily as it's what people make seitan out of. Adding a tablespoon or two to your dough could help you get the structure you're looking for. Adding gluten also helped me to convert AP flour to a higher protein bread flour during pandemic when bread flour was impossible to find.
posted by quince at 11:21 AM on September 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Stella Parks' 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread Recipe at Serious Eats
It is really worth trying, if you have a big food processor. There is a lot of discussion in the comments about wether you can make it with a stand mixer. I guess it depends on your machine. I have commented there that I made it with a small food processor by dividing the dough into thirds, and it is doable, but I don't bake it every week.
It doesn't use any dairy products, so it is vegan. I wouldn't have thought that would work, but it absolutely does.
In my experience, there are many different types of whole wheat, so that is worth researching, too.
posted by mumimor at 11:47 AM on September 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

When I make sandwich bread I use the King Arthur Just Bread recipe, which is 75% whole wheat and 25% white bread flour. I think it's a better starting place for you, not only because it already includes some white flour, but also because it's WAY less fussy than the recipe you linked (I ask myself: orange juice?). Using a recipe without potato should also yield a higher-rising (though perhaps slightly less tender) loaf. I would not hesitate to try this recipe with a 50/50 mix of flours -- I'd probably sub 1c wheat for 1c AP, leaving the bread flour ratio as is. You might want to try it once as written to get a read on what optimal hydration looks like, so you can adjust as needed when you start playing with flours.

About fragility: bread gets its strength, structure, and ability to rise from gluten. Things that promote gluten development include...
- The right amount of kneading (windowpane test)
- The right amount of proofing
- The right level of hydration (if the dough is too dry, it inhibits gluten formation)
- Using a strong (high protein content) flour. For instance, KA bread flour is 12.7% protein. Adding vital wheat gluten is a way of pushing up the protein percentage, but I think it's generally easier to just use bread flour if that's what you want.
- Using white flour only. Gluten formation can be physically disrupted by the specks of bran in whole wheat flour, seeds, starches (like potato flakes, for instance), fat, and other additions.

Here's a good guide that goes into more detail on gluten development. The strongest, chewiest, least fragile bread will be made of strong flour, water, salt, leavening, and nothing else -- think of a crusty baguette, for instance. For softer breads, we generally use some percentage of lower-protein flour and put in additives (often sugar and fat) which make it more fragile but also more fluffy. It's a balancing act. The recipe you linked to has a TON of additions that will make the bread softer, but also more likely to fall apart. The Just Bread recipe I listed is a little less likely to be fragile, but you might find it less fluffy.

Tangzhong/yukone is a totally different mechanism -- it pre-gelatinizes the starches in a percentage of your flour so that they can absorb more water. This makes breads more soft and tender, may help them to rise higher, and helps them keep longer. If you're not happy with the Just Bread recipe, you might experiment with converting it to a tangzhong recipe.

TL;DR - Try the Just Bread recipe as written. If you want to take it lighter, then try subbing in a cup of AP flour for a cup of the white whole wheat flour. When you change flours, pay attention to the hydration level and adjust as needed (start with less water than in the recipe, and add a little at a time until it looks & feels right). If you feel like continuing to play with it, try tangzhong.
posted by ourobouros at 12:51 PM on September 15, 2020 [6 favorites]

I use this Mark Bittman recipe. Although this isn't indicated on the website, my original source for the recipe (the Mark Bittman app) offered this note for a 50/50 whole wheat loaf: "Substitute half whole wheat flour for half of the white flour. Use honey for the sweetener, adding 2 tbsp or more."

I have used the recipe dozens of times and never had any problems.

My three deviations: I don't use a food processor to combine the ingredients, I just knead by hand and honestly I don't even knead very thoroughly and it works perfectly every time. I also don't follow the rising "times;" I just observe the dough and decide for myself when it's risen enough. I also don't use a piece of plastic wrap to cover the dough during the rise; I use a damp tea towel.
posted by cranberrymonger at 12:57 PM on September 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I love the King Arthur white whole wheat. I have found you can get a good 100% wheat sandwich bread out of it, but 50/50 will rise higher.

3 cups warm water
1 tsp yeast
3 1/2 c flour
Mix these well to make your sponge and cover with damp cloth at room temperature to slightly warm for 2 hours

Then mix for 100 strokes, mix in 2 Tb oil, 2 1/2 tsp salt, and 4 to 4 1/2 c more flour. Mix, knead, and then cover for first bowl rise, again 2 hours

Knead the air out and do a second bowl rise, 1 1/2 hours

Divide and shape into buttered loaf pans, let rise 1 hour covered with damp cloth

Bring oven up to 350-375 F, score tops of loaves with razor. Put pans in fully heated oven, bake for 40-45 minutes
posted by rikschell at 4:50 PM on September 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

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