Yield
Makes 1 loaf
Time
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours (rising time) prep, 35 minutes cooking, 4 to 5 hours, plus 3 hours cooling time total

We wanted a good, solid sandwich bread recipe that could be done in two hours, start to finish, including baking time. We found that sandwich bread improved markedly when kneaded with a standing mixer or food processor, which helped us resist the temptation to add extra flour. We also were surprised to find that we preferred rapid-rise yeast over active dry yeast for our sandwich bread recipe. Not only did it greatly reduce rising times, but it also made for better-tasting bread.

Note: This recipe uses a standing electric mixer; see Food Processor Method section below for a food processor variation. You can hand-knead the dough, but we found it’s easy to add too much flour during this stage, resulting in a somewhat tougher loaf. If you don’t have bread flour, you can use all-purpose flour.

[Ed. Note: Tucker Shaw from America's Test Kitchen talks more about this recipe/process in an interview with Sally Swift.]

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (13 3/4 ounces) bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) whole milk, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) water, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Key Equipment

  • 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan
  • water-filled spray bottle
  • instant-read thermometer

Directions

1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk milk, water, melted butter, and honey in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until honey has dissolved.

2. Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add milk mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, about 8 minutes.

3. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

4. Grease 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Press down on dough to deflate. Turn dough out onto lightly floured counter (side of dough that was against bowl should now be facing up). Press and stretch dough into 8 by 6-inch rectangle, with long side parallel to counter edge.

5. Roll dough away from you into firm cylinder, keeping roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go. Pinch seam closed and place loaf seam side down in prepared pan, pressing dough gently into corners.

6. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until loaf reaches 1 inch above lip of pan and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

7. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Mist loaf with water and bake until deep golden brown and loaf registers 205 to 210 degrees, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.

8. Let loaf cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and let cool completely on wire rack, about 3 hours, before serving.


Food Processor Method
Makes one 9-inch loaf

We wanted a good, solid sandwich bread recipe that could be done in two hours, start to finish, including baking time. We found that sandwich bread improved markedly when kneaded with a standing mixer or food processor, which helped us resist the temptation to add extra flour. We also were surprised to find that we preferred rapid-rise yeast over active dry yeast for our sandwich bread recipe. Not only did it greatly reduce rising times, but it also made for better-tasting bread.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 cup milk, warm (110 degrees)
  • 1/3 cup water plus 2 tablespoons, warm (110 degrees)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 package rapid-rise yeast (also called instant)

Directions

American Loaf Bread made in the food processor was slightly better made with all-purpose flour, but regardless of the flour you use, add an extra two tablespoons of water to the dry ingredients. The food processor blade kneads the softer dough more effectively. During the hand-kneading phase, you may need to add a little flour to make a workable dough. To ensure a tender bread, however, add as little as possible.

1. Adjust oven rack to low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain heat 10 minutes, then turn off oven heat.

2. Mix flour, salt, and yeast in bowl of food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add liquid ingredients; process until rough ball forms. Let dough rest 2 minutes. Process 35 seconds. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead knead by hand until dough is smooth and satiny, 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Place dough in very lightly oiled bowl, rubbing dough around bowl to lightly coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.

4. Form dough into loaf by gently pressing the dough into a rectangle, one inch thick and no wider than the length of the loaf pan. Next, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn dough seam side up and pinch it closed. Place dough in greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan and press gently so dough touches all four sides of pan.

5. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in warm spot until dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees, placing empty loaf pan on bottom rack. Bring 2 cups water to boil.

6. Remove plastic wrap from loaf pan. Place pan in oven, immediately pouring heated water into empty loaf pan; close oven door. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted at angle from short end just above pan rim into center of loaf reads 195 degrees, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove bread from pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.