When the meal isn’t the bread but what’s between the slices, you’ll want something light and with a fine crumb. A good sandwich bread recipe produces a loaf that has character but is soft and cakelike and plays the role of supporting actor to the fillings. Historically, American sandwich bread has been lightly enriched with a little fat in the form of milk and oil. The recipe here is based on an early 18th-century English bread called “French bread.” The only change I’ve made is cutting back on the eggs from three to one (the original is more like a challah). This recipe calls for more yeast than I use in another recipe for Crusty White Bread so the bread dough will rise faster and yield a softer crumb. It also calls for less liquid so the crumb will be finer in texture.
Ingredients and supplies:
3 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 tbsp softened butter
1 egg (preferably from a pastured chicken for the rich color and nutrition the yolk provides), beaten
1 tsp salt
2 1⁄4 tsp dried yeast
1 1⁄4 cups milk at warm temperature
1 bread tin, buttered
1 egg, beaten and thinned with water, for brushing (optional)
Note: If rehydrating yeast with water, subtract the amount of water you added to the yeast from the 1 1⁄4 cups of milk.
Put flour in a mixing bowl along with the softened butter. Use your fingers to work the butter into the flour until no large pieces remain. Next, add the beaten egg, salt and yeast. Holding the bowl with one hand, stir in enough warm milk to form a dough. At this point, the dough should be raggedy and rough.
Turn onto a lightly floured board, wash your hands of dough, and with wet hands knead a few times to be sure the dough is well-mixed, then place in a clean, lightly buttered bowl and let the dough rise, covered, in a warm place. After it has doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours), turn onto a lightly floured board. Gently press out the gas and form dough into a rectangle to fit into a buttered bread tin. Cover, set in as warm a place as you have, and let rise until nearly doubled. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the bread is ready, brush the top of the loaf with a beaten egg thinned with a little water (this step is optional). Bake until crust is golden, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven, turn out of the tin, and let cool on its side for at least 3 hours before cutting.