Ever since I came to Colorado with Nolan, I have been searching for a sandwich bread recipe that makes everyone happy. I, of course, concentrate on the nourishment and nutritional value of the bread, followed by the amount of prep time needed to squeeze into my schedule; my mom and dad just want something supersoft like grocery store bread; and Nolan will eat pretty much any of it. Bonuses would include large-batch or delayed-bake options, because we are so busy with therapy that I just don’t have as much time to dedicate to cooking these days.
A double-batch of challah bread overflowing the bowl
I have done so many trials now that I have totally lost count, sampling everything from fresh yeasted breads to soaked-flour bread to sourdough, and nothing has quite hit all of our requirements. My parents clearly prefer enriched yeasted breads for their texture; if I had a grain mill, I would start making sprouted flours and not worry so much about phytates, but currently we can only afford for sprouted flour to make up a small percentage of our baked goods.
Sourdough sandwich loaf
All the whole grain sourdough loaves I have tried came out too dense for my mom’s standards, and now every single time I bake something that looks “wheaty,” they ask me if it is sourdough while trying to muster up false enthusiasm. (The loaf highlighted in this post got this treatment also.) Sourdough also seems to take forever to get a decent rise, which is probably why my loaves have come out so dense—I just don’t have enough time to wait on them, even with a really active starter and a nice warm dehydrator for proofing. After about 6 months of experiments with my mom continuing to buy bread from the grocery store for sandwiches rather than subject herself to my homemade bread at lunch, I finally gave in and let the starter go. One day I will live in my own house again and be mistress of my domain.
Soaked oatmeal bread, a four-loaf batch
That left the soaked option, which I have not experimented with quite as often as the rest. In my initial attempts, the problem seemed to be getting dry yeast evenly incorporated into a doughy soaker without a bread machine. Most of my results have been almost as dense as sourdough, so they fail my mom’s texture test.
Yeasted whole wheat sandwich loaf with wheat germ, buttermilk and buckwheat
Finally, we come to the subject of the present post: this enriched, partly whole-wheat sandwich bread, fortified with yogurt, wheat germ and buckwheat. Each batch makes 3 loaves but can be doubled or halved, bakes up soft and fluffy in just a few hours if pressed for time but can also be converted into an overnight soaked dough. The recipe originated in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, which offers large batch sizes so that extra dough can be held in the refrigerator for up to a week and baked on demand; although I have done this successfully with prior recipes from the book, I haven’t had much luck doing so with this particular dough. However, it is still a tender, hearty sandwich bread with a forgiving timeline!
At left, dough after soaking overnight and incorporating yeast mixture; at right, dough at the end of the first rise.
Ironically, now that I have finally found a bread recipe that hits most of our requirements, we just met with a new nutritional therapist for Nolan who has recommended that we trial a casein-free, gluten-free diet for at least a few months. Turns out the digestive enzyme we have been giving Nolan with meals is more for accidental exposures than continuous supplementation, as we had been told; it does make a clear difference in his digestion, but there is no way of knowing if the dosage is sufficient for any given meal, so he is likely still producing polypeptides. All that is to say that we have just a few more days with casein and two weeks with gluten before I start making some significant changes around here. I am already stocking up on coconut milk, clarifying butter, sprouting and dehydrating brown rice, and, well… biting my fingernails! So I’m going to go enjoy a slice of this bread with some good pastured butter while I can, and get back to researching rice-based sourdough starters.
The original recipe calls for a 50-minute bake time for loaves, but mine ended up on the dark side with this time, so keep an eye on it near the end of the baking time.
2 C lukewarm water
1 C buttermilk (or 1/2 C milk, 1/2 C yogurt; or 3/4 C milk, 1/4 C whey)
1 1/2 T yeast
1 T + 1 tsp salt
1/4 C honey
1/4 C unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1/4 C buckwheat flour
1/2 C wheat germ (or additional flour, preferably sprouted wheat)
3 C whole wheat flour
3 C unbleached all-purpose flour
Mix together yeast, salt, honey, butter, water and buttermilk in a large bowl. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a heavy duty stand mixer or your hands. Dough will be a little softer and stickier than you may be used to.
Note: To convert to soaked bread, mix together water, buttermilk, salt, butter, buckwheat, wheat germ, and flours (use 2 C of each); allow to stand at room temp overnight. In the morning, stir together the yeast, honey, and 1/4 C each of water and sprouted wheat flour; knead into the soaked flour mixture and add additional sprouted wheat flour as necessary to form a slightly sticky mass of dough (I added about 3/4 C and ended by mixing with my hands). Proceed as directed below.
Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temp until the dough rises and collapses or flattens on top, approximately two hours. It can be used immediately after this initial rise, or stored in the refrigerator until needed, over the next five days (at your own risk!); it will be easier to handle when cold, especially if you intend to make freeform loaves or rolls.
When ready to bake, grease a 9×4 loaf pan. Dust your hands with flour and pull off a cantaloupe-sized chunk of dough (1.5 lb weight); shape into a loaf and place in the prepared pan. Allow to rest for 40 minutes (add an hour if using refrigerated dough). 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 400F. Bake for about 40-50 minutes, until deeply browned and firm. Allow to cool before slicing.
This bread also makes excellent rolls, sandwich buns, and flatbread (if, say, the stored dough won’t rise for you), but since the dough is rather soft and sticky, do any shaping while it is cold or dust your hands with flour.
Source: Slightly adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.