This White Sandwich Bread recipe has great flavor and texture, perfect for your next BLT or PBJ.
Did you know that August is national sandwich month? I don’t know who got to decide that, but I’m gonna run with it. To celebrate the sandwich I’m offering a recipe for quintessential sliced white bread. Though I often prefer a whole wheat or rye bread for the flavor and texture, I think certain sandwiches work best with simple, sliced white bread, like a BLT or PB&J. But just because it’s white bread doesn’t mean it has to have the lackluster taste and squishy texture of a certain “wonderous” bread that many of us ate growing up.
I made this bread last week because the luscious summer tomatoes on my kitchen counter kept whispering “BLT, BLT…” I made a beautiful loaf with my sourdough starter. By the time the bread was baked and cooled I’d lost the daylight and we were starving. So we just went ahead with dinner and I planned to make another loaf to photograph for the post.
I keep a sourdough starter in my refrigerator and I like to use it for most of my breads. If you don’t have a starter hanging around in your refrigerator you can also make this recipe using a sponge. If you enjoy bread baking and do it fairly frequently I think it’s worth creating your own sourdough starter.
What’s the difference between a sourdough starter and a sponge? A starter is a living batter that you build over several days of careful tending to cultivate wild yeast from the environment. There are many ways to create a starter. I made mine using a mash from my son’s beer-making. Once you have a starter, as long as you feed it periodically it can, theoretically, live forever. Each time I’m going to make bread I take my starter out of the refrigerator several hours or the night before. I replace the amount taken with equal parts flour and water. I used a cup of starter for this recipe so I added a 1/2 cup each of flour and water to replenish.
If you don’t have a starter you can begin your bread dough with a sponge. A sponge is a mixture of flour, water and yeast that’s allowed to ferment for a period before you continue mixing the bread dough. While a sponge won’t give the depth of flavor that a sourdough starter does, it still produces a nice loaf of bread with good texture and flavor. Since I started with fairly warm water (100°), I left mine just a hour before mixing the dough. If you have the time and want a better flavor for your bread start with cooler water (room temp) and let it sit longer. You could start the sponge the night before and then mix the dough in the morning to have loaves ready for lunch.
So that I could offer alternate directions for those who don’t have a sourdough starter I decided to make two loaves of bread, one with the starter and one with a sponge.
The two loaves were a little different. The loaf made with the starter rose dramatically in the oven, mushrooming over the sides of the pan. I loved the way it looked, rustic and homey with a slightly irregular crumb. The starter loaf browned better than the loaf made from the sponge. The biggest difference was in flavor. Both breads had a nice chewy yet soft texture, due to the milk and butter in the recipe, but the bread made from the sponge had a very pronounced yeasty flavor that was not unpleasant, but it did overtake the wheat-y taste a bit.
Contrary to the name, the sourdough bread did not have a sour taste, it had a slightly sweet, nutty, pronounced wheat flavor. If I didn’t taste them side-by-side I’m sure I would have thoroughly enjoyed either loaf. For my money the more complex flavor of the sourdough loaf is worth the trouble of keeping a starter alive in your refrigerator.
Happy Sandwich month!
Special Equipment Used: Loaf pan.