Up until recently, I believed that the key to great, fluffy bread is to make sure to knead the hell out of it. I mean, don’t overdo it, but if your not sure if you have kneaded it enough, keep going just to be safe. Under kneaded bread will not rise and will end up dense. But my bread world was thrown on its head by seeing a young woman make some delicious, puffy, crusty, golden brown sourdough bread that she said she didn’t knead at all. And now I have come across a recipe in the book Artisan Breads in Five Minutes A Day that makes sandwich bread, a very soft, fluffy bread, with also no kneading at all. So we tried it out, and, shockingly, it works!
As we were mixing the dough, we noticed that it was very loose and wet. When you have to knead dough by hand, overly wet dough is a pain in glutius maximus. Kneading is one of my favorite things about bread making, so this dough texture was new to me. Logically, the more water in the dough, the moister the bread, which evidently is why typical store-bought sandwich breads are nice and moist. We were curious how adding a bit of flour and kneading the dough would change the bread texture, so we experimented a bit.
We divided the dough into three parts, and, according to the recipe, didn’t knead loaf one at all. For loaf two, we added a bit of flour and attempted to knead it a bit. That just ended up with Rosie getting it all over her hands. We would have had to add a lot of flour to make it kneadable, or be very patient (or have a machine do it, but we dont have one)…
Side note on slack (wet) doughs: I have kneaded slack dough by hand before by smearing/ rubbing it around on a table, and periodically scraping it all together again, but that takes some serious patience. But if you can withstand the temptation to throw it all on the floor for 10 minutes or so, it does become manageable, and the resulting bread is fantastic!
…Loaf 3 we stirred for a bit with a spoon, without adding any flour.
Loaf one turned out nice and fluffy and moist. Loaf two had a nice, rounded shape, but was drier. Loaf 3 had bigger air pockets in it, so it fell apart quite easy, but it was also quite moist.
All the loaves were a little small, but making 2 loaves out of the dough instead of the recommended 3 would fix that problem.
Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
Slightly altered from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day
3 cups like warm water
1 1/2 tbs yeast
1 tbs + 1 tsp salt
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup rye flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (used spelt)
2 2/3 cup bread flour
-Dissolve yeast and sugar in water and let sit a few minutes. Add the oil.
-Add all but 2 cups of the flour, mix until incorporated, and let sit for 20 minutes or more. This helps develop the gluten, which is what makes bread rise nicely and become fluffy.
-Add the rest of the flour and let rise, covered with a plastic bag, for 2 hours or until it has doubled in volume.
-Grease three loaf pans ( or two if you want two bigger loaves)
-Punch down dough and divide into three equal parts. Shape into loaves by pulling edges and tucking them under, making a taught skin and a ball shape. Then pull until longer and oval and plop into pan. This sounds easier than it is; the dough is loose and tricky to work with. Try not to overwork it though.
-Preheat oven to 400f 20-30 min before baking. Let loaves rise for 1 1/2 hours. They should be nice and puffy and loaf-like!
-Bake for 40-50 min. To test if they are done, thump the loaves on the bottom and listen for a hollow sound. If it doesn’t sound hollow, continue baking.
-Take loaves out of pan and let cool a bit before gobbling up ;)
Till next time