The-Wheat-Bread-Recipe-That-Made-Me-Stop-Buying-Sandwich-Bread

The Wheat Bread Recipe That Made Me Stop Buying Sandwich Bread

Finally, I’m sharing the bread recipe I promised!

Our family – especially me and the kids – eats a lot of sandwiches.  Sandwiches are the easiest option for lunch (Ever tried warming up leftovers for five children?  Not fun.) and so naturally we go through a lot of sandwich bread.

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I’ve always wanted to make my own sandwich bread, but I’ve never been happy with the recipes I’ve tried.  I’m fine with going to a bit of work to make bread, but I want it to be good, and not just good when it’s hot from the oven.  I wanted a sandwich bread that:

  • Slices well
  • Has good flavor (even after a couple of days)
  • Has great texture (even after a couple of days)
  • Is as light and fluffy as store-bought bread
  • Doesn’t require specialty ingredients like extra gluten
  • Is at least mostly whole-wheat

Well, I have finally found a recipe that meets these requirements!  It’s adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread recipe – I’ve simplified it a bit since I felt like some of their steps yielded only minor improvements, and I wanted something that I thought I could reasonably make on a regular basis – say, a couple of times a week.

I’ve been making this bread for about a month now, and aside from one last-minute purchase that I can recall, it has completely eliminated “sandwich bread” from my grocery list!  Everyone likes eating it a lot more, and no one complains about the heel or the crust like they do on store-bought bread.  It’s not 100% whole-wheat, but it at least tastes just as wheaty as the 100% whole-wheat bread I’d buy in the store, and frankly I think that my 70% whole-wheat homemade bread without preservatives is just as nutritious as the 100% whole-wheat stuff from the store.

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This bread recipe is simple,  but it does require some inactive preparation time.  It won’t be on your table in an hour, but I hope you’ll try it anyway.  While a quick yeast bread recipe sounds like a good idea, when you prepare a yeast bread quickly, it usually creates a product that’s delicious when it’s fresh but not that great in a day or two.  (If you have recipes like that, by all means – make them and enjoy!  But, the steps and time in this recipe are necessary to create a product that has both great texture and great flavor even after a few days days.)

The soaking and rising time in this recipe are necessary to develop the texture and flavor, so don’t skimp on them – at least not the first time you try it!

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Here’s the recipe and some additional tips:

The Wheat Bread Recipe That Made Me Stop Buying  Sandwich Bread

For the biga:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)
1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

For the “soaker”:
3 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups milk (I always use whole milk)

For the dough:
1/4 cup honey
4 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons instant yeast
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Additional flour for kneading

Mix the biga ingredients (flour, water, and yeast) in a small container, cover with a lid or plastic wrap, and allow to sit at room temperature for at least eight hours and up to 48 hours.  (Frankly, I have no idea what would happen if it sat longer but I’ve gone this long with no adverse affects.)

Meanwhile, mix the soaker ingredients (flour and milk) well in a lidded container and refrigerate for 8+ hours.  (This softens up the grains which helps with the texture, and I hear there may be some health benefits, too.)  Your soaker and your biga will be doing their thing for the same amount of time, so mix them up at the same time.

Once your biga and soaker have rested for at least eight hours, you can begin making the dough.  Add the biga to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, then tear the soaker into large chunks and put in the bowl.  Allow to mix on low until just combined, then add the rest of the dough ingredients (honey, salt, yeast, butter, and oil) and knead until thoroughly combined, and then allow it to continue kneading for ten minutes.If, near the end of the ten minutes, the dough is still very wet, add additional flour a few tablespoons at a time.  Allow it to thoroughly knead the dough after adding flour, then add additional if necessary.  This dough is best when it is not completely following the dough hook and is still slightly sticky.

When the dough is finished being kneaded, spray two large bowls with cooking spray.  Divide the dough into two pieces and place in oiled bowls, then cover and allow to rise at room temperature for 60-90 minutes or until doubled in volume.  Then, grab one edge of the dough and fold it to the middle, then turn the bowl and fold the next edge to the middle, repeating until all of the dough has been folded to the middle; then flip it over so that the folded edges are on the bottom.  Cover again and allow it to rise again for 60-90 minutes or until doubled in size.

After the second rise, spray two bread pans with cooking spray.  Form a loaf shape, tucking the edges underneath, and place in the greased pans.  Cover (here’s how I do it) and allow to rise for 60-90 minutes or until the bread dough is nice and tall above the pan.

slashing-the-bread-loaves

About 30 minutes before the loaves will be ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400°.  Place an empty round metal cake pan in the bottom as the oven preheats.  When the loaves are ready, slash a line down the length of the bread with a sharp, serrated knife.  (I slashed the loaf on the right in the above picture a little deeper than is ideal.)  Place the loaves in the oven and pour a cup of hot water into the cake pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until tops of loaves are deep brown.  Remove the loaves from the pans and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy!

Additional Tips for The Wheat Bread Recipe That Made Me Stop Buying Sandwich Bread

  • I keep this bread on my counter, with a large plastic container turned upside down over it or in a large plastic container with the light not-tightly closed, for 3-4 days.  I’ve never had it go moldy, though I do live in a very dry climate.  I personally do not like the texture that homemade bread gets when you store it in the refrigerator, so I highly recommend storing it at room temperature in a manner that gives it some air (hence the recommendation for a large container) but that doesn’t allow the air flow in your home to dry it out.  (I’m thinking I need a breadbox, because isn’t that what I just described?)
  • If you can’t use an entire loaf or loaves in 3-4 days, cut off what you won’t use and freeze it; then allow it to thaw at room temperature when you are ready to use it.  I recommend waiting to slice it until it’s thawed, rather than doing it ahead of time, but you could slice it before freezing – just know that it will dry out some.
  • You can do either of the first two rises in the refrigerator.  I’ve done it overnight and it’s been great – a long, cool rise helps develop flavor so there’s not a particular reason not to.  Just remember that if you’ve had the dough in the refrigerator, when you take it out and put it into loaves and let it rise, it’s going to take longer to rise because it’s starting a lot colder than room temperature.  Though I admit to doing it from time to time, speeding up the rising process by putting it in a warm place (like a warmed-up-and-turned-off oven) does prevent some of the good flavor and texture from forming and decreases the margin for error by a lot.
  • You could potentially mix this by hand if you want a workout.  Centuries of housewives have mixed bread by hand, so I’m not going to tell you it’s not possible – but, this is a pretty wet dough and if you knead it by hand, you will probably have to incorporate more flour than is ideal.

    I don’t have a breadmaker so I can’t comment on whether or not that would work.  Some of the hooks on the bread machines I’ve seen are a little wimpy and I would be skeptical that it could thoroughly mix the soaker (which is quite heavy) but if you try it, I’d love to hear if it worked!

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Remember, the time and techniques used to create this recipe are, I believe, what gives it the great texture and flavor that makes it delicious even when it’s not fresh out of the oven. I hope you enjoy it!

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Comments

  1. Carrie, This looks and sounds delicious! I’ve been searching for a good recipe to replace store bought bread as we go through quite a bit of bread too. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. YAY! I’ve been dying for a good recipe to use at home that’s not as dense and heavy as many recipes are! I can’t wait to try it – using Spelt due to my wheat allergy…yippee! Sandwiches for me again!!!!!

  3. Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve been looking for a whole wheat bread that works well at this altitude, so I’ll for sure have to give this a try. Have you ever used regular active dry yeast w/success, or do you know if I would need to make any changes if I used regular yeast?

    • I do use active dry yeast in some recipes, but not this one – honestly, I don’t completely understand the difference (a quick Google search could probably pull up some info, I suppose) so I’m hesitant to say whether or not it would make a significant difference in the recipe. Maybe someone that understands the difference between the two can pipe in! (The only difference I know is that you usually proof active dry yeast with the liquid, and instant yeast is usually mixed in with the dry.)

    • I am sure you could use either white or red wheat. I have never had an issue using either one in any of my recipes. I think that freshly ground wheat makes a better tasting bread. If you grind your own wheat, you should try soft white wheat it has great flavor and doesn’t seem as heavy. It can be used in pastries, cookies, and such without having a heavy wheat flavor.

  4. Jillian Mitchell says:

    I’m going in the kitchen and make my biga and soaker right now! It sounds pretty involved, but I think it will be worth it. I having been looking for a good sandwich bread recipe that doesn’t feel so heavy. Thanks

  5. Charlotte says:

    Do you use white or red wheat?

    • There are two kinds of flour – white/all-purpose in the biga and whole-wheat in the starter. I just use “normal” 100% whole wheat flour in the starter.

  6. This sounds great! My family prefers store-bought bread for sandwiches and my homemade breads don’t usually slice well, so I am excited to try this!

  7. I use similar recipes for breads and pizza crusts, etc, using the biga and soaker method. Did you know you can use your sourdough starter in the biga? It cuts down on the amount of white flour in the recipe. The only white flour is in the starter, then you mix it with whole wheat flour for the biga and the sourdough takes away some of that bitter whole wheat flavor. Just thought I’d let you know since you have sourdough starter now. I get my recipes from the Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads book.

  8. Can you do this in a bread maker? I don’t have a mixer with a dough hook, or a mixer at all!!

  9. Thank you, I am SO excited to try this! My family is also very picky about the “fluffiness” of the bread, and this recipe is different enough from other recipes I’ve tried that I have high hopes. And soaking the grains is supposed to be extra beneficial!

  10. This looks great. How much flour do you use in the dough? In the ingredients you do not mention an amount of flour, but in the instructions you mention putting flour as the dough ingredients.
    Thanks.

  11. This recipe looks quite interesting and I’m excited to try it. I have a whole wheat bread recipe that I love, but like you said, it doesn’t slice well or keep well after a day or two. Can you mention what size your bread pans are? I have the pyrex ones that are 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 inches. Would that work for this recipe? Also, I’m a little scared to put bread in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. My other recipe is at 350 for about 25 minutes. Does the crust get very dark? Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to try it.

    • So, I tried making the bread today and I have a couple of questions. First, my soaker was really, really sticky. I did find the original recipe and it said something about kneading the soaker before putting it in the fridge to rest. Do you add additional flour to make it kneadable? It was hard to tear off 1 inch chunks because it was so sticky. Also my bread got very, very dark after about 30 minutes. So much so, that I pulled it out. It is still cooling, but I’m worried that it might not have cooked all the way in the middle. Can you cover the top with foil after it is brown enough so that it won’t get burnt? The original recipe also said to cook the bread at 350, which I did. Any thoughts?

      • I don’t knead the soaker – I just stir it with the handle of a wooden spoon in the same container that I’m going to store it in. It will be quite sticky, yes. :)

        See my previous reply about the oven temperature. You can try cooking it at a lower temperature – or do what the original recipe says and preheat it to 400 degrees and then reduce it to 350 degrees. (If you baked it at 350 and it still got dark after 30 minutes, I would guess that your oven might be running a little hot.)

        Hope you can figure it out!

      • Oh, one other thing I just thought of – Jeremy put a couple of loaves in for me the other day when I had to leave before they were ready to bake, and I forgot to tell him that I’ve determined that our oven is 25 degrees hot. He (obviously) didn’t adjust the temp to 375 degrees and the loaves were quite brown (too brown, but they were fine). Anyway, that kind of sounds like what you experienced so I’m wondering if your oven is, like mine, hotter than it says.

        (When I told Jeremy what the issue was, he was like “so you told me to bake it at 400 degrees but didn’t tell me you have to adjust the oven?” Oops, haha. I don’t actually adjust the recipe by my oven so that when I share it, or have a different oven, I know what is actually “right” instead of just “what works with my oven”.)

    • 8.5×4.5 is the right size!

      40 minutes at 400 degrees should be fine as long as your oven doesn’t run hot. My oven runs 25 degrees hot so I actually put it at 375. I have an oven thermometer that shows the *true* temperature so I am actually baking it at 400. Most ovens run hot or cold so you should adjust depending on your own oven.

      • Thanks for answering all of my questions! I do think my bread came out a little doughy, but it still tasted pretty good. I’ll just have to go through some trial and error to figure out what will work best for my oven. I also have a thermometer in my oven and it’s usually right on with what the temp is set at, but I do have a “dial” to set the temperature and you can’t make it exact. Also, I live in Monument and I’ve noticed that even 1,000 feet difference in altitude can make a difference (I used to live in the springs). My bread got pretty high in the oven and that might be why the top got so dark before the bottom was cooked. I might reduce the yeast in the dough by a tiny bit (that seems to work for me in other yeast recipes because at a higher altitude yeast will make the dough rise more quickly). Thanks again!

  12. Carrie – do you happen to have the recipe in a printer-friendly/PDF style? Looking forward to trying it!

  13. Delicious! I’ve made this bread three times, and it always tastes fantastic! I have encountered the problem of my bread not rising during the final rise though. The first time I made this recipe, it turned out perfectly. But the second and third times, by bread hardly rose at all while in the bread pan. I don’t think I’ve done anything differently, and while it is still delicious it’s not tall enough. I’ve been letting my dough rise in a warmed and turned off oven with a pot of hot water, because my house is generally too cold to let it rise on the counter. Any suggestions for how I might help it rise better?

  14. I’ve made the Word document – if you’d like me to email it to you as a PDF so you can share it, send me an email and I’ll send it to you!
    Blessings,
    Emmie

  15. Thanks for the recipe. I’m eager to give it a try!

  16. Valerie says:

    What do you use to mix/knead it? If you have a kitchen aid, what speed do you use for the 10 minute kneading session? Thanks for this, I can’t wait to try it!!

  17. Your bread is as nutritious as whole wheat bread from the store but many store breads are now whole grain, which is much more nutritious than whole wheat.

  18. Hi Carrie! I just wanted to stop by and thank you for this wonderful post! I made this bread yesterday and was very much worth the wait!! Your directions and images were fabulous. This was my first time making sandwich bread and I really can’t imagine going back to store bought! Mine turned out a little petite (about half the height it should be.. but I’ll get better in time!) but it’s SOOO delicious, moist, and cuts perfectly! Thank you thank you!

  19. Hello,

    Thank you so much for the bread recipe! I’ve made it several times and it is wonderful. I am wondering if you have tried doubling or tripling this recipe. Thank you!

  20. This bread was good but i have to tell you one big flaw in the instructions! While making this bread, My husband was almost injured. He put the glass baking dish in the oven like it says and when it was preheated, he poured the hot water in like the instructions said and the glass EXPLODED in his face! The whole dish shattered. there was glass everywhere. I am so thankful that he was not hurt. Perhaps you can tell people to use a metal baking dish instead.

  21. Hello, I am wondering if you have tried to double this and also if you’ve tried making it with less than 2 T of yeast? I am guessing it needs a lot of instant yeast because it rises 3 times, but the bread looks so misshapen after it rises and cooks and I was just wondering if possibly it was because of too much yeast. I have doubled it and get about 5 loaves in 4×8 glass bread pans, and fill them right at half full. In other bread recipes, I usually fill the pans 2/3 full, but I think with all of the yeast, it just doesn’t have to have that much dough in the pans. I wait until it has risen just above the rim of pans then turn on oven to bake. Anyway, just wondering if anyone has played around with this recipe. It does make the best sandwich bread even after a couple of days! :) Joan

    • I’ve tried doubling it, but my mixer had a hard time with that much dough so now I just make two separate batches when I want double the amount.

      I don’t think the amount of yeast would affect how the bread is shaped. I need to do a video or something on how to form smooth bread loaves and rolls, but the key is to fold the edges under, on the bottom, until the top is smooth. Do not try to roll or press it into a loaf!

  22. Hi, I made this bread earlier in the week because all your requirements for a sandwich bread are the same as mine and I’ve never found a good one. I really liked this bread! I kneaded the dough in my bread machine and it didn’t seem to have any trouble, I have a Black & Decker all-in-one, I don’t know how that compares to other machines but mine has a little paddle to knead with. I had the machine going as I tore apart and added the soaker, and I did tear the dough apart manually a bit while adding the ingredients, but I don’t think I needed to because everything was perfectly combined by 10 minutes into the cycle and it kneads for about 30 I think. Just one question that’s probably silly: would reducing the salt shorten the shelf life?

    Thanks so much for an awesome recipe!

  23. Why do you cut a slit in the top? Wouldn’t a smooth top loaf be better for sandwich slices. I’m about to make this today. Looks yummy

  24. What are the modifications you made from the original Cook’s Illustrated recipe? I noticed that you replaced the wheat germ with equal amount of whole-wheat flour. Why is that? Also, you skipped kneading the soaker. My soaker was so sticky, there’s no way to knead it until smooth!

    • At this point, I don’t remember exactly what modifications I made, but it looks like you’ve found a few yourself! Mine were primarily made to make the recipe a bit simpler, with less to keep track of and do.

  25. Mrs. Hulen says:

    I am making now, actually started about 2 hours ago, I have made my own bread for quite a while but wasntn very happy with the other recipes I tried but with our growing family that is a big cost cut to make it myself plus I absolutely love baking anyways. I am super excited to see how it turns out thank you so much for sharing this recipe!!

  26. Mrs. Hulen says:

    Just cooled down enough to try a slice and the whole family LovEs it!!! So glad I found your recipe it’s so delicious!!

  27. Have you ever tried using dry yeast for the biga? Letting that combine with the water for 5 min and then adding the flour…would love to not have to buy another kind of yeast and want to make this tonight lol.

  28. Thanks for the recipe!! It is better than the ones I’ve tried….
    I usually can’t wait for the third rise so I don’t do it and it comes out great!

    I like to make Zwieback out of the bread I can’t use. slice thin and place on cookie sheet and bake 225 degrees for 1 hr. they come out so crunchy and great. I store them loosely in a plastic container and they keep for weeks. I like it with soups and salads to have something crunchy.

  29. I am waiting for the last rise in the pans. I did use a bread machine on the dough cycle. I don’t like my bread baked in the machine and so far it seems to be mixed well and rising as intended. I had enough for three bread pans. We are excited to see how it bakes!!

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