A jug of wine, a loaf of sweet brown bread, and thou
I don’t remember what life was like in the before, but I do know that I have eaten a sandwich nearly every day since I started having to make school lunch. Sandwiches = bread. Daily sandwiches = lots of bread.
NOTE: For those of you thinking, “I love bread, but it fails every time,” I’m going to pass on a gift. Because once upon a time, I had the same thoughts. Please try Jim Lahey’s No-Knead bread before you give up entirely.
Meanwhile I’m very jealous of those of you who have been posting pics of your beautiful artisan sourdoughs. It’s hard to motivate for more bread-making when we average two sandwich loaves a week. And it’s hard to get too creative when you’re baking for a variety of sandwich favorites. A loaf that works for turkey and cheese and pickled onions may not always be the best for cream cheese and jelly sandwiches, and vice versa.
A few months ago, a baking friend passed along a copycat recipe for the sweet brown bread from the Outback Steakhouse. It met with rave reviews and someone’s fond memories. It was just a little too sweet and soft for my taste. Here’s my slightly toned down version of a sweet brown bread:
- Unless you’re in a hurry (e.g. you’re a contestant on the Great British Bake Off), you can use less yeast and allow for longer rising times. You should definitely do this if you are making a loaf of only flour, yeast, and salt. I don’t ever use more than 2 tsp, if that.
- If you use a mixer, make sure you switch to the hook once your dough has come together or, especially with stiffer doughs, you run the risk of burning out your motor (I say this from experience.). You can obviously knead the dough by hand instead of in the mixer. I’m too lazy for that.
- Basic yeast breads are done when the internal temperature reaches 190F, enriched breads at 200F. They should make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.
- Shaping into a loaf: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wx5I5O_RoeI
Sweet brown bread
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder or instant coffee for color
- ¾ tsp instant yeast
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 2 cup bread flour up to 2 1/2 cup
- ¾ tsp instant yeast
- 1 tbsp butter or vegetable oil
- 1 tsp salt
- Make the sponge: by hand, combine whole wheat flour, 3/4 tsp yeast, honey, and water in the bowl of your mixer.
- Sprinkle 2 cups of bread flour, 3/4 tsp yeast, and butter or oil on top of the sponge.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 1-4 hours until the sponge is bubbling through the top layer. I use the microwave or oven as a draft-free proofing location – either warm up a cup of water for tea in the microwave or turn on the oven and get it to 80-90 degrees. If it’s in the oven just be careful not to pre-heat the oven for some other reason!
- Mix in the mixer on low speed. When it starts to come together, move to the hook. It should be slightly sticky – add a sprinkle of more water or flour a bit at a time as needed.
- Add the salt and then mix on medium low speed for 8 minutes.
- Cover the mixing bowl again with plastic wrap, put it in your safe place, and let dough rise until doubled.
- Butter or oil a 9×5 loaf pan (I use butter because I find it’s easier to get the baked loaf to release). Shape into a loaf (see link below) and let rise in its happy place until the bread has risen about an inch over the side of the pan.
- Preheat oven to 375F
- Bake for 30 minutes, until the internal temp is 195F and a thump on the bottom gives a hollow sound.
If you make this, please comment and share a pic!
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