Bread is probably my favorite form of carbs, as you all know by now, I am sure. So, it should come to no surprise to you that I love to make bread. I made it my goal last year to make all of our own sandwich bread. So far, I am proud to say that I have been able to keep up with that goal. It definitely was a little bit of a struggle last summer when everyone wanted sandwiches for lunch every day, plus, my husband was taking 2-3 sandwiches on the boat six days a week. I just had to up the amount of bread making days during the week.
Since having a sourdough starter in my fridge, which is ready at all times (being my main type of sandwich bread), I am always on the look out for different kinds of bread. I love to bake several different types of loaves to throw in the freezer. It's nice to have a good loaf of bread on hand at a moment's notice. A definite bonus for any soup on these colder winter days. Well, most of the time I am pretending that winter is actually here. We did get a foot of snow a few days ago though! Wahoo!!
This bread is the ideal bread, in my book. It is super tasty, crunchy on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside. I am totally sold! It's great served with butter alongside a salad, or to break off a hunk and dip in soup.
Yield: 2 loaves
For the sponge
1 cup fed sourdough starter*
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
For the dough
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 cups bread flour
1 Tablespoon water (optional)
1 egg white lightly beaten with 1 Tablespoon water
Water in a spray bottle
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the starter, water, and all-purpose flour. Mix together with a fork or wooden spoon until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 4 hours.
Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and chill overnight, at least 12 hours.
Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and add the sugar, salt, and bread flour to the sponge. Mix until the dough forms a ball. If some of the dry ingredients will not incorporate into the dough, add the additional 1 tablespoon of water to moisten them. Continue kneading the dough (on low speed if using an electric mixer) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough once to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, 3-4 hours.
Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Transfer the dough ball to a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate the dough. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Working with one piece of the dough, press gently into a rough rectangular shape. Make an indentation along the length of the dough with an outstretched hand. Press the thumb of one hand along the indentation while pulling the upper edge of the dough down over the hand to enclose the thumb. Tightly roll the dough towards you while forming into a rough torpedo shape, about 6 x 8 inches. If there is a seam, pinch it shut. Place seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat shaping with the other half of the dough. Transfer the shaped loaves to the prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in volume, about 2-3 hours.
Place a baking stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 425˚ F. Allow the stone to preheat for at least 30 minutes. Just before baking, lightly slash the top of each loaf three times diagonally using a sharp serrated knife. Brush the exposed surface of the loaves with the egg wash. Spray the loaves lightly with water. Slide the entire baking sheet onto the baking stone. Bake the loaves about 28-32 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the crust is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads at least 190˚ F. Transfer the finished loaves to a wire rack and let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
*I tend to use the fed sourdough starter after I have made the sourdough sandwich loaves. If you aren't using the sourdough starter for something else first, then remove a portion, feed with water and flour, then let sit at room temperature for at least 6 hours before using as directed.