Each week, I make a few staples: sprouted hummus, yogurt, mayonnaise, and long-simmered bone broth and bread. It’s these staples that provide a dependable rhythm in my kitchen, around which I build our meals, a schedule, and a budget. This routine brings a bit of sanity and balance to what can, more often than not, be chaotic between satisfying everyone’s weekly schedule of appointments, sports, music classes, playdates and the unexpected.
Lately, this Milk and Honey Sandwich Bread has replaced our usual no-knead sourdough loaf. We toast it in the morning, then spread it with butter and honey and sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar which we playfully call Fairy Toast. Or, I slice it thin, and slather it with avocado oil mayonnaise, stuffing it with fresh vegetables and sliced deli meats, making a sandwich for my son’s school day.
It’s a pleasant bread, offering a light milky, whole wheat flavor with notes of honey and oat. Out of the oven, its mahogany brown crust crackles, and when you slice the loaf, its crumb is soft and creamy. And while it’s a bit less spongy than the store-bought sandwich bread, I find the value in producing my own loaf at home to be far more satisfying and palatable.
Soaking Flour for Better Bread
Soaking flour overnight in a liquid like water or milk does a few things to improve the quality of your bread. Soaking flour helps to release food enzymes naturally found in whole grains, and these food enzymes help to break down components of your whole grains, like food phytate, that can make grains, flours, and breads difficult to digest or lightly bitter.
The result is that, by soaking flour, you make bread that’s naturally slightly sweeter, that’s easier to digest, and softer in its crumb. It’s a process that takes a touch more planning, but it is very worthwhile.
Working with White Whole Wheat Flour
Unlike white flour, for which it’s easily confused, white whole wheat flour is simply made by grinding the white wheat berries into flour. It’s the whole grain, nothing more and nothing less. White whole wheat flour is pale in color with a softer flavor, but with all the benefits you would associate with a whole wheat flour. For these reasons, it makes a particularly good choice for a homemade sandwich bread: light color, good flavor, and soft crumb with all the vitamins, minerals and fiber of whole grain.
You can buy identity-preserved white whole wheat flour here.
Milk and Honey Sandwich Bread
Preparing the Dough
- 2 cups bread flour
- 3 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups whole milk
Finishing the Dough
Glazing the Bread
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons rolled oats
- Working by hand, whisk flours together with 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast in a large mixing bowl with a tight-fitting lid, and then stir in the oats. Stir the water and milk together, then pour the liquids into the dry ingredients, stirring to create a loose, shaggy dough. Cover the mixing bowl tightly, and allow the dough to rest at room temperature at least eight and up to twelve hours.
- Dump the dough into the basin of a stand mixer, and then beat in the butter, honey, salt, and the remaining 2 tablespoons yeast. Continue beating all the ingredients together until they form a smooth dough, and then turn it out on a very generously floured surface. Knead by hand for ten to fifteen minutes, incorporating additional flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking, and kneading until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
- Oil a large mixing bowl, and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover tightly, and allow the dough to rise until doubled in volume.
- Transfer the dough to a well-floured surface, and split into two portions of approximately equal weight. Butter and flour two 4 1/2-inch by 8 1/2-inch loaf pans.
- Working one at a time, roll each lump of dough out into a large rectangle, about 8 by 16 inches. Working from the short end, roll the dough into a loaf, pinching the seam at the bottom of the loaf tightly to seal it. Place the dough, seam-side down, in a prepared loaf pan. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel, and allow it to rise until doubled in size, about two hours.
- While the dough rises, heat the oven to 400 F.
- Using a pastry brush, gently brush the top of the dough with cream, and then scatter one tablespoon rolled oats over each loaf. Transfer the loaves to the oven, and bake 5 minutes at 400 F. Then reduce the temperature to 350 F and continue baking until the crust is a dark brown and the bread reaches an internal temperature of 200 F about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the loaves to cool in their pans for five minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, allowing the bread to cool completely before slicing.