Let's talk about sandwich bread: billowy loaves rising on the counter, the fresh-from-the-bakery smell that fills the whole house while they're baking, and the anticipation of making a sandwich with that bread. So good.
Yes, homemade bread is truly a glorious thing — except for when it isn't. Have you had trouble with flat loaves, soggy middles, or slices that fall apart when you cut them? Here are some common mistakes to avoid when making sandwich bread.
1. Under-kneading (or over-kneading) your dough.
Loaves made with under-kneaded dough often lack structure and either have holes in the middle or always fall apart into shreds when you try to cut the loaf. This is a common problem with no-knead bread, since the dough often isn't developed quite enough to form a good gluten structure.
On the other end of the spectrum, over-kneaded dough results in loaves that are dense, dry, and crumbly. This is more common with doughs kneaded in a stand mixer since it's easy for the powerful mixer to overwork the dough.
→ Follow this tip: Check your dough frequently during kneading — don't just go by the time in the recipe. If the dough is smooth, holds its shape in a ball, and springs back when you poke it, it's ready! If it puddles in your hand or feels limp, keep kneading. If it starts to feel very tight in your hands, stop kneading.
2. Adding too much flour.
Dough is sticky, especially when you first start kneading it, so it's really tempting to just keep adding more and more flour to make it easier to work with. Add too much, though, and your loaf will end up dry and crumbly.
→ Follow this tip: If the dough seems too sticky to work with when you first start, let it rest in the bowl for 30 minutes. This gives the flour time to absorb the liquid in the dough and makes it easier (less sticky!) to knead. Alternatively, try folding the dough instead of kneading it, like we do for our sourdough bread — it's a technique that can be applied to any wet, sticky dough!
3. Not shaping your loaf well enough.
When you shape your dough into a loaf and put it in the pan, it should have a taut, springy surface. If it's limp or loose, it won't rise properly and you can end up with a flat-looking loaf and a dense interior.
→ Follow this tip: Shape your dough by patting it down into a rectangle, then folding it like a letter. Then fold it in half again to make sure the surface is taut and smooth. (See our step-by-step instructions: How To Shape a Loaf of Bread.)
4. Not baking your bread long enough.
Underbaked loaves will look dry and crusty on the outside, but they're still gooey in the middle.
→ Follow this tip: Use a thermometer! Fully baked sandwich loaves should be 190°F and no more than 210°F in the middle. You can also slip the loaf out of the pan and thump the bottom — a fully baked loaf will sound hollow. If you're ever in doubt, err on the side of caution and bake your loaf a little longer.
5. Slicing your bread before it has cooled.
It's oh-so-very tempting to cut into that delicious, good-smelling loaf while it's still warm, but the cool-down period is actually still part of the cooking process: moisture inside the bread continues to evaporate and the interior structure continues to firm up. Cut too soon, and the bread may seem soggy or under-baked in the middle, and your leftover bread will stale more quickly.
→ Follow this tip: Patience! A sandwich loaf can take around two hours to fully cool, and it's worth it to wait this full time. The bread should no longer feel warm on the sides or bottom when you touch it.
What other tips do you have for making sandwich bread?
This post was requested by Sinnela for Reader Request Week 2015.