The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sandwich Bread?

srocklin's picture

Sandwich Bread?


I've been making bread for a little while.  I use the recipe here, because I didn't really know how to bake bread before, and this was so well laid out.

Sometimes I add eggs into my measuring cup before the water, and count that toward the water measurement, when I want to make Challah bread. 

The problem is that the bread breaks apart too easily, when we are spreading things on it, etc.   it doesn't make a very great sandwhich bread, falling apart.  Is there another easy whole-wheat recipe that I should follow?  Or is there something I can change in my own recipe?  More oil? 

What does too much rising do?  Sometimes I forget the bread for too long in the first rising.  Does that make any difference?

Thanks for any help.


fancypantalons's picture

Oh gosh, not more oil.  Less maybe, but definitely not more.  It sounds, to me, like you're not achieving sufficient gluten development, and/or the flour you're using isn't strong enough.  The result is a soft, brittle crumb.

So, a couple suggestions:

First, make sure you're kneading enough.  That recipe is *definitely* light on the kneading (just 5 minutes), and seems to give no advice regarding resultant texture. Personally, I usually do 5 minutes of initial kneading, 15-20 minutes rest (covered), followed by another 2-3 minutes of kneading.  The result should be smooth and elastic (*not* "soft and fluffy"... I'm not even sure what that means) and should pass the windowpane test.  If it doesn't, let the dough rest some more, then knead it a bit, then test again.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Also, if you haven't done so, watch a video on kneading technique... it's not hard, but if you don't do it properly, the dough won't develop properly.

If changes to your technique don't work, it might be the flour.  Make sure you're at least using all-purpose flour, and if you can find it, bread flour is better.  If all you can find is AP, or you don't want to buy a bunch of new flour, you could pick up a box of vital wheat gluten and add 1-2 tablespoons to the dry ingredients.

Third, you could try omitting the oil from the recipe.  Oil in a bread recipe works to soften the crumb by interfering with gluten formation (the oil coats the proteins in the flour), so if your problem is lack of gluten development, eliminating the oil might help.

Lastly, don't overproof the dough!  Yeast have this nasty habit of breaking down gluten if you give them the time to do it.  So make sure you keep an eye on that bread.  Of course, overproofing by a little won't make too big a difference, but if it's on the order of hours, you'll have problems.  And if you have one, rise the dough in a graduated container.  You should never proof the dough based on time, as that varies wildly depending on external conditions, water quality, and any number of other factors.  Instead, your bulk and final proofs should be done until the dough doubles in size... which is easiest to judge if you do the bulk proof in, yup, a graduated container. :)

srocklin's picture

Alright, so the general advice is to knead longer, possibly leave out the oil, don't let it over-rise (this is the proofing you speak of right?), and possibly switch out the flour if its not working well?

Kneading is hard for me.  Good to know that I can leave it to rest and then knead some more.  I didn't know that the yeast could damage the gluten, although I thought the yeast is supposed to 'eat' the gluten?

I've been using half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour.  And once I used flour that I made with wheat berries and ground in my vitamix for a third of the flour.  It didn't come out as fine as flour from the store... so I worried about it.  But the bread turned out fine.  I've read that grinding your own flour means that the whole wheat ends up having gluten and not needing any added.  Is that correct?

And I can't seem to find this vital wheat gluten at our grocery store.  Maybe its not so common in Canada?  I've seen it mentioned a few times in forums.

Thanks for the advice.

fancypantalons's picture

"And I can't seem to find this vital wheat gluten at our grocery store.  Maybe its not so common in Canada?"

Funny you should mention that... I'm Canadian. :)  Here in Edmonton I get it at my local Safeway, in the baking section right near the flour (in my case, it's beside the Bob's Red Mill specialty stuff).

"I didn't know that the yeast could damage the gluten, although I thought the yeast is supposed to 'eat' the gluten?"

No, yeast eats sugar, which is broken out from the starch in the flour by enzymes that are, conveniently, also present in the flour.  My understanding is that is the by-products of this digestion that cause problem (alcohol, among others).  But whatever the mechanism, overproofing leads to poor crumb texture, weak oven spring, and often collapsed loaves.

" I've read that grinding your own flour means that the whole wheat ends up having gluten and not needing any added. "

Store-bought or home-ground, the problem with whole wheat is that the bran acts as little scissors, slicing up the gluten strands.  Adding more gluten can help offset that process a little, as there's just more gluten which can form a nice network.  Alternatively, you could just use a blended dough (I like a nice 75-80% whole wheat bread... still light, but with that nice, whole wheat flavour and nutrition).

clazar123's picture

Do a search on "stretch and fold" and you will get tons of info! Watch some of the videos-no need to knead! When flour and water are mixed, gluten chains can form. Kneading encourages more gluten formation,as does stretching and folding the dough.And stretch and fold is so much easier on the baker!

Try this variation on your recipe (very similar to one I use):

Fluffy Sandwich Bread

2 1/3 c  bread flour (has more gluten)

1/3 c pastry flour (can be white or whole wheat)

1 tsp salt

1 packet (2 tsp) yeast

1 tbsp sweetener of choice (sugar,brown sugar,honey,etc)

3 tbsp butter or oil (butter tastes better and yields softer crumb)

2 tsp liquid lecithin (not to worry if you don't have-just add 1 tbsp additional oil/butter)

1 egg -room temp is best

1/2 c warm milk

1/2 c warm water

Mix all dry ingredients and then mix in all wet ingredients.If in a mixer,let it mix with dough hook for 5-8 minutes.If by hand,mix, rest 5 min then mix,rest 5 min about 3-4 cycles.

Ball up and place in an oiled bowl to rise double

Collapse (don't knead),shape into a loaf

Rise til 1 inch above pan edge

Bake 375 for 30-40 minutes -this recipe has a LOT of oven rise.

OR OR  OR  ....Better yet:

Ball up,cover with plastic wrap or bowl and rest 15 minutes.

Stretch and fold-no need to flatten out bubbles!-place in oiled container and rest in warm place for 45 minutes.

Stretch and fold-it should be more bulky-rest again for 45 minutes.

Your choice-either  divide into loaves-shape-proof-bake OR do one more stretch and fold andlet rise for 45 more minutes.

Place in a well sprayed bread pan as this bread likes to stick! Use a spray with lecithin in it or even the one with floour!

Bake 375 about 30-40 minutes.Let cool completely before cutting-it is a very tender bread!

Stretch/fold/rest/rise cycles improve the flavor but the dough reaches a point where the yeast can lose its oomph to rise.2 or 3 cycles work well.Sometimes time constraints dictate how many cycles I do.

Oil,milk,eggs and butter tenderize and soften the crumb so the texture is soft and not crumbly. The pastry flour actually makes the bread less chewy and if you use the bread flour, there should be adequate gluten formation to hold the soft crumb in place without crumbling.Whole wheat can be crumbly until you get to know how to work with it-requires some long soaks to soften the bran. Start out with white flour.


Good luck!

srocklin's picture

clazar123 -  I really need a non-dairy recipe, but thanks for the suggestions. I'll check out the stretch and fold thing.

fancypantalons - I've looked a few times for that stuff.  Maybe I should try a different store.  I'll check out Metro next time I'm nearby. 

I'm curious though, what did people do before white flour existed?  I can't imagine that everyone had 'rock-like' whole wheat bread!  I've really read in several places that the gluten is missing from storebought whole wheat flour because it makes the flour go bad, and that if you grind it yourself there will be gluten.  I've never heard about the bran cutting the gluten strands.  I guess I need to go learn more about how this all works.




fancypantalons's picture

"I'm curious though, what did people do before white flour existed?  I can't imagine that everyone had 'rock-like' whole wheat bread! "

They might have. :)  Plus, making white or near-white flour is really quite easy, it's simply a sifting process.  We've probably had white  flour for nearly as long as we've had wheat flour at all.

"I've really read in several places that the gluten is missing from storebought whole wheat flour because it makes the flour go bad"

No offense intended, but that sounds like pure, unscientific BS (which is, unfortunately, all to common in the health and nutrition industry). 

Gluten is a protein formed when the proteins gliadin and glutenin combine in the presence of water.  Those two proteins are present in the endosperm of the wheat grain, conjoined with the starch, and as such, are present in all forms of wheat flour, be it white, whole wheat, or home-ground (the only difference between white and whole wheat flours is the presence or absence of the bran and germ).

Marni's picture

Would using white whole wheat flour instead of regular or stone ground help or hinder?  I make a different sandwich bread using white whole wheat and it rises beautifully. 

Also, rice milk substitutes well for dairy milk in most bread recipes.  You could give it a try.


clazar123's picture

I substitute soy milk all the time for regular milk! Same amount. Same with butter and your favorite oil/fat.I missed the part of wanting it to be whole wheat-sorry! But here is more info for you.

In reading over the whole thread here, I believe part of the knowledge you need to get is simply how to work with whole wheat. It does handle differently than white flour-even white whole wheat does (it's just a different color than regular whole wheat).Especially if you want a fine or soft texture to be used for toast and sandwiches.

What makes a slice of bread hold together to support sandwich fixins is a stringy,moist,flexible gluten and starch web(like a net) that was used to trap CO2bubbles from the yeast and expand when rising and then set in place when baked.If you have a lot of these strands, the bread can be chewy and dense. If you have just a few, they are very tender (like a cake).If they are dry/brittle or have sharp objects imbedded in them (like dry bran), it weakens them-even if there are a lot of them- and they crumble.The trick to any bread recipe is to achieve enough moist,strong,flexible gluten strands to trap the CO2 without breaking too easily or being too tough. Technique in handling these ingredients is AS important as the ingredients. Anybody can make gluten-just mix flour and water-if gluten capability is present, the strands form on their own. Kneading exposes more flour to more water and more gluten forms. Doesn't mean more kneading is always a good thing.Depends on the texture of the bread you are trying to achieve.

The bakers that have gone before us figured out some good methods of dealing with all this.Sometimes the reasons were passed down and sometimes we just learned a rote method without understanding the process. Every loaf made the same way.I have been on a journey to learn about making bread this last year and have learned a lot. Mostly I've had to UNlearn a lot.

The best concept about working with whole wheat-fresh milled or storebought- is that it needs to be thoroughly moistened before the final shape and bake and this  takes time! The best loaf you will ever achieve will have been recipe with a  little more liquid that is risen overnight in a cool place OR autolysed (simply means allowing the flour and water-no yeast yet- to be mixed and soaked for a period of time),OR risen multiple times with smaller amounts of yeast used.Any of these methods work-just pick one. This soaking time softens the bran so when it is imbedded in the gluten strands it is not so sharp and it is not so dry in your loaf after baking(this is one reason why WW dries out so fast-the water from the starch matrix is being absorbed by the bran particles).The long soak also allows gluten chains to form and allows starch to gelatinize-nothing but moist goodness.So a lump of whole wheat dough that starts out kind of sticky will end up very silky and soft after an overnight soak-in period. I do this all the time.

The addition of oils/lecithin helps reduce the moisture loss in the loaf afterward.Kind of like we use oils and lotions on our skin to reduce moisture loss and aging! Not necessary but nice.

Egg protein gives us a protein matrix for additional structure but it is not necessary and the lecithin in the yolk helps moisturize the loaf after baking.Other substances can be used for matrixes/nets such as the gums (guar,for example) and are used when gluten can't be used or to soften a loaf.That is one of the reasons why storebought bread is so soft/squishy.

In the "olden" days, bread wasn't used for sandwiches-it was used for eating as a hunk, dunking/soaking in stew juices or milk.It was hard and chewy.White flour was a real delicacy because it had to be hand-sieved and a lot of ground grain had to be sieved before a usable amount of flour was produced! Only the richest could afford it.

I have a recipe for WW bread I make every week but it is sourdough oriented. I think learning techniques with your kitchen and your equipment is more important than a recipe,right now.Try the same recipe but look up stretch and fold videos here,autolyse,working with WW,pull out the tupperware containers or large bowls for overnight..that kind of thing.... and use the same recipe (maybe with a little more water) but different techniques.

Have fun. Bread is very simple and very complex! Be preapred to UNlearn some things and learn others.


srocklin's picture

That all really helped me to understand a lot about bread!  Thank you!  I will definitely try all the things you mentioned.  I have left the dough to rise in the refrigerator over night a few times when I needed to go to sleep.

I've heard of the practice of soaking grains in whey... would this be a good application for that?  Add moisture, soften the sharp bits of the bran, etc??  Could I soak the whole wheat in whey overnight before completely putting all the ingredients together?  I do (try to) make yogurt, so I end up throwing out whey sometimes.