Monday, January 20, 2014

Perfect sandwich bread that behaves like store bought bread

Homemade bread is almost always better than store bought bread; it doesn't have preservatives or chemicals and it always tastes better unless you really muck up the recipe. But the one thing I always have struggled with is getting homemade bread to work well for sandwiches. My loaves would crumble easily, even falling apart when anything harder than softened butter was spread on them.

I thought having a bread machine would make my bread behave more like store bought bread but I continued to have problems with getting a good sandwich bread. I tried many recipes that promised a great sandwich loaf but was always disappointed. The thing all of the recipes were missing was a dough conditioner.

A dough conditioner is basically anything you add to your bread dough to increase moisture, feed the yeast, and provide elasticity to the loaf. Dough conditioners can range all the way from natural items like milk and ginger powder or they can be chemicals like DATEM and ammonium chloride.

I found some complicated recipes for dough conditioners, some having 10 ingredients with measurements like 1/32 of a teaspoon. I've played around a little bit with my recipe and have found a bread dough that comes out perfect for me again and again. Plus it uses ingredients that are easily obtained and don't need to be precisely measured, a generous pinch of each ingredient is enough to create a lovely sandwich loaf.

With the addition of milk, ginger powder, pectin, citric acid, and vital wheat gluten* my bread has gone from crumbly to perfect. As an aside I have made this without pectin and it turns out good as well. Besides the bread conditioner I also purchased an electric knife and it has made the difference in getting nice, thin, sandwich ready slices.

Basic White Sandwich Bread recipe (adapted from Joy of Cooking)

1 1/4 cup water (warm 105-115 degrees)
1 Tbsn milk
2 Tbsn white sugar (you can substitute brown sugar or honey)
pinch of ginger
pinch of citric acid
pinch of pectin
2 Tbsn oil (I use olive oil)
1 tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour
3 Tbsn vital wheat gluten
2 tsp instant yeast

Bread machine instructions:
Mix first 8 ingredients in bread pan. Place flour and vital wheat gluten on top. Make a well but make sure the liquid ingredients are still covered by the dry ingredients. Add the yeast into the well. Select the appropriate bread setting for your machine.

By hand:
Mix warm water, milk, sugar and yeast and let sit until the yeast starts to froth. Add in the ginger, ascorbic acid, pectin, oil and salt and mix together. Add in half of the flour and vital wheat gluten and vigorously mix. Then add the other half and mix until you have a ball. Then knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes, adding more flour or water if needed. Place in greased bowl and allow to double in size. Punch the dough down and knead for several minutes more and then form into a loaf. Place into a greased loaf pan and allow to rise until it has doubled approximately 40 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Notice how finely textured the bread is, it's soft and flexible. Perfect for sandwiches!
*You can find citric acid cheaply at any health food store and you can find vital wheat gluten at most health food stores or grocery stores. I purchase my vital wheat gluten from, a 3lb can is around $13.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Best Chocolate Cake

I made this cake for my little one's first birthday on January 2nd (one of the big changes I hinted at in my previous blog post!). It was an amazingly dense, rich and intensely chocolate flavored cake. Everyone who had it agreed that it was one of the best chocolate cakes they had tasted. I am keeping it in my permanent recipes collection to pull out next time I need to make a chocolate cake. You can find the recipe here at add a pinch.

Monday, January 13, 2014


     It's been a while and many changes in my life. I used to think my days of food blogging were over but even without blogging I still found myself wanting to share my recipes, cooking secrets and tricks that I had learned.

     I stopped posting mostly due to my own hang ups and my own self doubt and criticism. My photographs weren't "good enough", my recipes weren't creative enough, I am not a chef etc. etc. Basically all of the negative thoughts in my head kept me from hitting publish after writing an entry.

     I am still the same cook as I was; I haven't gone to culinary school or bought a better camera and I think that I can improve in many places. Their are many people that are much better at baking and cooking than me. But I've gotten to a place where I am okay sharing my growing pains and I am okay putting myself and my creations out on the internet. So without further ado let's get cooking again.

     Also I would like to give many thanks to the people that still visited this blog during my hiatus!