As you know, I have been on this “make your own” kick lately. Homemade sandwich bread was one of the first items I wanted to learn how to make from scratch because it is such an important staple item in just about every household.
More importantly, however, I have become acutely aware of the use of preservatives in our food. I noticed that almost three weeks after I purchased a loaf of store-bought bread, there was nary a spot of mold on it. Really ya’ll, this is not normal. Bread is not supposed to last that long.
That got me wondering – what kind of effects could preservatives have on our body? So I did some research. Get ready, I’m about to give you a quick science lesson:
The most common preservatives used in bread are propionic acid, sodium propionate, calcium propionate, potassium propionate, and BHT. Don’t ask me to correctly pronounce any of the items I just listed.
The biggest culprit seems to be calcium propionate, also known as preservative 282. In small doses, it is not harmful. However, calcium propionate is found in everything from dried fruit to baked good to inhibit the growth of mold and give the products a longer shelf life. In concentrated doses like that found in bread, calcium propionate can cause gastro-intestinal infections, nasal congestion, and insomnia. And while I was not able to find anything scientific to document it, I found several reports from parents of children diagnosed with ADHD that claimed the preservative increased the child’s irritability and decreased their attention span.
I don’t know about you, but my two-year-old has a short enough attention span as it is.
I have been fiddling with this recipe for about four months now. I wanted to come as close to store bought bread as I could, but not have the recipe be so overly complicated that it would be impossible to fit into my lifestyle. I feel like finally, after many additions and subtractions, dough that rose beautifully and dough that fell flat, and a couple loaves that came out like hockey pucks, I have finally found my sandwich bread recipe. It’s soft and has a nutty flavor that you just don’t get from a store bought loaf.
On warm summer days, I like to let my dough rise in a shady spot on the back porch. Yeast likes to be cozy and the summer heat makes it very happy. However, on cooler days I have also had great success with preheating my oven to 170 degrees then turning the oven off and letting the dough rise in the warm oven. Just make sure to put a sign on the oven door so someone doesn’t come along and preheat your oven because they want to make a frozen pizza for lunch!
Also, because this bread does not have any preservatives, I suggest storing it in the refrigerator to make it last longer. Usually after a week, it’s starts to taste stale.
- 1-1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons milk, divided
- 1-1/2 cups cold water
- 1 tablespoon, plus 1-1/2 teaspoons granulated yeast
- 1 tablespoon, plus 1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1-3/4 cup whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
- ¼ cup ground flax seed*
- 4-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- Without using any heat, allow an ice cube to melt in the bottom of a large saucepan. Do not rinse out the remaining water (this prevents scorching as you heat your milk).
- Add 1-1/2 cups of milk and heat over medium heat, keeping milk to just under boiling. Continue to heat milk until it reaches 180 degrees on a candy thermometer.
- Remove milk from heat. Add water.
- Allow mixture to cool to 110-115 degrees. If a skin has formed on the top, remove the skin and discard.
- Whisk in yeast and salt until yeast is dissolved.
- In a large mixing bowl or bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine flours and ground flax seed.
- If using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook. If mixing by hand, use a wooden spoon. Slowly add dissolved yeast and mix on low until flour is wetted, then increase to medium and continue to mix just until dough comes together and leaves the side of the bowl. The dough will still be quite tacky. If needed, add additional water or flour, one tablespoon at a time.
- Flour a countertop or other large, flat work surface with additional whole wheat flour. Turn dough out onto the board and coat the outside with flour until it is easier to handle.
- Grease the sides of a large bowl. Place dough in the bowl and lightly mist with oil or cooking spray. Loosely cover and place dough in a warm, draft-free spot. Allow dough to rise until it has doubled in size, about 1-3 hours.
- Punch dough down and divide into two equal halves. Place dough in two greased bread loaf pans. Again, lightly mist with oil or cooking spray. Allow dough to rise again until doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the bread is golden and the top sounds hollow when you tap it with your finger.
- Allow the bread to cool in the bread pan for about 30 minutes. Then remove from pan and finish cooling on a wire rack.
Bread should last 5-7 days if stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
To freeze, wrap bread in plastic wrap then wrap in aluminum foil. Should last for up to six months.