If you’ve ever tried making homemade sandwich bread, you know it does not always go as planned. One misstep and you can end up with flat loaves, soggy middles or crumbly bread. Whether it’s your first or fiftieth time trying, here are some common sandwich bread making mistakes and tips to avoid them.
- Under-kneading (or over-kneading) your dough.
Under-kneaded dough often results in a lack of structure, holes in the middle, or will fall apart when you cut the loaf. Over-kneaded dough will produce dense, dry, and crumbly loaves.To avoid both, constantly check your dough during kneading rather than going by the time listed in the recipe. Keep kneading if it puddles in your hand or feels limp. Stop kneading if it starts to feel very tight in your hands. Your dough is ready when it is smooth, holds its shape in a ball, and springs back when you poke it.
- Adding too much flour.
We use flour to prevent the dough from sticking, but if you add too much, you can end up with dry, crumbly bread.If the dough seems too sticky when you begin, let it rest in the bowl for 30 minutes. This will give the flour time to absorb the liquid in the dough, making it less sticky and easier to knead. You may also try folding the dough rather than kneading it, as is the technique for sourdough bread.
- Not shaping your loaf well enough.
Once you shape your dough into a loaf and put it in the pan, it should have a taut, springy surface. Limp or loose loaves won’t rise properly and can end up flat and dense.You want to shape your dough by patting it down into a rectangle and then folding it like a letter. Then fold it in half again and make sure the surface is taut and smooth.
- Not baking your bread long enough.
No one wants under-baked bread. It will look dry and crusty on the outside, while the middle will still be gooey.To prevent this, use a thermometer. Fully baked sandwich loaves should be at least 190°F and no more than 210°F in the middle. Another trick is to slip the loaf out of the pan and thump the bottom – it should sound hollow. To err on the side of caution when you’re in doubt, bake your loaf a little longer.
- Slicing your bread before it has cooled.
As tempting as it may be to cut into a warm, freshly baked loaf of bread, please refrain. The cool down period is still a part of the cooking process, allowing the moisture inside to evaporate and the bread to firm up. If you cut your bread too soon, it may seem soggy or under-baked and your leftover bread will go stale much faster.Patience is the answer. It can take around two hours for a sandwich loaf to fully cool down – the bread should no longer feel warm on the sides or bottom when you touch it.
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