Sourdough Sandwich Bread

I’ve been looking for a bread I can use to make sandwiches – not too heavy, a little sweet and with a soft texture. I found this recipe in James Beard’s book Beard on Bread (pg 37). It was the first book I ever owned on bread baking and I just had to adjust the recipe a little to use my sourdough starter. Because I only wanted a mild sour flavor, I only let the sponge sit overnight on the counter – a little under 12 hours.

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Sponge:
1 cup unfed sourdough starter
2 cups bread flour
1 cup water

Mix together all the ingredients in the sponge and place it in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter or other warm, draft free place overnight.

Bread:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 to 3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon coarse salt

Remove the sponge to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the oil, buttermilk and yeast and use the paddle attachment to stir the dough on low speed until it is well mixed. Gradually add the flour a half cup at a time and the salt. Once 2 cups of flour are incorporated, switch to a dough hook and knead for 8 to 10 minutes. Add more flour as necessary, if it is very sticky. The finished dough should be smooth and elastic.

Butter a large mixing bowl and place in the dough, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft free place for 2 hours or until doubled in size. Punch down and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes while you butter two loaf pans. Divide the dough in half and set a half in each pan. Let rise until doubled in bulk and over the edges of the pan, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Set a dish with boiling water on the lower rack of the oven to provide steam. Brush the top of the loaves with water and then slash it three times diagonally across the top with a very sharp knife.

Place in the oven and immediately drop the temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes. Brush the top with cold water and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove the loaves from their pans and put directly on the oven rack for a final 20 minutes. When done, the bread will be darkly brown and sound hollow when tapped. Cool completely before slicing.

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