I've gotten a bit lazy with my bread baking lately. It's not even about making the bread; that's not the part I dread. It's the dishes afterward. I hate trying to get the gunk from the dough off of the bowls, counter, etc. We don't make sandwiches very often, if at all, so generally not having bread in the house isn't much of a problem. However, I've been craving grilled cheese for weeks now and I really try not to buy bread so I finally broke down and made a loaf recently. Whether a loaf of bread makes a good grilled cheese sandwich is one of my tests for whether I'll turn to the recipe again in the future. The anadama bread I made last summer is still my top choice for grilled cheese, but this wheat sandwich bread was wonderful too! Definitely worthy of a repeat for its great texture and flavor - just slightly sweet but still hearty.
This recipe allowed me to finally use the wheat germ I bought ages ago that's been sitting in my freezer. Wheat germ is the embryo of the wheat kernel and provides a ton of nutrition so I felt slightly less guilty about using my bread to make grilled cheese :) If you don't have wheat germ I think you could probably substitute more whole wheat flour in its place in the recipe. Additionally, if you'd prefer a white sandwich bread, you can use all bread flour in the recipe. As you'll see below, I made my bread using a food processor, but you could also do it by hand or using a stand mixer. I generally make bread by hand, but the food processor wound up being a quick alternative and definitely a method I'd turn to again.
Wheat Sandwich Bread
from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
1 cup whole milk, warm (~110 F)
1/3 cup warm water (~110 F)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
Toast the wheat germ in a dry skillet until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Whisk the milk, water, 3 tablespoons of the butter and the honey together in a large measuring cup.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the yeast, salt, toasted wheat germ, the bread flour and 1 1/4 cups of the whole wheat flour to combine. With the food processor running, pour the milk mixture through the feed tube and process until a rough ball forms, about 30 to 40 seconds. Let the dough rest for 2 minutes, then process again for 30 seconds.
Using some of the remaining 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour, lightly flour your work surface. Turn the dough out onto the surface and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining whole wheat flour as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking to the work surface. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and use your hands to press it into a 9-inch square. Roll the dough into a tight cylinder and pinch the seam together to secure. Place the loaf seam-side down in a greased 9-inch loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size and the dough springs back slowly when indented with your finger, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Bring a kettle or pot of water to a boil. Brush the top of the dough with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Set the loaf pan on an oven rack in the middle position and place an empty metal loaf pan next to it. Fill the empty pan about half full with the boiling water. Bake the bread until golden and the center registers 200 F on an instant-read thermometer, about 40 to 50 minutes. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack and let cool to room temperature before slicing, about 2 hours.
Makes one 9-inch loaf