Simple Sandwich Loaf

Perfect for slicing and toasting or all sorts of fillings.
TIME 3 to 4 hours, mostly unattended
MAKES 1 large loaf
1¼ cups whole or 2-percent milk, or more as needed
3½ cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for shaping the dough
1 teaspoon salt
1 packet (2½ teaspoons) instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pan

1 Heat the milk in the microwave or in a pot on the stove until it reaches about 100°F; it will be a little hotter than lukewarm. Put the 3½ cups flour, salt, yeast, and sugar in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. With the machine running, add 2 tablespoons of the oil and the milk through the feed tube and process until the dough is a well-defined, barely sticky, easy-to-handle ball, about 30 seconds. If it is too dry, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time and process for 5 or 10 seconds after each addition. If it is too wet, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time and process for another 5 to 10 seconds.

2 Grease a large bowl with 1 tablespoon oil. Shape the dough into a rough ball, put it in the bowl, turn it over once (so that the top is coated lightly with oil), and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature until the dough has nearly doubled in size, 2 hours or more. Punch down the dough to deflate it and shape it into a ball again. Dust your work surface with ¼ cup flour, put the dough on the work surface, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes.

3 Grease a loaf pan with enough oil to coat the bottom and sides. Flatten the dough into a ¾-inch-thick rectangle, then fold the long sides of the rectangle into the middle. Pinch the seam closed and transfer the loaf to the pan, seam side down. (If the loaf is too long, fold under the ends of the loaf.) Flatten the top of the loaf with the back of your hand to press the loaf firmly into the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until the top of the dough is nearly level with the top of the pan, about 1 hour.

4 Heat the oven to 350°F. Brush the top of the loaf lightly with water, then put it in the oven. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the loaf falls easily from the pan and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it. (A quick-read thermometer will register 210°F.) Remove the loaf from the pan and cool on a wire rack before slicing.

  • Honey-Wheat Sandwich Bread: Substitute whole wheat flour for 1¾ cups of the all- purpose flour. Instead of the sugar, use 2 tablespoons honey and add it along with the oil and milk in Step 1.
  • New England–Style Anadama Bread. With a slightly sweet and corny flavor: Substitute ½ cup cornmeal and 1 cup whole wheat flour for 1½ cups of allpurpose flour. Reduce the milk to 1 cup. Instead of the sugar, use ½ cup molasses and add it along with the oil and milk in Step 1.

  • The food processor does the kneading here. Or you can use a standing mixer with a dough hook, which also does a good job. Either makes better dough than almost anyone can achieve by hand, but to make this dough without a machine: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon until you can’t stir anymore; then start using your hands to work the dough into a ball. Turn it onto a floured work surface and fold, press with the heel of your hand, and turn as with biscuits only much harder , repeating for several minutes, until the dough is smooth. Continue from Step 2.

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