(Adapted from The Best Recipe, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated)
Taking off from the cookbook’s standard Master Recipe for Sandwich Bread, try swapping in a bit of alternative flour (such as the buckwheat or chestnut we experimented with in this post).
Makes one 9-inch loaf
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
1/3 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons honey
1 package (or 2 1/4 teaspoon) dry yeast (recommend Saf brand instant yeast)
3 cups bread flour (plus extra for work surface)
1/2 cup alternative flour (chestnut, buckwheat, or other)
2 teaspoons salt
Adjust oven rack to low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once oven reaches target temperature, maintain heat for 10 minutes and then turn off oven.
Mix milk, water, honey and butter in a 1-quart measuring cup, checking temperature with thermometer. Sprinkle yeast over top.
Mix flour and salt in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn mixer to low-speed and slowly add liquid. When dough comes together, increase speed to medium and knead until dough is smooth and satiny, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about 10 minutes.
Dough has been kneaded enough when it cleans the sides of bowl while kneading. As a further test, pinch off a bit of the dough and stretch it. Gluten in the dough has been developed enough when the piece can be stretched to a “windowpane,” thin enough to almost see through. The dough will be a bit sticky, but if it is too wet, add a sprinkle more of bread flour and knead 2-3 minutes more.
Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface, using a scraper on the sides of the bowl if needed to release it. The dough will feel a bit tacky; knead on floured surface about 15 seconds to form a soft, smooth ball.
Lightly oil a large bowl with a neutral-flavor oil (vegetable or canola). Place dough in bowl, rubbing it around the bowl to lightly coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel (or both); place in warm oven and let rise until dough doubles in size, 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Grease a 9- by 5- by 3-inch loaf pan. Turn dough out onto floured work surface and gently press into a rectangle about 1 inch thick and 9 inches long (use the loaf pan you plan to use as a handy guide). With long side facing you, roll dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure dough sticks to itself. Turn dough seam side up and pinch it closed. Place dough in loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of pan. Cover with plastic wrap or towel and set aside in warm spot until dough almost doubles in size, rising to the top edges of the pan, about 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 degrees and place an empty loaf pan or cake pan on bottom rack. Bring 2 cups water to boil. Uncover dough and place pan in over. Pour heated water into empty loaf pan and close oven door. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour. Loaf is done when a thermometer inserted into center of loaf read 195 degrees. Alternately, turn out loaf and check bottom. It should be lightly browned and have a slightly a slightly hollow sound when tapped.
Remove bread from pan and cool on wire rack.