I never realized how much sodium is in bread before we started eating low sodium. A single slice of white sandwich bread can have as much as 300 mg of sodium, more than we eat for an entire meal now. So, we bake our own bread. That's something I never, ever thought I would do but it's surprisingly not as difficult as I thought it would be. This recipe produces a light and airy loaf with no sodium because there’s no milk or eggs. A little honey and olive oil give it a delicious mild flavor that you can use for a savory sandwich or something sweeter, like French toast.
Servings: makes one 9x5 inch loaf
Sodium: None (although, technically, yeast has a tiny, tiny bit of sodium) Time: 30 minutes active, 3 hours resting/baking
Ingredients: 450 g (3 and 3/4 cups) bread or all purpose flour
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
283 g (1 and 1/4 cups) water, room temperature
1) Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and let the dough rest, covered with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, for 20 minutes.
2) Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface, lightly oil your hands, and knead until smooth, about 10-12 minutes. You could also use a stand mixer or bread machine but I've never used either and I just do this by hand. Whenever I reference "oil" in this recipe, I'm referring to olive oil but you could use any oil. There are a number of ways to tell if your dough is properly kneaded (see TIPS on kneading, below). I like to poke the dough and if it springs back then it's good to go. If you're kneading by hand, definitely give it at least 10 minutes. If you're using a machine I imagine it's much easier! This dough can be a little bit sticky when you start kneading, but don't add any flour or you'll end up with a dense and dry loaf. Instead, keep the dough moving quickly as you knead, and use a plastic dough scraper or spatula to scrape off any dough that's stuck to your hand.
When the dough is kneaded, clean out your bowl, drizzle little bit of oil in it, and then return the kneaded dough to the bowl. Roll the dough around in the bowl a few times so it's coated in oil, and then let it rest seam side down. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, and let rest at room temperature for about an hour until it has doubled in size. On an especially warm day, the dough may double in size in as little as 40 minutes. On a cold day it has taken as much as 2 hours for my dough to double in size. Here's the kneaded dough, before and after it rises.
3) Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface, deflate it, and shape it into a 9 inch log. You need the log to just fit into the bottom of your bread pan. Start by gently flattening the dough out into a rectangular-shaped piece, and then roll it into a log. Place the shaped dough into an oiled 9x5 inch loaf pan. Cover the loaf pan with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow it to rise again until the dough is just about an inch above the edge of the pan. This can take anywhere from 40-60 minutes depending on how warm it is.
This is the dough when it's first placed in the loaf pan, and then after 40 minutes on a warm (about 80°F) day.
Here's a variation with sesame seeds I did on a very cold rainy day (about 60°F). After about an hour the dough was just barely over the rim of the pan but I went ahead and baked it and it came out great. At this point you can add seeds by sprinkling the seeds onto your work surface and then rolling the log through the seeds. Then place the seeded log into the pan..
4) Preheat the oven to 350°F.
5) Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown. If your oven heats unevenly, you may want to rotate the pan halfway through the bake time. Remove the bread from the pan and allow it to cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing.
-Use a scale to measure the ingredients whenever possible, especially flour. If you don't have a scale, King Arthur Baking has this great video on how to measure flour accurately.
-A note on kneading. Dough is tricky and there are so many variables that affect how your dough turns out. If you find the dough is too sticky to knead, try oiling your hands and surface area first and if that's not enough, add just a little flour (try half a tablespoon) at a time to make the dough more workable. The dough will get easier to handle as you continue kneading, so resist the urge to keep adding more flour or you'll end up with a very dry, dense bun. The dough is properly kneaded if it springs back after you poke it, and it doesn't tear when you pull on it. Here's another helpful video from King Arthur Baking.
-I have two toddlers so most of my cooking happens at night after they go to sleep, but I don't want to bake a loaf of bread at 10 pm. So I do all the mixing and kneading at night and then refrigerate the kneaded dough and bake in the morning. To do this, after the dough has completed its first rise, gently deflate it and put it back in the bowl, covered, and refrigerate overnight. It will continue to rise a bit in the refrigerator, but at a much slower rate. In the morning, let the dough sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes and then proceed with step 3, above. You'll have a fresh loaf for (salt free) peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and you'll be the hero of lunchtime!